How To Write Autistic Characters

You're probably aware of how important character development is to tell a story, regardless of whether you're starting as a fiction writer or already well-known in the field. We must educate ourselves before imitating our fictional characters with real-world human characteristics, mainly when writing about underrepresented groups. Only then can we ensure that our portrayals are accurate.

Many believe that autistic characters are still grossly underrepresented in literature, even though this problem has only recently begun to be addressed. Several authors have unintentionally contributed to perpetuating harmful stereotypes regarding autism to make matters even more difficult.

Even Mark Haddon's book that has sold the most copies, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, has been criticized for portraying the main character, Christopher. Although most readers, including a significant number of members of the autistic community, adored Haddon's story, some readers felt that the character played into the tired old stereotypes that all autistic people are emotionless, awkward, and amazing at math.

If people like Mark Haddon need some guidance, it stands to reason that the rest of us are. Because of this, I've compiled this brief guide for writers to assist you in creating an autistic character that comes from a place of awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity.

But before I go any further, I feel the need to make it clear that I do not have autism and, therefore, cannot pose as an expert on the topic. In its place, I'm basing this guide on my own experiences as an autistic person, relaying the findings of the research I've conducted for my work and passing on the advice of autistic friends and family members.

Before starting my career as a writer, I volunteered and worked with autistic adults and children for several years. Although I have a much better understanding of what autism is and how it can manifest itself, I am well aware that I still have a great deal more to learn and that I will never be able to put myself in the position of a person who has autism.

This guide is a helpful resource to have on hand if you plan to include an autistic character in the narrative you're working on. However, if you are serious about getting it right, the best thing you can do is talk to a real person who has autism (or, ideally, more than one person who has autism!). You will have a much easier time nailing your character and doing them the justice they deserve if you seek guidance, advice, and feedback from people with first-hand knowledge of what it's like to live with autism.

How to Write an Autistic Character?

  • Autism is Diverse!

Take a look at the world as a whole; it is comprised of a wide variety of racial and religious groups, sexual orientations and gender identities, beliefs, cultural practices, and ideas. As a consequence of this, the field of autism is extremely varied.

The fact that autism is more prevalent in biological males than in biological females is a fact; however, the reasons behind this phenomenon are still a bit of a mystery. However, there are also many autistic women and girls worldwide, and these individuals are grossly underrepresented in both popular culture and written works.

People who are autistic and people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community face an even greater degree of marginalization. Even in our increasingly multicultural, open, and diverse societies of today, autistic characters are typically written as white, cisgender males. However, this does not accurately represent how things are in the real world.

Keeping this in mind, when you are creating a character who has autism, you should think about writing in a way that represents and raises awareness of groups that are more marginalized than others.

  • People with Autism Experience Romantic Attraction

I have already addressed the harmful misconception that autistic people cannot feel emotions in the same way that non-autistic people do. Similarly, there is a misconception that autistic people aren't cut out for romantic relationships, which is also not the case.

Indeed, autism in romantic relationships is not very common in fictional works. However, autistic people frequently engage in romantic and sexual relationships in the real world, so why not include these aspects in your work?

There is nothing inherently wrong with writing an autistic character who is asexual and does not have a romantic interest in another person, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with writing an autistic character who is white, male, and cisgender. However, please be aware of the dangers of perpetuating stereotypes, and make an effort to draw your motivation from the world around you rather than any preconceived notions about romantic relationships and autism.

  • Autism Presents Itself in Unique Ways for Each Individual

It is helpful to keep in mind that autism is a spectrum that can present itself in a variety of ways and can have very different manifestations in different people. This is something to keep in mind when developing your characters.

Some autistic people, for instance, do not require additional support, and they might even remain "under the autism radar" for years before being diagnosed with the condition. However, others have significantly more profound needs and will require extensive support from family, friends, and caregivers throughout their lives.

The autistic community also has a vast range of varying social and communication skill levels, and the tired old stereotypes of autistic people rarely fit the description of any real-life autistic person.

Think about where your character falls on the autism spectrum, and try not to perpetuate the myth that autism is a disorder that affects everyone similarly.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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