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Writing Neurodiverse Characters: Really Useful Links Paul Anthony Shortt

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Article by Paul Anthony Shortt ©.
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I’ve previously written about including mentally-ill characters, and so I thought it would also be a good idea to feature an area that can often be confused with mental illness. Neurodiversity can refer to a range of different things, depending on who you ask. But in a nutshell, neurodiversity is the idea that autism, ADHD, and other neurological conditions, are actually a normal thing; a natural variation of how the human mind is made up.

One of my own daughters has recently been diagnosed as autistic, so I’m learning a lot about this for the first time, and wanted to share some of that. The popular image of an autistic character in fiction is the savant; the genius who suffers from debilitating learning problems and social difficulties. However, this accounts for the smallest percentage of autistic people. The majority display much more subtle traits, so it is a disservice to only portray the extreme stereotype.

Here’s what I’ve been able to dig up so far in studying how neuro-diverse people can be represented.

1:  What Does It Mean? –  This entry is actually two links: one to describe what it means to be neurotypical, and another to describe what it means to be neurodiverse and provide important terms and definitions.

2: If I’m Neuro-Typical, Can I Write About the Neuro-Diverse? – Writing about a marginalised group, when you are not a member of that group, can be frought with risk. Asking yourself whether or not this is really your story to tell, regardless of the answer, is an important part of the awareness and openness required to be a great writer.

3: Writing Autistic Characters – It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining neurodiverse characters by visual ticks and traits which make them somehow “other.” You have to avoid this if you want to portray your characters with respect and humanity.

4: Types of Neurodiversity – Neurodiversity is far more than autism, and I could write whole books just on how to portray even one form of neurodiversity well, so I could never hope to cover every angle. That’s why I’m finishing up with this list of types of neurodiversity, and encouraging you to continue your research. Representation is important, more these days than ever, so it’s vital to take such subjects seriously and show the vast range of what neurodiverse people can be and offer, both to your story, and to the world.

That’s all for this week. Good luck!

(c) Paul Anthony Shortt


Paul Anthony Shortt believes in magic and monsters; in ghosts and fairies, the creatures that lurk under the bed and inside the closet. The things that live in the dark, and the heroes who stand against them. Above all, he believes that stories have the power to change the world, and the most important stories are the ones which show that monsters can be beaten.

Paul's work includes the Memory Wars Trilogy and the Lady Raven Series. His short fiction has appeared in the Amazon #1 bestselling anthology, Sojourn Volume 2.

Website: http://www.paulanthonyshortt.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pashortt