Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Tools – Meta-Fiction

So, one of the most common questions I get asked, especially after my post on being explicit, is how to be explicit with a character’s autism when writing a fantasy or historically based novel.

I’ve given a few different answers to this and have used a few different techniques myself, but I wanted to use this post to talk about my current favourite: meta-fiction.

Meta-fiction is adding another layer of fiction on top of the story in which you the author also belong to this world.

Usually, this takes the form of author bios or ancillary content in the back of the book.

One of my favourite examples of this is Girl Genius which is “written by Professors Foglio and Foglio of Transylvania Polygnostic University as textbooks for their “True Events in the Life of Agatha Heterodyne 101″ class” (Girl Genius FAQ Page).

Another is The Gift by Alison Croggon (also known as The Naming in the US), which starts with a note on the text explaining that it is a simplified translation of the Riddle of the Treesong, intended for a general audience.

Of course, there is no Transylvania Polygnostic University or Riddle of the Treesong. It’s all just meta-fiction, in which the authors pretend to be experts on the “true” events of the book. This allows for extra world-building in a way that wouldn’t clog up the story.

For example, the final of the Books of Pellinor (the series The Gift belongs to) ends with extra content telling the reader what happens to the main characters, without clunky epilogues.

Some books have this extra content without the meta-fiction layer (such as the A Song of Ice and Fire books) but I think that it’s important when we’re talking about autism.


To explain, here is the opening to my steampunk novella, Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor:

“The condition we now refer to as ‘autism’ was first recognised by the medical communities of Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

However, before this point, Autistic people still existed. Many were simply seen as ‘eccentric’ and certain euphemisms arose to describe them.

One such euphemism arose during the Industrial Revolution, within the upper class of London. Many of the great minds behind the revolution were referred to as having ‘an inventor’s disposition’.

The majority of the modern day technology we so heavily rely on – particularly automatons and other mechanicals –  can be traced back to these inventors.

One such inventor was referred to only as The Owl, and they were single-handedly responsible for a great deal of both technological and social change during Queen Victoria’s reign.”

– Excerpt from The Owl: The Birth of the Automaton Age,
   By Professor Lucinda Caroline Mawson

That’s it.

One paragraph of meta-fiction and I just explicitly said that my character is Autistic without using the term “autism” in a historical setting.

So, yeah, meta-fiction.

*Jazz hands*


Opinions – Fact or Fiction? (Also Darth Maul Poop…)

In this week’s video, I talk about one of the reasons why I sometimes feel weird doing reviews.

Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Top 4 Sexiest Things

So, you’re thinking of writing something with an Autistic character and a romance subplot involving them. But what do we think is sexy?

I’m here to answer this question.

(As best I can as just one person, who asked a few other people…)

  1. Understanding
    Look, Autistic people are going to do things that Allistics will find odd. That’s not a “maybe”, that’s a fact. Nothing turns me off faster than someone pointing out (even if they mean well, and just want to let me know that other people might be judging me) that my behaviour is odd. If I haven’t explicitly said that you should tell me to pack something in if you notice me doing it, just shut up and leave it be. Chances are that I know that it’s odd, and I just don’t care. The best kind of person is the one who doesn’t comment, and who is understanding when my behaviour is a way of indicating distress.The person who asks me what I need, and remembers for next time, when I’m about to meltdown is the one for me, not the one worrying that I’m embarrassing them, or who ignores what I’m saying because it doesn’t fit with how they think people should be.

    (If somebody tells you the lights are too bright and they need to leave, the last thing thy want to hear is “How can the lights being bright be upsetting you? That’s ridiculous.”)

  2. Sensory Goodness
    Apparently, someone having soft hair is really, really nice. As someone who has been on the opposite side of that, I can definitely say that dry/straw-like hair texture is enough to make me cringe.

    It’s the same with strong colognes/perfumes. It’s really difficult to focus on romance when you’re dealing with sensory overload (which can have physical side-effects ranging from headaches to dizziness to nausea).

    But, on the opposite side, nice sensory feelings are nice.

  3. Trust
    Trust is important in any relationship, but for Autistic people, it’s 110% essential.

    There will be times when we’re vulnerable around our significant other. Whether it’s a meltdown or shutdown or sensory overload, we can’t afford not to trust the person with us.

  4. The Same as Everyone Else
    Look, we’re different, but we’re not aliens. Everybody has their own turn-ons and turn-offs and they’re not really that different for Autistic people.

Tune in next week to see if I am brave/mature enough to write a post about sex.

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Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Romance 101

You see, internet, the thing about these posts is that sometimes we really need to talk about something.

But I don’t claim to have all of the autism-related answers.

These posts are largely an amalgamation of my personal experience, things I have picked up from other Autistic people in the community, and from my own research when it comes to writing Autistic characters.

But, when it comes to romance, like any online community, most people aren’t looking to spill their guts all over the #actuallyautistic tag about it.

And, as a young, Autistic, socially anxious introvert who hates people, I don’t exactly have a great amount of personal experience to draw on here.

All of this makes research harder, but I am doing my best.

For science!

(And, you know, in the hope of better representation in media…)

So, the Day One FAQ:

Wait, Autistic people can be in romantic relationships?

Yes. There is a stereotype that Autistic people are aromantic/asexual.

This isn’t true.

And I feel the need to stress here that some Autistic people are ace and/or aro, and I don’t mean this is sound like “don’t compare us to them” because they are completely legitimate orientations and there is nothing wrong with them.

The problem lies in the desexualisation of disabled people, which, I don’t know, I might do another long post on later.

So, does that mean I can’t write an ace or aro Autistic character?

No. I’m writing one myself. But you have to be aware of the trope and try to mitigate. Have two Autistic characters, and only have one of them be ace/aro, for example.

I have several Autistic characters, all with different orientations.

Different orientations?

Yeah. Straight is not the only option besides ace/aro Autistics, but it can often feel like it in media.

This comes down to the fact that Autistic people are desexualised, while gay and bi people are oversexualised.

People forget that we can be gay and bi too.

So, how does flirting work if you socialise differently?

Erm, admittedly, with difficulty. I often don’t realise someone is flirting with me until they say it outright. Equally, Allistics often don’t realise when I’m flirting with them. Again, I could give flirting its own post and it’s getting late…

Okay, but what about sex?

Urgh, again, its own post. But yeah, there’s sensory stuff involved. It can be tricky. Or not. Everyone is different. Again, own post.

Did you basically write this to tell us that you’re going to do a whole series on romance?

Kind of. I’m sorry. It’s late and I’m ill.

Day One, you guys. I don’t want another 2k post…

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Freya Snow

Hunt – Prologue

Hey guys, I thought I would put the prologue of Hunt up here so that you could have a read, since I’ve started a prequel over on Wattpad which is mostly an extension of it. The first chapter (and maybe the second, I can’t remember) is also available to preview on the Look Inside function on Amazon.


Lily had never held a gun before in her life. The weight felt wrong in her hand and she was sure that she wouldn’t be able to hit the broadside of a truck with it.

She soon found out as two more guards rounded the corner. Memories flooded into her mind, as they had so often taken to doing since she had awoken on Earth. Two different sets of memories existed within her, covering the five years she had spent away and still, even after so many months, they clawed at her mind, each fighting for dominance.

It was a fight the Rebel Queen usually won but the memories which flooded forth this time were from her Dark counterpart. Memories of gentle hands instructing her on how to aim and fire a crossbow, not this heavy firearm. She pushed away the memories as her heart began to ache at the loss of the owner of the gentle hands. The loss would give way to anger over his death. Anger at the Rebel Queen which would do no good.

The memories were enough so that her shots landed at least, taking down the two guards. However, she wasn’t expecting the ringing in her ears or the kickback which caused her to stumble backwards, barely managing to stay on her feet. The new-born, held to her chest by a makeshift sling and her left arm, stirred at the noise of the pistol and the sudden movement of her mother stumbling back.

“Hey, shh, shh, you’re okay,” Lily murmured as she started moving once more, trying to calm her daughter so that she wouldn’t start crying and give away their position. Lily wanted to throw the gun to one side and switch to her magic, but all that she could muster in her weakened state was directed to shielding her daughter.

“I can’t believe this was the best distraction I could come up with,” Lily muttered, putting a considerable amount of effort into keeping her voice light and sarcastic, instead of wavering.

“You knew this plan was ill-conceived at the outset,” her ghostly companion responded, her black gown having shifted into a much more practical tunic over pants. Not that practicality should matter to the dead. Amber had nothing to fear here.

“I knew that I couldn’t let these monsters have my child,” Lily countered before letting out a frustrated sigh. “What’s the time on the spell?”

“Sixty seconds,” Amber replied before regarding Lily carefully. “Are you sure about this?” The undercurrent of sadness beneath Amber’s calm tone told her that she already knew the answer.

“I want my daughter to have her best shot at a normal life. With the War, that’s no longer possible for any of our kind. Reversing it is the only way.”

Amber gave her a measured look. “Even at the cost of your life?”

Lily nodded. The argument was an old one. This plan had been in motion for months now. The only thing Lily had been waiting on was her daughter. “I know. But it’s the only way out.”

“If you change the timeline… without the War, I doubt your parents would have met.”

“What does it matter? I have to sacrifice myself for the spell anyway.”

“And what of your child?”

“She’s more powerful than I am,” Lily told her without a moment’s hesitation. “She’ll survive the change.” Before Amber could respond, they heard guards approaching. “I think the time for debate has passed.”

“Agreed,” Amber told her. “The charms will finish charging in three, two, one…”

Lily closed her eyes, remembering the incantation and trying not to stumble over the Ancient words in her head as she went. Her energy drained away as she silently recited the words, fuelling the power behind them with her very soul. She dropped the gun and brought her other arm up to help hold her daughter close as she fell to her knees, her strength fading quickly.

By the time she had finished, she barely had enough strength to open her eyes. The world had shifted around her so that she was now outside the hospital. It had never been repurposed by the human military and was still used for treating civilians, though it was slightly smaller. That was why she was now outside, despite not having moved.

“Amber,” she managed, her voice weak.

“I’m here,” her guardian assured her.

“You have to promise me… Promise me you’ll take care of her.”

Amber looked uneasy for a moment but nodded.

“I promise.”

“Thank you…”

“You know, if I knew who her father was, I could make sure she gets to him.”

Lily shook her head. “No. I think he’s dead but… Even if he isn’t, keep her from him.”

The Dark Queen argued with more memories of gentle hands and a loving gaze. Her Rebel counterpart simply reminded Lily that all she knew of him was seen through the lens of fear and a want for freedom from responsibility. She had an inkling of who he was in this world and that possibility frightened her more than a little. But even if she was wrong, outside of the Shadow Realm he was essentially a stranger, and not one she could trust her daughter with.

“Will you at least tell me who he is so that I can properly protect her?”

Lily shook her head, the last of her strength failing her.

“No… That’s a secret I shall take to the grave, I think…”

Finally, as the weakness overcame her, someone ran over, possibly a nurse.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

She responded by thrusting the baby forward into his arms so that she wouldn’t have to worry about causing her daughter harm as she passed.

“Make sure she’s alright,” she managed to tell him, her words coming through her throat like a death rattle.

The world faded from her and, when it returned, she found that she was standing over her body, now a ghostly form much like Amber.

“Why do you two insist on making my job ten times harder?” she heard from behind her, recognising Death’s familiar, tired voice.

She turned to see a man with bright white skin and jet black hair and eyes. In fact, his eyes showed no white at all. She might be disconcerted by that if she wasn’t so used to it. He was shorter than her and wearing a black suit with a white tie. He approached Lily, shaking his head as she realised that Amber was now gone.

“She said that she would only stay long enough to see the child born. Now this promise has her beyond my grasp.”

“Just for now,” Lily suggested.

“It’s an imbalance,” he countered.

“I couldn’t leave my daughter unprotected,” she said simply. “You couldn’t honestly expect me to, could you, Grandfather?”

He sighed. “No, I suppose not. I’m proud of you, Lily. For making this sacrifice. I know how difficult this decision must have been for you.”

Lily responded by looking around. The world seemed… calm. There were no sounds of fighting, and there were no ruins within her line of sight. Even the ever-present smell of burning was gone.

“No, it wasn’t. This is the world I want my daughter to live in. Even if it has to be without me.”

“Just because we’re no longer fighting humans doesn’t mean you’ve created a world without conflict.”

Lily nodded.

“I know. Trust me, I’m not that optimistic…” She paused, frowning a little as she folded her arms. “Grandfather… What about Edric?”

“He’s still alive.”

“How? I saw him die in the Shadow Realm. I killed him.”

Death nodded.

“He will eventually die on this side too. But not yet. Right now he’s wondering what has become of his family.”

“Amber will keep her safe,” Lily reasoned, clearly trying to assure herself more than Death.

“Come on,” he said, deciding not to address it. “Your mother’s waiting for you…”

Again, the next chapter can be read for free on Amazon.

Freya Snow

Trapped – Chapter 1-1

So, I’ve started a prequel to Hunt over on Wattpad. It’s basically an expansion of the prologue, following Lily. Check it out below.


Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Reading Critically

So, you’re thinking about writing an autistic character and you’re starting off your research. You think to yourself, “Hmm, I should look at all of the books with autistic characters that have been critically acclaimed.”

If you are thinking that, I’ll assume that this is the first post of mine you’re reading. Or, if not, that I have been far less vitriolic towards mainstream media than I feel like I’ve been.

So, here’s the thing – as writers, we’re always told to read. Reading is our best tool. It can give us ideas and it teaches us about structure and archetypes.

The problem is that it also teaches us about stereotypes and problematic tropes.

I’m a paranormal YA author. Have you read paranormal YA? If you’re not familiar with the genre, let me break down about 90% of everything in it:

-Blank slate/lego brick girl has slightly special gift
-Boy who is some kind of paranormal creature in disguise arrives at school
-He turns out to be dangerous
-She doesn’t care
-They start dating despite him being very controlling and scary
-She helps him to fulfil a prophecy/stop the bad guys/saves him from himself/whatever through the power of her love for him

“That’s just Twilight,” I hear you say.

Yes. Yes it is. It’s also, like, five other best-selling books I’ve read this month.

(If you want a really funny take on this trope, go watch Booze Your Own Adventure.)

“But everyone knows they’re terrible.”

Yeah, but you know who first talked about how terrible this trend was?

Well, actually, it was probably middle-aged men who were shitting on it mostly because teenage girls liked it. But they were just saying how terrible it was that the focus was on romance.

But do you know who the second wave of people criticising this trope was?


They saw a troubling trope which romanticised abusive relationships and they criticised it. Eventually, that criticism became common knowledge and most people are now on board with it.

The same thing happens all the time with autistic characters. Harmful tropes and stereotypes are common-place in both popular and critically-acclaimed fiction.

So, where are the autistic equivalent of feminist critics?

We’re out there, definitely, but the numbers are small. Especially when compared to how many NT critics are out there.

Your best bet for criticism is Disability in Kidlit and I do reviews over on my YouTube channel.

But I’m at a lack for formal review sources otherwise. (If anyone else reviews autistic characters from a Neurodiversity standpoint, let me know and I’ll add you to this post.)

But the Autistic community is nothing if not vocal online, and any new Autistic character introduced is more than likely to produce a reaction from us.

So, take reviews where you can find them. Listen. The fact that there are few out there make them all the more relevant to your writing.

L.C. Mawson is currently doing two giveaways of her novel Hunt one on YouTube (for ebook copies) and one on Goodreads (for paperback copies).

Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Please Don’t Do A Special Episode About Me

Guess what I’m reviewing on Monday?

We all remember those episodes of the various Disney Channel shows we watched growing up, where the plot would revolve around a character from a minority background, who was never seen or heard from again. The “special” episodes, that were more about teaching acceptance than plot, making them the most boring. Though they’re not actually that good at teaching acceptance either.

Many other writers from many different minority groups have spoken before about the special episode and its problems, but as autism moves to the forefront of the public consciousness, I feel I need to reiterate some points.

This post will focus on television, specifically children’s television, but some of the points may be relevant across all forms of media.

So, onto the problems.

1) Too Little Time

Autism is complex. This entire blog series exists because of how complex autism is. Most shows have just over twenty minutes without adverts, which is far from enough time to give a crash course on autism, especially once you work it around enough plot and jokes to keep it interesting.

You could give a list of autistic traits, but what about reinforcing that not all autistic people have the same traits? Addressing that autism looks different in women?

You could focus on acceptance, but your character arcs regarding that acceptance have to be solid. Could you pull that off in less than twenty minutes without throwing mentally ill people or people with intellectual disabilities under the bus? (”We’re not like *that* kind of crazy!”) Could you do it without functioning labels or “Asperger’s”? (”It’s okay – it’s not the *bad* kind of autism!”)

If the autistic character is part of the main cast, then it’s easier to take your time. Even if they show up semi-regularly, it can work, if you’re careful with that first episode, which means covering enough so that you don’t come across as ableist, while not trying to shove everything in twenty minutes. It’s a tough balance to strike.

2) We Become Props

Using us as props to teach other kids to treat us right, is still using us as props. It perpetuates the idea of disabled people existing for the sole purpose of inspiring or educating the abled. This is a problem disabled people have to deal with constantly out in the real world, so we’re not exactly happy about it being perpetuated in fiction.

At the end of the day, it’s dehumanising. We’re not people with our own stories and plot arcs (which should really be the message you’re trying to get across, if any), we’re educational tools to be pulled out and gawked at for twenty minutes, and then we’re never to be seen or heard from again. It’s alienating and it works against the idea of acceptance that I assume you’re trying to preach.

So, in conclusion, special episodes are not a good idea. It’s much better to introduce a recurring autistic character, who has plot arcs and their own personality which is separate from their autism.

Originally posted to on 19/9/15.

Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Tropes – The Insufferable Genius

TV Tropes Page.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across an Autistic character who is considered to be on the part of the spectrum commonly referred to as “Asperger’s” who doesn’t embody this trope.

That’s a problem.

The problem with tropes is that they can sometimes be true.

Look, I’m usually “smarter” (depending on meaning because, seriously, we do not have a uniform meaning) than the other people in any given room.

I never learned methods in maths. I never had to. I could figure out the method and solve the problem within the limits of the exams. (At least until A-level…)

I have rarely met a problem that I couldn’t solve. I can boil most things down to maths and figure them out.

I fixed a sewing machine with a chop stick last week. I’ve boiled fiction writing (actually, any kind of writing, or language-based work) down to formulas that don’t often steer me wrong.

I can memorise whole paragraphs within seconds. Give me script and I’m off it by the end of rehearsal.

I am frequently given praise for what I think is the bare minimum of talent.

But put me in front of a person and I have no idea what I’m doing.

I can’t keep track of how often I should be making eye contact and how often I’m allowed to make the same agreement noise before it sounds like I’m not listening and how to inflect so that the person knows I’m joking and when not to mimic their tone.

That’s too much. My brain can’t keep up and it’s all too tempting to give up. Or just be a jackass. Especially when no one will listen because you’re not making the right amount of eye contact.

And it’s all too easy for me to over or under estimate someone’s knowledge in an area, which means I can often go over their heads or sound condescending.

So yes, there’s a reason for the trope.

It still annoys the hell out of me for a couple of reasons.

Smart or Worthless

I was good at school until I wasn’t. I was the kid who got full marks and read under the table.

Until my A-Levels. Then I was the wtf?! kid. The kid whose tutors didn’t understand why she needed one, but still couldn’t do the exams. The kid who scored high in lab practicals and the hardest questions on the tests, but fumbled with the 1 mark questions (which can knock you from an A to a C).

I’m happier than I would have been if I had taken the chemistry place I was offered in clearing. I have no doubt about that. I was always good at maths and science, but it was never a passion in the same way that sociology is. And I’m better with coursework than exams. I always have been.

But it’s often a struggle to remind myself of that.

When the only positive Autistic characters you see are the exceptional minds in STEM fields, what happens when you don’t fit the bill?

This is why I love Abed from Community. It was the first time I didn’t feel completely worthless for abandoning STEM fields.

We’re All Arseholes And Never Learn

Here’s the deal, I’m sure my whole “Look at me, I know maths” thing at the beginning came off as egotistical. I struggle with that. The fake humility thing. Lying about my abilities never sat well with me.

Of course, I do it compulsively now irl because other children taught me to with emotional trauma.

Maybe it’s different for the white, cishet, male Autistics of the world, but I quickly learned to just never speak for fear of being branded a bitch.

I corrected someone’s spelling once in a group project and she reduced me to tears, saying that I was a bully who picked on kids for not being as smart.

All I said was that “meter” was slightly misspelled, though it was understandable as it was an Americanisation. (I still feel like that was the right way to word that…)

Here’s the thing, in fiction, this creates conflict. Writers like conflict. So the characters remain friends, though they will sometimes question why.

Yeah, irl, people just leave.

Or you learn.

You learn never to open your mouth and, when you do, you still slip up. But you don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over while people just put up with it time after time.

At the end of the day, this part of autism has been done to death. We don’t need to see another example.

And I am saying this as an Actual Insufferable Genius.

Originally posted to on 22/8/15.

Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Secondary Characters – Books About Minority Issues Vs. Tokenism

Welcome to another round of “LC gets into an argument about diversity in fiction and writes a Writing Autistic about it…”

So, you’ve got a large ensemble cast. And making them all white, cishet, able-bodied, neurotypical men is unrealistic. Not to mention, you’re not an arsehole. So, you write a bunch of different characters. Some based on people you know (the Autistic bisexual with anxiety issues) and some you don’t (the ace/aro, flirty PoC).

But they’re not your main character. You know that filling the world with characters who are all white, cishet, able-bodied, neurotypical men is wrong because it doesn’t reflect the world you live in.

But you don’t want to be accused of tokenism.

Bonus points if it’s a fantasy/sci-fi world where your characters don’t face what they’d face in a contemporary drama because… well, they just don’t.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want my sci-fi/fantasy to feature ableism. I don’t want my characters to face sexism in the future. I don’t want my bisexual/aromantic dragon rider to have to fight for her right to have a woman as a lover.

We get to create any world we want – why not a better one?

Contemporary fiction is harder. Do I want an Autistic character whose family is super supportive and who has never experienced ableism? Or do I want one who has been abused by the system and has nowhere to turn?

I don’t know. Both, ideally, I guess. But that doesn’t answer what you, with your one book, should do.

If you write a bisexual woman who has only ever dated men, where is the distinction? Other than her commenting on a woman/non-binary person being hot, where is the point in the story where she’s not just another character you’ve just called “bisexual”? And what does having her prove her sexuality to the reader by being with multiple genders within the story say to bisexual women who have only ever been with one gender?

And then there’s autism, which is arguably a bigger part of my life than my sexuality (which is top-secret information, anyone who is inferring anything from this post). It’s pervasive. It colours everything I say/do.

If your Autistic character is in the story enough, it’ll look weird if you don’t have them “act the part”.

But what about if they’re not in the story enough? What if they’re a secondary character among a sea of other secondary characters?

Is saying “Oh yeah, they’re Autistic” and then mentioning that one meltdown they had a while back enough?

I’m honestly going to be super unhelpful here and say, “I don’t know.”

I mean, yeah, sometimes we will be NPCs. Sometimes we will be secondary characters, without enough development to go into our precise sensory issues.

And, in all honesty, I don’t want Allistics writing stories about Autistic characters where they weigh in on issues within our community.

If you have an Autistic character with limited page/screen time, I think I’d prefer to learn that they’re a good sister, instead of learning that their auditory processing makes learning languages difficult.

I’d rather they be human than an educational tool.

But then, I recently got told that this approach was tokenism.

I was told that I was being offensive because I had a minority character and the story didn’t cover issues that minority faces in present day (in my book, set in 2200, where the main plot focuses on killing alien monsters) and that it was therefore tokenism.

And they told me that I should remove the character altogether.

And I thought, well, what if someone said that to an Allistic writer about an Autistic character?

What if a conversation went:

“Yeah, one of the ship’s crew is Autistic.”

“Do they face ableism?”

“Well, no… It’s the future. I’d like to think that we’re more accepting.”

“How do you deal with the issues Autistic people face?”

“Everyone’s accepting and gives them the accommodations they ask for, so there are no issues. It’s not a big deal, so there’s no reason to bring it up. Their main role in the story is to be the ship’s weapon expert.”

“So how often does their autism come up?”

“Two, maybe three, times. I mention they’re Autistic, and then related issues come up in conversation, like, twice. Plus, it’s a big crew. I don’t have time to go into everyone’s daddy issues. This isn’t a BioWare game.”

“Then it’s tokenism. Just remove the fact that they’re Autistic. It doesn’t serve the story.”

Here’s the thing.

I don’t want it to serve the story. I want the NPC who is a badass, but only around for one mission, to be Autistic (without mission dialogue where the exposit about how difficult being Autistic is). I want that mother figure to be Autistic, but not complain about her issues because she’s the mother figure. I want the merchant near the home-base to be Autistic, but for the story not to really go into it, because why would it?!

I want to be a normal part of the narrative, without it becoming about the evils of ABA or cure culture.

I don’t want people acknowledging and accommodating my needs to be hammered home. I want it to drift into the background and to be considered normal.

Want to avoid tokenism? Avoid stereotypes. Make them a well-rounded person. Have them sometimes make mistakes, while sometimes being right.

And I’m sure not everyone will agree on this point, but here it is anyway – the Smurfette principle makes sense because women make up 50% of the population. Having one in a group of eight makes no sense. The same could be said for ethnic minorities, which make up 25% of the English population.

Autistic people make up 1-2% of the population. Yes, having two Autistic people in your story is possibly the best way to avoid any problems, but I’m not going to be offended if there’s only one, especially if your story has a small cast.

And even with that one character, you don’t have to delve into issues like employers not accommodating sensory issues.

And, in all honesty, I’d prefer that you didn’t. Allistic writers will mess up if they delve too far into community issues.

Beyond real world examples (e.g. someone being asked to speak at a panel to be the sole representative of their minority group), I think tokenism is often used as a cop-out.

“Don’t have too many minorities – you might end up looking like a bad 90′s cartoon!”

I’m not saying it’s always perfect. I’m just saying that it’s better than nothing.

And if you write the Autistic merchant who appears in one chapter, and someone else writes the Autistic weapons expert who never really delves into their issues, and a third person writes the Autistic mother figure…

Then we’d be a million steps up from where we are now.

I want to be the arse-kicking main character, but I also want to be the NPC when the main character is someone else, instead of nowhere to be seen.

I don’t want people to fear that their writing is too diverse. I definitely don’t want them to fear those criticisms from the community (because I know for a fact the “I don’t want too diverse media” crowd will hijack that argument).

I’m not going to pretend that the line between “this character didn’t seem Autistic at all” and “goddamn Allistic writers speaking over our issues” isn’t a thin one. Hell, I’ve even talked before about how it’s a difficult balance (even for me as an Autistic writer) to find with the main character.

With a secondary character, the balance is even trickier, since there’s less screen/page-time.

So, no, I don’t have all the answers here. But I would rather someone tried and failed than not try at all.

tl;dr – Arguments about always being a side-character are about media as a whole, not your story. It doesn’t mean that it’s better to not include an Autistic character at all. It doesn’t mean that you, as an Allistic writer, should only feel it’s acceptable to write us when we’re “dealing with autism issues”. We’re people who exist in every kind of story, and we have lives outside of our neurotype. If you really care, then boost Autistic voices within writing.

Originally posted to on 17/8/15.