Writing Neurodivergent Characters in Fantasy – by Emma Lammers…

on Mythic Scribes:

Author’s note: neurodivergent is term used to refer to people whose neurological functions differ from the norm because of an innate or acquired condition. Examples of these conditions include autism, learning disabilities, mood disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and more. People who do not have any neurodivergent conditions are considered neurotypical.

To the delight of many readers, more characters in fantasy literature reflect aspects of real-world people than ever before. Today’s heroes can be people of colour, people of any gender or sexual identity, people of nearly any age. Writers are answering the call for more diversity in their work, and oftentimes they do it well, portraying realistic, nuanced characters from marginalized communities.

Some people, however, aren’t as likely to see themselves accurately reflected in the pages of a fantasy story. I’ve searched long and hard to find literary characters who experience autism, anxiety, and sensory processing disorder as I do, and very few of these characters show up in fantasy – a detriment to my favourite genre. Villainous characters are often portrayed as neurodivergent because writers think that this will make them scarier, and you will encounter the occasional hero with post-traumatic stress disorder, but  these depictions tend to lack accuracy, diversity, and consideration for the people who actually have the conditions used in the story.

The ability to write characters who are different from you is a vital skill for any author, and creating characters who are neurodivergent is one way to put that skill to use. In this article I’ll discuss how to do research for your neurodivergent characters (NCs), different ways to portray them, and the challenges and advantages they might have depending on your fantasy world.

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