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Writing a Fantasy Character with ASD/Asperger's Syndrome - All Opinions Wanted!

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by chattwick, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. PhilyG123

    PhilyG123 Dreamer

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    It really annoys me when people try to blame my Asperges for something that I did wrong. Once I was supposed to tell a receptionist my phone number with my mom around. I may have started off too fast or I mispoke or something and I had to say my phone number twice. My mom later blamed my Aspergers for it.
     
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  2. chattwick

    chattwick Dreamer

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    Oh man, I can only imagine how aggravating that must be! In doing my research I also feel that I've been made better. During my high school years, I interacted with a lot of fellow students that had ASD. I wish I had then the knowledge I have now as it's really shaped my understanding of people with ASD for the better. And it's helped me to understand not to just go 'oh it's cause they have X thing that they act this way.'
    And people like you that have shared their insight have only made this process easier. So, again, thank you so much!
     
  3. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Just poking in here to tell you I'm not ignoring you, chattwick. I've just had a heck of a week and I'm processing a bit slowly right now. You haven't overstepped your boundaries in any way, I just tend to get more symptomatic when I have to really focus my attention on my own issues. :p
     
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  4. Darel Aranovski

    Darel Aranovski Acolyte

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    I read your post and it is absolutely correct, I agree with every word. But I wondered. But if we avoid such characters and do not introduce them into our media system, I mean games, films, books. What if we don't implement them?
    I think that the author of the post can refer to the upcoming texts and characters as a reference, and not write his own from scratch. But I believe that you cannot refuse such characters.
     
  5. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Its not about avoiding characters like that, its about having the knowledge to write them as explicitly having that sort of diagnosis. Personally I don't do so, there are ways of giving a character depth and suitable characteristics without ever naming any form of diagnosis. And besides, personally I'd rather be seen as another person and not as someone with a diagnosis - I am more than my diagnosis.
     
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  6. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Yes, but it's still part of a person. For example, I have my own personality beyond simply being autistic, but I would also say that my autism is part of my identity.




    Also, I think it's a good thing to include 'disabled' characters in speculative fiction, as 'disabled' people don't get nearly enough representation in speculative fiction,
    other then the occasional "blind" person who has magical powers that basically negate their blindness, or cyborgs, or raving lunatics, or characters created as objects of pity, etc
    and neuroatypical people are even less represented then people with physical disabilities or mental illnesses, if at all. I would say it's a good thing to include an autistic character.
     
  7. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Hmm. I suspect I'm going to upset a few people with my next comment.

    Yes, my dyslexia is part of who I am. But the problem I have with many disability activists is their tendency to use the <LABEL> as a badge of identity, as though we're somehow a different part of humanity. And they go on from there to say that we must include people like that in our writing, they must be visible, all as part of acceptance. But for me, as someone who is disabled by my dyslexia, that isn't acceptance. Acceptance, for me, is effectively taking no notice of my dsability apart from saying "oh it takes so-and-so a bit longer to read and write, but thats OK". And I don't think we achieve that acceptance by writing a specific character with a specific disability in our stories, simply because they all too often become token characters or degenerate into disability porn. (For those of you who don't know, what we disabled people call disability porn is when films/TV/books,/comics/whatever present disabled people as being somehow brave and heroic for overcoming their disability by doing something impressive. I, like many disabled people, regard this sort of thing as just so much b******t.)
     
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  8. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Inspiration porn is bad, but so is ignoring the challenges people face and glossing over them. That's why people who actually have the conditions writing about them is such an important resource. Since they lived it they know that Inspiration porn is a crapshoot and their first hand experience lets them do it right.

    If you don't have it, well, it's just like with racial or sexual diversity. The same benefits apply, but you wouldn't act like you're doing a great service by writing a black character or reduce a character being gay to simply a tool of the plot. Same thing here.

    This comic in particular sums up my thoughts pretty well;

    Shubbabang Speaks - Sorry, it's the adhd
     
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  9. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Well, obviously. I don't understand why you're so upset with me.
     
  10. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    I agree. But I still think there needs to be disabled characters, as long as they're not tokenized like that.
     
  11. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I'm not upset with you. I just get very pissed off with all those activists who don't seem to understand this - and I've met quite a few.
     
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  12. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Ah, but this is where it gets problematic. In SF, we have more freedom to write characters who aren't so tokenized, the technologu gives us a range of possibilities. But that same technology also means that the disabilities are no longer important, because there are likely to be ways of getting around the problem. So the characters we create risk becomning someone with a slightly different space suit, if you see what I mean. So what do our disabled readers identify with?

    In fantasy, particularly fantasy set in quasi-medieval settings, most disabled peple wouldn't survive long or would be hidden away as abnormal, just as happened in reality - and as happens now in some parts of the world. If we're going to write settings like that it takes a great deal of money or a lot of magic to enable such characters to survive. Either way, such characters risk becoming special in some way, which for me rather takes away the point of writing a character like that - it makes it harder for a reader to identify with the character so the aim of having a character like that risks being lost.

    This is why I don't write characters who are specifically identified as disabled in some way. I'd rather include many characteristics of people with disabilities and/or disorders in my various characters and let my readers identify with the characters in their own way and take what they want from the story. That way, I'm not "writing on their noses" as we say in Swedish.
     
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  13. Darel Aranovski

    Darel Aranovski Acolyte

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    I have no acquaintances with disabilities, and I never spoke on this topic. I looked at these things a little differently, thank you.
     
  14. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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  15. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Hi! I am 1/3 of Team Lowan and an Aspie. Pleasure to meet you. :D

    Now you've met someone with disabilities. Yay!
     
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  16. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    What you call writing on the nose, I call representation. How do you write a character of color without expressly describing them as a POC? The answer: you don't. Just as you need to describe your character's gender (assuming they have one) because if you don't then the socialized brain defaults to male, and if you don't describe a character's color the brain defaults to white, no matter your background. In the western world white cis het male is the automatic default. It's why little girls in Nigeria think that they can only tell stories about white men eating apples they have never seen, because those are the only stories they've ever read. Transcript of "The danger of a single story" To not describe someone "on the nose" as diverging from the common narrative is a form of erasure, because if a reader doesn't have to think about what sets this character apart from the norm, they won't.

    I am LGBT+, wildly neurodivergent, and a cancer survivor. I am a sexual assault survivor. I am a woman. So, when I see a character like me erased by simply not describing them accurately, I am deeply disappointed and left wondering about authorial intent. What did I just read? Did the author really include someone like me, or was I simply looking too hard for myself in the narrative? Were they just such beneficiaries of privilege that they didn't realize that they would have readers who were different than they were? I define privilege as having the luxury to not see the challenges that affect other people.

    Everyone deserves to be the hero sometimes, and that includes dyslexics. You might not know this, but Percy Jackson is dyslexic. I know this because the author told me so by describing him as such in clear, on the nose terms.
     
  17. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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  18. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    I agree with A. E. LowanA. E. Lowan
     
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  19. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I don't. And thats why I used a literal translation. There is no good english translation of "att skriva någon på näsan", but it in very simplified terms it means not only speaking for someone, it also means thinking that you are the best judge of how to act or speak in a given situation, it means telling someone what to think and say, imposing your thoughts on someone etc. Its seen as arrogant, patronising and just generally unpleasant. It is not representation in any good sense of the word.

    You know, I don't ever think about the colour of someones skin, their sexual orientation or anything else when I read a book or short story. Because to me it doesn't matter. As someone who is severely dyslexic and who spent their school years being told and treated as though they were stupid for not being able to read and write properly I've learnt to accept people for who they are, not what they are or what they look like.

    Here, I will be awkward and suggest that the assumption that a character is a white CIS male is true only in western Europe and the US. If you were to give the same text to someone in the Gambia or Bangladesh or Japan, what would they assume? Sometimes I think we overthink these things.

    And that is reflected in my writing. Sometimes I'll mention the skin colour or sexual orientation of a character, but only if its neccessary for the story. In one of my novels there are some dark skinned characters, but the story would also work if my setting had humans of only one colour and other races such as elves. Its the predjudice about and the similarities between characters who are different which is the focus for that part of the novel, not the skin colour (or species) itself.

    As for "A is for Apple", well, it doesn't work in Swedish. And rather than muttering about books like that I'd be even more awkward and ask why an oil rich nation like NIgeria hadn't produced its own childrens literature in the more than 60 years since independence. Particularly given how many outstanding writers that country has produced. Sometimes you have to own your problems, not blame others for your own inaction.

    I don't care whether Percy Jackson is dyslexic or not. I don't identify with a character because they share my disability, I identify with them because their character appeals to me in some way. Thats about the character as a whole. For me, appearance and disability don't come into it.

    I suspect that we see things very differently. I spent most of my childhood being treated as though I was different. I don't want to read or write stories about being different, I got more than enough of that in real life as a child. So, like CS Lewis, I write the sort of stories I would have wanted to read as a child. And that doesn't mean deliberately including someone dyslexic, it means writing a good story with good characterisation which lets me and my readers escape into our imaginations, imaginations where we are free to identify with the characters in the way and on the grounds we choose.
     
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  20. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

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    I am wondering if this is mainly an American issue. From what I gather (as an outsider), representation, race and sexual orientation are big subjects in the US and getting treated equally and getting the same chances as other people is a big deal. Also, there are a lot of different groups where the people belong to that group and identify with it. In such a setting, representation in literature and arts is a big deal.

    In the Netherlands, this seems like a much smaller issue. We've same sex marriages since the 90's, for mental issues we try to treat them and keep children in the regular society as much as possible, giving them extra care if needed. And so on.

    It's all just not that big of a deal here. My reaction to the fact that Black Panther was a person of color was "Meh, good for him. Is it a good movie?" And that seemed to be the general feeling for most people here.

    As for the Nigerian girls only able to tell stories about white men, that's not because of written stories. Since the default is white male, that fact almost never gets mentioned. Therefore, the fact that a character is white is in the eyes of the beholder (in a written story). You could just as easily imagine the person being non-white. So it's either movies, or people telling these girls that the story is about white males, not the stories themselves.
     
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