Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Protagonist Might Have Aspergers

Sorry I haven't been able to post for so long, but it's been even longer since I've actually been able to work on my story.  Life can get in the way, but I've been thinking about some critiques I've received regarding one of my characters.  Some have commented on his lack of emotional range. 

Originally, I intended to write him as somewhat reserved, maybe emotionally withdrawn.  If you haven't read any of my descriptions, my protagonist is a partial telepath - he can detect all thoughts around him that pertain to him.  Consider how many close friendships you would make if, throughout your life, you always knew the truth about what everyone around you thinks about you? Add to that the fact that he genetically inherited his mother's memories - including her being attacked and stabbed just before his birth.  He's not too quick to trust.

I thought that would be his main character/personality limitation, but last year, something changed.  My son was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic.  Like most parents, I started researching it and started making some correlations with my protagonist.  I'm continuing to review some basic material and compare with my character's personality.  I believe that I've inadvertently given my protagonist Aspergers traits.  Since this is science fiction, I decided to work that into the story.  Since the story takes place about 500 years in the future, I'll assume a cure for Aspergers/Autism would be found.  My protag's affliction would be like Aspergers in almost every respect except for the fact that it is brought on, largely, due to a severe trauma pre-birth or at birth.  This affliction gives tendencies for the brain to reduce or shut down part of their emotional processing because they were effectively overloaded at birth.  The symptoms will mirror Aspergers so much that he'll be misdiagnosed and treated for Aspergers. 

One thing I know is that I still have a lot of work to do to make this work but hopefully, this will become a good character development.  More importantly, I would love for this story to bring more attention to Aspergers/Autism.


  1. One of the main symptoms of Asperger's or high-functioning autism is the inability to read body language.

    Couldn't Mark use his telepathy to compensate for this, even subconsciously?

    He might not be able to read facial expressions, but he could pick up on the thoughts behind them.

    For example, he's talking about something he's interested but nobody cares about. He might not pick up on the "I'm bored" cues (looking at watch or door, etc), but he could telepathically pick up on the "will he ever finish" thoughts.

  2. You make one point that I highlight in the book - the telepathy actually hinders the ability to read body language. I have a couple comments in the story where Mark notices that the members of his extra-terrestrial father's race have horrible poker faces. They become so dependent on the partial telepathy to detect deception that they miss other clues.

    Mark is a bit better being raised by Terrans, but his traumatic birth did "short circuit" some of his emotional response/processing. I'm hoping that I can successfully integrate an extra-terrestrial version of Aspergers into the story.