Writing Autistic – Too Autistic or Not Autistic Enough?

So, this has been something I’ve been thinking about recently. It’s not even a problem I’d really thought about before, but it’s definitely something that I think needs to be talked about.

I’ve talked about this before, but I’m working on a novel with an Autistic character (well, technically, several) and it’s strange. The novel isn’t about autism. It’s not about the fact that the character is Autistic. In fact, that’s not a central plot point at all.

Here’s the thing – books with Autistic characters are often autism books.

You know the ones. The stories which are intrinsically about the experience of being Autistic (and are, paradoxically, often written by Allistics).

Viral Nation is about as far away from that as you get, and even then the main character being Autistic is a central plot point.

So, what about a book that’s not about autism? What’s the balance?

This is a particularly annoying puzzle for me. I got the balance right once. Before I knew I was Autistic.

Now I obsess over it.

Are my characters stimming too much or not enough?

Would they be able to detect an emotion in another character or would it not be clear enough?

Have I gone too many chapters without mentioning anything autism specific?

Have I mentioned autism-specific stuff too many times in the last chapter?

It’s tricky because my default writing for a character is somewhere in the middle.

It’s me passing as NT.

There’s no stimming and special interests are played down.

But there are some reactions to situations that have Allistic readers saying “What? Why would someone do that?”

I’m pretty sure that this is tied with my struggle to unlearn all of my NT passing behaviours.

So, what does that mean? That I’m writing an advice blog for writers when I don’t have answers?

Okay, well, I never said I had all of the answers. I just said that I was an Autistic writer, which means I have more answers than Allistic writers.

Also, I do have some strategies which have been helping.

Mostly, consistency. Figure out how your character would react to situations and then keep those reactions specific. Don’t change your plot around things. If you keep the reactions consistent and in-line with the things I’ve talked about in my other posts, then you shouldn’t have to think about this balance.

So don’t.

If you’re doing it right, the balance should find itself.

If it’s not, then there’s something else wrong.

Or, at least, that’s been my experience.


Originally posted to myautisticpov.com on 26/7/15.

1 comment

  1. Hey! It’s butterflyinthewell from Tumblr. I have two fanfic series things going on. Well, one is a triad and the other is still open because I may write new fics for it. Both have huge autistic headcanons and I just…write. Autism literally affects everything about thinking and processing, so I literally do not think of anything except the intense reactions or nonreactions the characters may have. (In my case there’s Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy and the 12th Doctor from Doctor Who.)

    The whole point is they have different reactions than most, and I explain why the first time it happens, then I mention it throughout. If a sensory thing feels like needles, it feels like needles every time. It’s actually really easy once the ideas are established and they come naturally. 🙂

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