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?