How to Create Authentic Autistic Characters with 10 Questions.

As part of my How to Write Autistics series, I thought I’d share a list of questions that can help create an authentic character who doesn’t feel like a stereotype.

And I should point out these are just question that occurred to me. As with anything, other autistics might have their own thoughts. But here we go.

Ten Questions to ask your autistic characters (some might apply just generally to neurally diverse characters):

1. Were they diagnosed late in life or early?

It can affect how they develop coping skills.

2. Are they self-diagnosed?

3. Do they suffer from hypersensitivity? Are they overly sensitive to light, sounds, textures?

For example, I can’t stand the sensation of most fabrics touching my fingertips. It makes drying off with a towel or folding laundry particularly frustrating. I often have to repeatedly dip my hands in water or lotion my fingers to deal with it.

4. What are their special interests?

I hate the term special interest…but obsession sounds equally wrong. Most autistics I know have specific topics or things that qualify as their special interest. Some of us have lifelong ones while others are temporary. Some of my special interests include Bioware Video Games, TV Shows (As Time Goes By  and others), and Football (as in soccer.)

5. How do they stim? Also, how do they feel about their stim? How do those around them react to their stim?

6. What coping mechanisms do they use for dealing with social stresses?

7. How do they deal with meltdowns and/or shutdowns?

8. Are their family supportive of them finding independence as an adult?

9. How do they deal with eye contact?

10. Do they live atypically? In other words, do they try to blend in and mask their neural divergence?

I’m sure there are a ton of other questions.

There’s a brilliant Youtube channel that can be an amazing resource for you (there are others, but this is one of my favourites):

https://www.youtube.com/user/neurowonderful

 

How to write autistics and not rely on tired stereotypes.

Despite mainstream media and their mostly dismal attempts at creating autistics. It’s rare to see examples of autistic characters who feel ‘real.’ We’re not all rain man or white, young, male savants.

We’re real people who are just as diverse as every other subset of humanity.

Many autistics like myself will tell you if you’ve met one autistic–you’ve met one autistic.

When creating neuroAtypical characters, I try to be cognizant of creating individuals, and not carbon copies of either myself or some stereotype I think non-autistics will easily recognise. I will admit many of my own experiences find their way into my stories. How could they not?

In fact, one of my favourite parts of writing my most recent release, The Lion Tamer, was including Alex and Alice. Autistic twins. They’re on different parts of the autism spectrum with their own special interests and struggles.

Neither of them is some off the charts genius.

They’re just autistic.

No massively high IQ required to be legitimate human beings who deserve to be celebrated.

So, here are a few tips on creating autistic characters, or what are some of the pieces/parts to doing so. (And please keep in mind, this is from my personal perspective.)

  1. Talk to #actuallyautistic people, not just autism parents before you start.
  2. Avoid AutismSpeaks.
  3. Stimming. Your autistic character should have a stim. We stim.
  4. Special Interests. I could write an entire post about this.  We have them. Obsess over them. Use them to calm ourselves from super stressful moments.
  5. Emotions are something many autistics struggle with. We can feel quite intensely, but we don’t often understand what we’re feeling. I’ve spent days trying to decipher an emotion before.
  6. Sensation. Many autistics suffer from hypersensitivity. I, for example, struggle with touching certain fabrics. Light affects me. Certain sounds can trigger me into a meltdown.

Just a few thoughts.

Not sure if any of it is helpful.

I might turn this into a series of posts about being autistic/writing autistic characters.

Do you include neuroAtpyical characters in your stories? Do you have characters who have anxiety, or PTSD, or are autistic? Or some other mental disability or illness?

 

 

An Introduction to Akash Robinson.


(My visual inspiration for Akash is Raza Jaffrey)

In book four of The Sin Bin, The Royal Marine, which comes out in October, Akash Robinson gets his chance at love. He finds himself in the midst of an awkward love triangle. The baker has shown up a few times in the series thus far, but only as brief mentions.  This is the first real chance readers get to meet him.

I thought I’d give a brief introduction to him with a few random facts.

  1. He’s biracial (or mixed race, depending on what term you prefer). His mother is Indian, and his father is Caucasian.
  2. Akash is completely obsessed with cooking reality TV shows. His personal favourite is The Great British Bake Off.
  3. He always wanted to be a baker.
  4. Until recently, Akash lived at home with his parents.
  5. His hands and arms are covered by tiny scars from getting burned while baking.
  6. Ganesh is the cat that his sisters gave him. Akash has a love/hate relationship with his cat.
  7. Akash played cricket at school–badly. He doesn’t like talking about it. His dad loves to tease him about it.
  8. As a youngster, Akash learned self-defense and has picked up several martial arts.
  9. One of his greatest joys in life is creating spice combination that represents both of his heritages.
  10. Of the three Robinson siblings, Akash has the worst memory.
  11. He and his two sisters were all given Sanskrit names.
  12. Akash’s name means sky or open space. His mother wanted him to feel free to grow into a great man.

Anyway, so there’s a bit about Akash Robinson. The strong-willed, sassy baker who tries to run away with the heart of a certain retired Royal Marine.

Creating a Diverse World.

delicious chocolate pralines

One thing I adore about my close circle of friends is the sheer diversity amongst them.   My friends are a mixed bag of race, nationality, sexuality, neuro-diversity and religious and political beliefs.  Why? Because unless you purposefully restrict yourself, it’s impossible not to have a diverse group of close friends and acquaintances in today’s world.  It may be helped by the fact that I grew up traveling around the world and the idea of selecting my friends from only one subset of humanity is nothing short of absurd to me.

Why would I restrict myself like that?

It’s hard enough, as someone with Apserger’s Syndrome, to develop and build friendships because interpersonal relationships are difficult for me.  It takes extra work on my part, and extra patience on their part.  And I am grateful to my friends who make the effort.  I’d be a lonely sad soul without them

The thing is though life is so much more fun when allow others to expand your horizons.

When I started thinking about the people and shifters in the Blackbird world, I wanted it to be just as diverse.

So what sort of mixed bag can you expect from the pack?

There are several diverse couples in the series, just a few of these are:

Josh and Alicia: Josh is black and all British while Alicia is in Josh’s words a Moroccan princess.

Lorcan and Ronan: Ronan is all Irish, but Lorcan is part Irish and part Korean. (m/m)

Sammie and Rosie: Sammie is half-Chinese and half-British, Rosie happens to be asexual though not aromantic. (f/f)

Elaine and Alim: Elaine is British and the resident Aspie in the Blackbird pack, Alim is Moroccan and not a sheikh no matter what his niece Alicia and her best friend Ivy claim.

How about you? Do you enjoy diversity in your romance?