Autism as a Character Trait

Autism_spectrum_infinity_awareness_symbol.svgI’m writing a story right now where one of the main characters is an autistic child. I have been doing a lot of reading to try to understand just what that would mean to this young man in the situation I’m injecting him into. I got the idea for this a few years ago when I saw the movie Temple Grandin — about a woman with the same name — starring Claire Danes.

The boy is stuck with his mother in the middle of semi-apocalyptic maelstrom so severe as to make them struggle to survive. I call it “semi-apocalyptic” for a reason. You’ll have to read the story to find out what that reason might be.

I wonder if anyone else who might come across this post has done something similar — building a character trait (sometimes called a “flaw”) into a source of drama and character interest?

What’s in a Name? Everything Important!

roseLong ago, before I knew much of anything, I tried writing a short story where each character was unnamed. I called them things like “Mr. X” and “Young S” – thinking they would reveal their names and personalities and history as I went along. This didn’t work at all.

In fact, precisely the opposite: I couldn’t “go along” writing without having met the characters. Once I realized this, I started over and took the time to build up the people beforehand.

Of course anyone who has written very much will recognize this as a “Duh!” realization. But in my naive charioteering I had put the cart before the horse.

I just caught myself doing this same thing again just now in another story. But in this case the character I was leaving unnamed was an entire civilization and star system. Finally, with a sense of déjà vu, I realized why I couldn’t continue.

So now I have a star these people come from – a binary star near Sol. And as a bonus I’ve taken the opportunity to invent an entirely new way a civilization might arise in such a place. The people of this civilization are coalescing out of the mists of my imagination and I can now proceed.

I suppose I’m a proper idiot for having to learn this lesson twice when most writers, using some writerly instinct that I lack, would never gone this way in the first place.