Autistic vs NT descriptions of conversations in writing

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superluminal23
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09 Jun 2021, 1:33 am

So, I'm an amateur writer and I was showing my latest work to my NT partner. She told me that she found it hard to follow how some of the characters were feeling/thinking because of a lack of description. For example, I'd write something like:

--Mary asked Joe how he was feeling and he replied, "I'm fine."

And my partner was looking for some contextual clues about how Joe was really feeling, such as:

--Mary asked Joe how he was feeling and he replied, "I'm fine!" with huge grin on his face.

We talked about it for a while and we came to two interesting conclusions. First, because I don't pick up a lot of those contextual clues, it's not really something that's on my mind as I'm writing, so I wouldn't think to actually include descriptors like that. But more importantly, it gave her some real insight into how an autistic person perceives the world. "I had so much trouble trying to guess how the characters actually felt!" she said. "Is that how you struggle all the time in real life?"

Anyway, it gave me the idea that maybe people could understand a bit more about autism by reading a book by an autistic person and trying to perceive the world through their eyes.



Brainiac42
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10 Jun 2021, 11:17 am

superluminal23 wrote:
So, I'm an amateur writer and I was showing my latest work to my NT partner. She told me that she found it hard to follow how some of the characters were feeling/thinking because of a lack of description. For example, I'd write something like:

--Mary asked Joe how he was feeling and he replied, "I'm fine."

And my partner was looking for some contextual clues about how Joe was really feeling, such as:

--Mary asked Joe how he was feeling and he replied, "I'm fine!" with huge grin on his face.

We talked about it for a while and we came to two interesting conclusions. First, because I don't pick up a lot of those contextual clues, it's not really something that's on my mind as I'm writing, so I wouldn't think to actually include descriptors like that. But more importantly, it gave her some real insight into how an autistic person perceives the world. "I had so much trouble trying to guess how the characters actually felt!" she said. "Is that how you struggle all the time in real life?"

Anyway, it gave me the idea that maybe people could understand a bit more about autism by reading a book by an autistic person and trying to perceive the world through their eyes.


I like that. I think if you marketed your book in that way it could gain some attention if it was about an interesting topic.



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10 Jun 2021, 11:35 am

HER: "How are you?"

HIM (thinking): "She spoke to me?  She actually spoke to me?  She never spoke to me before.  Why is she speaking to me?  What does she want?  Does she really want to know how I am?  In what context?  How am I behind the wheel?  How am I in bed?  Is this a test?  Did the HR people send her?  If I say something, will she accuse me of harassment?  Will she want to have a conversation?  Omigawd, what should I say?"

HER: "Are you okay?"

HIM (clenching): "Huh?  Oh, I am fine.  How are you?"

HER: "I'm fine too.  Are you finished with that Derwood Proposal?"

HIM: "Almost."

HER (smiling): "Okay.  Let me know.  Gotta meeting.  Bye!"

HIM (thinking): "I am in trouble now, I just know it!"


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Last edited by Fnord on 10 Jun 2021, 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

scapino
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10 Jun 2021, 11:44 am

It depends on the writer's style. It's really popular to throw around the phrase "Show, Don't Tell", but this offers a good time to explore that.

Show, Don't Tell, as I understand it, suggests that rather than overtly telling the reader how Joe was feeling and whether or not he was lying, the writer should show that with the contextual clues. Neither of you did the telling, but I feel like your example didn't show either.

Like, I understand what you're saying obviously, but I don't feel like I perceive a world without any details, just not the same details NTs tend to notice. It would be interesting to see what details you notice instead of the details your partner notices.

Your idea for illustrating how an autistic person perceives the world is interesting, assuming you mean directly comparing it to an NT perspective (similar to some bilingual books, one page in Italian and the following page in English). There have been works of fiction that take an autistic person's perspective, but I don't know if there are any like that!

Either way, I hope to see your work on some shelves in stores near me one. Good luck! :)



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10 Jun 2021, 12:38 pm

OP - Your Post reminded me of this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asi ... cteristics

It might be interesting to compare Asimov's writing with someone like Agatha Christie.

Another approach:
To get into the geeky math/computer science side of things...

You might want use statistical analysis to compare the writing of different authors - or your writing to others.

Sometimes I do a statistical analysis of words used by different sources. Once I pulled all the e-mail from my boss and calculated word frequencies. I was looking for words that were typical of his writing style.

I also did a similar analysis of my resume to compare it to different jobs - and compared which words in my resume were related to the largest number of jobs - and which job ads related to key words in my resume contained words not in my resume - which told me something about skills I should be building.

You could also look at "wordnet"
http://www.randomhacks.net/2009/12/29/v ... as-graphs/
http://wntw.sourceforge.net/


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funeralxempire
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10 Jun 2021, 1:28 pm

scapino wrote:
Show, Don't Tell, as I understand it, suggests that rather than overtly telling the reader how Joe was feeling and whether or not he was lying, the writer should show that with the contextual clues. Neither of you did the telling, but I feel like your example didn't show either.

Like, I understand what you're saying obviously, but I don't feel like I perceive a world without any details, just not the same details NTs tend to notice. It would be interesting to see what details you notice instead of the details your partner notices.

Your idea for illustrating how an autistic person perceives the world is interesting, assuming you mean directly comparing it to an NT perspective (similar to some bilingual books, one page in Italian and the following page in English). There have been works of fiction that take an autistic person's perspective, but I don't know if there are any like that!


I wrote a mess of interwoven fantasy stories where a few characters might have been diagnosable if they were real people but since the concept didn't exist in their world it could only be hinted at with how they perceived things, interpreted social interactions, etc.

It kinda became too much a mess to keep working on though. :?


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10 Jun 2021, 1:52 pm

Mary slammed the door shut and entered; she found Joe in the exact same position as when she left for work in the morning, slouching in the sofa.
"How are you?" she asked.
Joe changed the channel on the TV and answered "Fine".

Mary rised an eyebrow, "How are you?" she asked with a trembeling voice.
Joe shone up and said "Fine" walking towards Mary with his arms ready to hug her.

/Mats


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scapino
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10 Jun 2021, 3:09 pm

funeralxempire wrote:
scapino wrote:
Show, Don't Tell, as I understand it, suggests that rather than overtly telling the reader how Joe was feeling and whether or not he was lying, the writer should show that with the contextual clues. Neither of you did the telling, but I feel like your example didn't show either.

Like, I understand what you're saying obviously, but I don't feel like I perceive a world without any details, just not the same details NTs tend to notice. It would be interesting to see what details you notice instead of the details your partner notices.

Your idea for illustrating how an autistic person perceives the world is interesting, assuming you mean directly comparing it to an NT perspective (similar to some bilingual books, one page in Italian and the following page in English). There have been works of fiction that take an autistic person's perspective, but I don't know if there are any like that!


I wrote a mess of interwoven fantasy stories where a few characters might have been diagnosable if they were real people but since the concept didn't exist in their world it could only be hinted at with how they perceived things, interpreted social interactions, etc.

It kinda became too much a mess to keep working on though. :?


Sounds cool! I've never thought about how to deal with neurodiversity within fantasy realms! Maybe one day you could pick it back up or even just try to do something similar in the future!



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16 Jun 2021, 8:27 pm

I think there is a sort of beauty in seeing things from your perspective.


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16 Jun 2021, 9:11 pm

My Dad is writing down some short, true stories from his life at the moment. He is 80 and I think he wants to get some things written down.

What's interesting is the almost complete lack of background info. He's written these stories as though he's talking in the pub to someone else who was there at the time, so they'd have no need for any background scene-setting. Very little descriptive writing about either places or people, it's all about what happened in terms of actions and consequences.

He's not got an ASD diagnosis but sometimes I do wonder!



ronglxy
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20 Jun 2021, 9:59 pm

I and me
and he or she
swinging in
a baby tree

Was an actual semi-verse by an autistic kid.
What it "said" when pressed to explain, was:

It's what he herd his Mom sing to him, before he was born, and she did not know his gender.

She had two parts, "I and me"
And he had two parts, "a he or a she"

It was at "happy swinging" done lots after birth

He was proud of humor uncertainty of:

1. Was it a tree for baby-ing?
2. Was it a tiny tree this pregnant lady and its
5 people (by his count) passengers swung
in, overloaded so rediculously.

Baby-ing was not expounded upon.



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21 Jun 2021, 5:11 am

The primary reason for dialogue is to keep the story moving forward. It isn't there to necessarily imitate real life, which can be pretty mundane. Other posters here have done a marvelous job showing examples of how banter between characters move the story ahead.


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21 Jun 2021, 5:40 am

Mary asked Joe how he was feeling.

"I'm fine!", he replied. He wasn't, of course, but Joe's weekly date with introspective melancholy was Friday night with a fifth of Bourbon down on Ludlow Street - refills aplenty as long as the checks didn't bounce.

As for Wednesday at 11:14 AM, Joe sure as hell wasn't going to pour out his heart to deputy director Mary Donaghue or any of the 57th floor snakes in suits ... so "I'm fine!" would have to do.



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21 Jun 2021, 9:51 am

^ :D sounds like Dashiell Hammett


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ronglxy
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22 Jun 2021, 11:40 am

[quote="Fenn"]OP - Your Post reminded me of this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asi ... cteristics]

That was great!! ! Now I know why I liked him and his stuff so much.



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22 Jun 2021, 11:47 am

GGPViper wrote:
Mary asked Joe how he was feeling.

"I'm fine!", he replied. He wasn't, of course, but Joe's weekly date with introspective melancholy was Friday night with a fifth of Bourbon down on Ludlow Street - refills aplenty as long as the checks didn't bounce.

As for Wednesday at 11:14 AM, Joe sure as hell wasn't going to pour out his heart to deputy director Mary Donaghue or any of the 57th floor snakes in suits ... so "I'm fine!" would have to do.
Then what happened?

C'mon, dude!  You are keeping us in suspense!


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