Growing Challenging Characters – A Spectrum of Possibilities

by | Mar 22, 2011 | Autism and Asperger Info/Posts | 2 comments

Ya know, I was going to write about characterization from the Bible today, but I wanted to share something a little different today.

As some of you may know, I am a speech-language pathologist (by day) – with a special interest in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Almost every day, I get the opportunity to work with some amazing kids and adults who view the world a little differently (or a lot differently)

There is a great quote from the HBO movie Temple Grandin, I’d like to share with you. Temple Grandin’s mother was talking to Temple’s teacher- the teacher said:

“Temple is different.”

Mom said, “Different, not less.”


This way of processing info might lead to areas of need or disorder, but viewing the world in a unique way is not a disorder in and of itself. Or at least, I don’t see it that way.

Can it be frustrating? You bet. Infuriating? Sure. Heartbreaking? Of course – and that’s true for the parents, the professionals, AND the children themselves, but it can also be many other beautiful things. Amazing, exhilarating, fun, brilliant, insightful…those too.

Many of the individuals are the most sincere and genuinely kind people I’ve ever met.

Now, with characterization in mind:

I’ve promised myself that one day I’m going to write a romantic comedy where the hero is an Aspie (an affectionate term for individuals with Asperger’s syndrome- a ‘high functioning’ form of Autism. In fact, I have two novels in mind, but to write him really well, it’s going to be hard work.

You see, many of the Aspie or Auties in my life are pretty amazing. Their genuineness, honesty, and kindness are often hidden behind nonverbal communication that doesn’t portray those qualities. Since most of us are hard-wired to show and read facial expression and body language, we give off the right signals to others. We show the ‘appropriate’ smile or frown, the appropriate ‘attention’ and eye contact – but that’s not usually strengths for people on the Autism Spectrum.

Some people might not agree with my point of view – but I hope I’ve learned to ‘think outside the box’ a little by learning from all the wonderful people in my life.

So, I have two different books in mind where I hope to portray the beautiful ‘hearts’ of Aspies. Writing ANY character requires knowing him/her, though.

So what do you do to get to know your characters?

A character sketch? Profile? Do you fill out a form?

How do you make your characters 3 dimensional? Any pointers you want to share?

Do you have a wonderful story about someone you know who has Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome?


  1. Debra E Marvin

    I try to figure my characters out, determine their back story and then get to know them as I tell their stories. By the end I really know them and then I can go back and tweak and sharpen their actions and reactions. I’d guess that’s a pretty common experience. Another thing I’ve done is use the Briggs Meyers test. I’ve answered as I think they would and been very happy with the character profile that results. I’ve been dead on with their traits.

    Pepper, I like to think we all have a balance of traits and skills. When one thing is lacking, something else makes up for it. And it seems that the Asperger kids I know have incredible skills in some other form of expression, such as art or music or high intelligence for figuring things out. I’m glad you shared about your job and the special people you work with.

  2. Kathryn Albright

    Wonderful post, Pepper. I think such a hero would make an awesome story. Truly touching. So all the best with those books waiting to be written! I know autism and Asperger’s has a much heavier percentage of males being affected. What do you think would be easier/harder to write–a story with the hero or the heroine having autism?


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