How would you write an autistic villain in a story?

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Jaredthefox92
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14 Aug 2021, 7:18 pm

Here's something for all those character creators. In a story, how would you write an autistic antagonist? Would they be cold, calculative, and stereotypically lacking empathy. Would they be sort of fantastical and narrow in their beliefs, or would you have them be evil despite their diagnosis? Where would you draw the line between being malevolent and being autistic?

I have characters on the spectrum, most notably Ivan Bradanska (who is my sort of anti-villain guy), Scylla (who is speculated on the spectrum but she has savant syndrome). Oh, and now Tyrenous who is the king of being an evil autistic jerk.

(Note: Tyrenous is not just evil because he is on the spectrum. Literally his grandmother is a witch, his family has a curse, his father was also an evil despot, and overall his world is a parallels universe dimension cr***** world where nearly everyone is in it for themselves. However, Tyrenous mostly lacks empathy which is why it's "easy" for him to do bad things.)

https://www.deviantart.com/jaredthefox92/art/W-I-P-Tyrenous-2020-Scenario-A-Giant-Tyrenous-865715013



Fnord
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14 Aug 2021, 7:44 pm

I would write nothing about their inner world; but only write about their actions and behavior.



Jaredthefox92
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14 Aug 2021, 7:53 pm

Yeah, I sort of do that with other characters. Ones like Grief (although he has ADD but that means literally nothing but comedic moments in the story), Scylla, and especially ones like Sherly and Amanda just are evil for various reasons. Amanda has OCD but she isn't autistic. (She smiles too much.)



DuckHairback
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15 Aug 2021, 3:07 pm

Personally, when I write characters, I never start off with a condition informing character traits. Sometimes characters reveal to me that they have some kind of condition in the writing of them, and then I can play on that a bit in rewriting. But I wouldn't start writing an 'autistic' character unless it was central to the plot of the story I was writing.

I prefer it when I recognise familiar ASD traits in characters that aren't specifically stated to be autistic. Tony Attwood says Hermione Granger is classic female aspie but nowhere in the entire Harry Potter series is that made explicit - I don't know if the author had that intention at all. I think that's a better way of handling it than presenting a character as autistic and have their autism be the reason they do things.



Jaredthefox92
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15 Aug 2021, 6:00 pm

Ah, I see. Well the character I've posted named Tyrenous is sort of important, he's the next main bad guy in my story. However, I really don't show him explicitly autistic in characterization, he just is distant, lacks empathy, and cunning. I get what you mean, not to make it the focal point of a character. His father Grief has ADD, his grandmother has some form of megalomania and his aunt maybe on the spectrum with slight savant syndrome. But other than that Tyrenous's one defining characteristic is that he just doesn't feel empathy. This sort of helps him as a ruler though, as people mistake him for being utterly cold and cruel, (which on his world is an advantage.)

I was more or less asking in the ballpark how one would go about writing a character on the spectrum, I know it's a tad cliche to have him lack empathy and be remorseless, but honestly it really drives home the fact he's not like his father who was known to show empathy at times. I love the idea of a villain who literally just cannot care, like even to his sister he is rather distant.



shlaifu
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15 Aug 2021, 8:59 pm

you do understand that autistic people aren't great at empathy - i.e., intuitively understanding another's motivations and emotions - but we are good at sympathy - imagining other people's suffering, given wecan imagine the situation. - the second one is independent of what is actually going on in the other person.

you make it sound like the definition of autism is having no inner life, and no capacity for emotions regarding others. But that's psychopathy. Autism is not psychopathy.


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Jaredthefox92
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15 Aug 2021, 9:17 pm

Well, that's not what I was getting at. For one I have autism so I do feel empathy, but I thought it would be cool for a villain who just either doesn't care about others feelings or is willingly ignorant of them on purpose. Another thing, Tyrenous is meant to be spoiled. He has problems other than his autism, but he just chooses to ignore any social cues on purpose. (Dude has psychic powers, his fathers size-changing powers, super strength, and an army. You can see why he probably doesn't "care" to feel how people around him feel.)

Does that mean he is a sociopath or cannot feel anything? No, but he just goes "oh well" to feeling the concerns of others. If that makes sense.



shlaifu
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16 Aug 2021, 7:57 pm

Jaredthefox92 wrote:
Well, that's not what I was getting at. For one I have autism so I do feel empathy, but I thought it would be cool for a villain who just either doesn't care about others feelings or is willingly ignorant of them on purpose. Another thing, Tyrenous is meant to be spoiled. He has problems other than his autism, but he just chooses to ignore any social cues on purpose. (Dude has psychic powers, his fathers size-changing powers, super strength, and an army. You can see why he probably doesn't "care" to feel how people around him feel.)

Does that mean he is a sociopath or cannot feel anything? No, but he just goes "oh well" to feeling the concerns of others. If that makes sense.


fair enough. but I do have experienced such in attitude rarely in people on the spectrum- and much more in NT people.For them, it seems, there's usually a smsll tribe they sorta care about, and the rest is there to be taken advantage of.
With Autistic people, I have often seen rationalizing. I have an economist friend, specialized in housing on a national level, who used to refer to people who couldn't get a credit for an apartment as 'tragic individual cases'....

this of course my experience, and I'm not writing this story. maybe your experience differs, or you're trying to prove an artistic point I'm not aware about.


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19 Aug 2021, 8:53 pm

IMO the Riddler is a probable Aspies.



Axeman
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19 Aug 2021, 8:57 pm

Jaredthefox92 wrote:
Well, that's not what I was getting at. For one I have autism so I do feel empathy, but I thought it would be cool for a villain who just either doesn't care about others feelings or is willingly ignorant of them on purpose.


This is a description of a sociopath, not autism.



naturalplastic
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19 Aug 2021, 9:31 pm

Autistics have sympathy, but no empathy. They id with your suffering, but they have bad theory of mind and cant figure out your motives, or your emotions.

Sociopaths, have empathy, but no sympathy. They figure you out, and then use that knowledge to exploit and manipulate you. And dont care about the suffering they cause you.

A person could be both I suppose. But an autistic sociopath would be someone with neither sympathy nor empathy.
So they would be a failed sociopath. Try to exploit you, but would be utterly inept at it. The only way such a villian would work would be if he had some kind of tech skills. Like if they built killer robots. Or were a computer hacker who did evil things through the Net- manipulate the stock market, or skimmed money, or whatever.



kuze
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15 Sep 2021, 3:35 am

naturalplastic wrote:
Autistics have sympathy, but no empathy.

Sociopaths, have empathy, but no sympathy.


Interesting concept.


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Dial1194
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23 Sep 2021, 3:30 pm

I'd give them a goal. Something they were either trying to strive towards, or a lifestyle they were trying to live. Something which seems, at least on the surface, to be harmless. Perhaps even laudable. Or at the very least, not uncommon.

Then I'd have autistic hyperfocus bloat and exaggerate it, without the villain being aware that, traditionally, there were social conventions involved with performing those kind of actions or living that way, and thus causing friction with either the protagonist(s) or background characters - perhaps purely because they genuinely did not know, or they were aware of the friction but didn't know how to alleviate it, or they ignored it entirely and thus kept causing even more friction.

This gives rise to a whole spectrum (if you'll forgive the expression) of possibly 'villainy', from the G-rated grumpy person who honestly does not know why everyone's mad at them for the strange things they do or say, to the CEO who uses their money and position to corrupt and influence in order to grow their business, to the cliche loner hacker, to the stiff-necked bureaucrat who won't bend the rules and hates people who try to, to the neighborhood old man who shouts at kids to get off his lawn, to the societal outcast who has a fascination with dissecting things.



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05 Oct 2021, 9:33 am

...I've never thought about it, actually. I've written autistic characters before, but they've always been the good guys (one ended up really bitchy, but she wasn't evil.)

If I were to write an autistic villain... well, if I was writing a children's story, I'd give her (yes, her, if I'm gonna write an autistic villain, it'll be a girl/woman) a simple goal that fit a stereotype, like her wanting to conquer the world so that everyone will always follow routines and plans laid out beforehand because she gets stressed when things don't go as planned! :lol:
My villain origin story lol.

As for something more serious and for grown up audience... I'm gonna have to get back on this one, but I was thinking of someone who's fed up with all the social games she's (yes, girl again) been humiliated in and who makes social skills, psychology etc. her special interest so that she can mess up the lives of her enemies in ways that are socially acceptable and will keep her from getting caught.



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05 Oct 2021, 9:41 am

Petty, distractable, prone to carrying grudges and collecting slights to later seek vengeance for, aloof, uninvested in others except for how they serve the villain's goals, prone to losing sight of the bigger picture due to excessive focus on elements, prone to losing focus on elements due to excessive focus on the big picture (alternating), often prone to believing themselves to be the only person who understands what's going on (even when they actually are the only one who doesn't understand well), etc.

They also probably won't view themselves as a villain, if anything they're more likely to assume they're the hero due to not being willing/able to consider other perspectives.