We might be able to help you out with this!
As always, our lovely psychology resource Quel has a few posts that might be of use:
Here are a few more great resources from around the web:
And here are two Tumblrs of people with Asperger’s who also blog about it:
It’s always good to talk to actual people when it comes to getting autism spectrum disorders right. I recommend that you do lots of research, come up with some solid interview questions, and sit down for a chat with someone who actually has Asperger’s.
Even so, you might not get the character perfectly right on the first go. You’ll need to edit your work and revisit your character development to ensure that you’re doing your character justice, both in general and with respect to this syndrome. After all, writing the other is a learning process. You might think about getting a peer review of your story from a person with ASD, Asperger’s specifically, to get first-hand feedback on how you could improve.
Remember that there are real people with this real syndrome that you’re representing through your work. Make sure your writing is thoughtful and presents your character honestly without pity, condescension, or idealism.
Also keep in mind that everyone with Asperger’s is different. All the research in the world might give you an idea of what a cardboard cutout of a person with Asperger’s is like, but it is important to know that people are not their disorders or syndromes. People are individuals, like you, not stereotypes.
I’m sure we’re missing out on a few great resources in the list above. If anyone would like to suggest a resource for this post, please submit it here.
- Anonymous asked: To the anon asking about Aspergers. As someone on the spectrum, I have to stress to please not just make them into a walking stereotype. Everyone is affected by Autism and Aspergers in different ways (and also, you need to forget the ‘low functioning - high functioning’ crap that is used by NTs to silence people on the spectrum) but all I ever see is this ‘eternal child/autistic angel’ person who is incapable of being a person, because as writeworld said, we are all people, and we are different.
- purpleapple317 submitted: I’m an aspie. I also on occasion blog about it in the form of personal posts or even rants. I have a few articles on my asperger’s tag. and could recommend a few more. But two things i would keep very much in mind are that not two aspies are the same, so doing a lot of research in “specialized” or psychology websites is going to paint a stiff and not always accurate picture; also men and women experience autism in extremely different ways, so be mindful of that when doing research. Oh, and please keep away from Autism Speaks (they do speak a lot, but most is out of their conceited righteous behinds).
- anti-productive-day submitted: For the Asperger’s syndrome post, the book Look Me in the Eye is a great source. It was written by a guy with Asperger’s syndrome. It’s really interesting how he perceives things and what causes him to act in certain ways. My psychology class is currently evaluating it.
And if you have been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and you’d be interested in becoming a resource for writers, please reply to this post. We would like to add your url to this post so that writers may contact you directly with their questions. Thank you!
Below is a list of people who have been diagnosed with BPD and who have volunteered as resources for writers. Please be respectful.
(Hopefully more will come forward in the fullness of time.)
Thank you for your question, anon!
Anonymous asked: Hello! I’m roleplaying a character who has Borderline Personality Disorder because of mental (and somewhat physical) abuse from his father in his childhood. I’ve done a bunch of research about BPD, but it doesn’t seem to be clicking on how to write it correctly. Any tips? Thanks!
WriteWorld is not a psychology blog. Fortunately for us, we have Quel, a friend and goldmine of information on mental disorders and psychology. Quel has graciously agreed to share some information on this topic with us, so everyone gather ‘round!
This is actually a very offensive and ignorant, and downright albeist. All of the “symptoms” listed are exaggerated and over the top, theres more to the illness than just being an apparent horrible person that no one should be around.
This is a very nasty stereotype, just as bad as saying all people suffering with schizophrenia are serial killers.
I hope no one actually used this to write a person suffering with BPD. It’s also a little disconcerting that all the sources are essentially word-of-mouth from other tumblr users. Look it up on the NHS website, even wikipedia uses correct sources and isn’t completely biased and judgmental.
We’ve gotten a lot of feedback stating concern as well, which I’ll add here:
- mattemilkshake asked: Hey, I was hoping that you could take this post ( post/71053975016/writing-borderline-personality-disorder ) down. It’s very albeist and actually factually incorrect. Please also rethink using that writer as a bank of information on mental health. They state opinion and a bad reputation as fact, I would be further disappointed to see it repeated with any other mental disorder.
- sparkleprincessunite added: this is a fucking disgusting answer rot in hell and re-evaluate your fucking choices of horrible things you write holy shit.
- bpdgleek added: what the fuck is this shit? This is extremely offensive and just plain ignorant.
- Anonymous asked: Your post on BPD is inaccurate and offensive, please can you remove it and maybe just suggest reliable resources instead? I’m sorry if this sounds rude but I just want people to be aware the real face of BPD
- amyvasnormandy added: The problem with Quel’s post wasn’t what she was saying but how she was saying it. Symptoms aren’t the same for everyone and she left out a LOT of symptoms for BPD. Furthermore, just because someone has a symptom doesn’t mean they’ll act out the same. Etc- I might be paranoid that my friends dont like me because I have abandonment issues, but I’d never “call them every hour”. Honestly the way she wrote that was disgusting and offensive. People with BPD might have problems with abandonment, but that doesn’t mean they’re psycho clingy significant others/friends like she described. It was extremely offensive and furthers stereotypes about the disorder. Your apology post was pretty good, but I’d encourage you to not use Quel as a source on mental health matters anymore. Like many others said- extremely offensive and ableist. This is also coming from another person suffering from BPD. I’m very disappointed… this was one of my favorite blogs. Furthermore, in your response you said that what Quel said is in line with wiki and NHS, but it’s really not at all? The sources were accurate and represented a wide range of issues people with BPD face. All Quel did was create a caricature of someone with EXTREME bpd. Again, just not on point AT ALL. Especially not when you compare it with the unbiased sources. The fact that you think what he said was in line with the wiki sources is more frightening and upsetting to me than anything else, honestly.
- Anonymous asked: I didn’t see the original post on BPD on my dash, but I do applaud you for addressing the mistake of having posted such a completely biased and hurtful look on BPD. A small note for my fellow writers, coming from someone who has BPD + other mental illnesses: many people who suffer from BPD especially will suffer from other mental illnesses, which can intensify the symptoms. That being said, treatment in specific areas alone can also make a worlds difference in how symptoms present themselves.
- ny4nyanderesenpai asked: hi i just want to say that your post about BPD is highly inaccurate and offensive to people who have BPD. you’ve cherry picked facts about the disorder and painted it in such a light that’s very cruel. Please remove this post or replace it with better information. i have long had BPD and it is not ‘difficult to be friends with’ someone with it, you just need to not be so insensitive-like you are in your misinformed post-and saying such is like saying someone with depression is impossible to be friends with because they want to kill them selves all the time. i bet you’re going to receive rude messages from people from a BPD blog i follow but please remove or replace the post and let your followers know about this because it’s really hurtful and mean to people who have the disorder. if you had autism would you like people to say “autistic people are terrible friends because they can’t read emotions”? please take it down.
- Anonymous asked: I have been diagnosed with BPD and I found Quel’s post to be very inaccurate and even offensive. I am not manipulative or unstable, I am just living with a mental illness and I’m sorry but since you refused to take the offensive post down, I will have to unfollow you. It’s a shame because you’re a great blog, but I’m very sensitive about my mental health.
- Anonymous asked: Hello there. I was wondering if perhaps you could alter the post you made about Borderline Personality Disorder a bit, make it a little bit more to the facts. I suffer from this disorder and that post is actually really insulting. BPD consists of the fear of being abandoned, unstable interpersonal relationships because of a “black and white” sense of view, several self harming behaviors and fear of rejection. We don’t threaten to kill ourselves so people will stay with us. Quite the opposite.
I think it’s worth comparing Quel’s post with Wikipedia and the NHS. You can read Quel’s post under the Read More above, and I have taken a little blurb from Wikipedia and the NHS website for comparison, which you can find below.
From the Wikipedia article on Borderline Personality Disorder:
Other symptoms may include intense fears of abandonment and intense anger and irritability, the reason for which others have difficulty understanding. People with BPD often engage in idealization and devaluation of others, alternating between high positive regard and great disappointment. Self-harm and suicidal behavior are common.
From the NHS.uk article on Borderline Personality Disorder:
BPD can be a serious condition and many people with the condition self-harm and attempt suicide. It is estimated that 60-70% of people with BPD will attempt suicide at some point in their life.
However, for many with BPD, the outlook is reasonably good over time, and psychological or medical treatment may help.
Not to be contrary, but I feel that what Quel had to say about BPD is, while a bit abrupt, totally in line with the sources you mentioned. I don’t think she meant for her post to be anyone’s sole resource when learning about BPD, though perhaps we should have outright stated that on the original post. I appreciate your pointing that out.
I encourage anyone learning about a mental disorder to do lots of research using several sources at least, and to find someone with that mental disorder to interview. You can read more on what I (C) think about writing characters with mental disorders here.
As suggested, I am more than happy to add a few sources outside of Tumblr to this post, so let’s list those now:
If anyone would like to suggest a resource for this post, please submit it here.
- Anonymous added: “I hate you, don’t leave me" and "sometimes I act crazy" are books written by experts about borderline personality disorder, and "girl, interrupted" and "get me out of here" are both first person accounts of living with BPD. I don’t have authors off the top of my head, but those are helpful sources, that helped me when I was diagnosed. The important thing to remember when writing charas with BPD or any disorder is that there are different symptoms, reactions, and triggers for every individual.
Below is a list of people who have been diagnosed with BPD and who have volunteered as resources for writers. Please be respectful.
(Hopefully more will come forward in the fullness of time.)
If you have been diagnosed with BPD and would be interested in becoming a resource for writers, please reply to this post. We would like to add your url to this post so that writers may contact you directly with their questions. Thank you!
Thank you for your input, everyone, and I hope we will be better able to serve the needs of our fellow writers in the future.
EDIT: Quel took another look at her previous post on BPD and decided it could be improved upon. We have replaced the original content with her updates. Thank you to Quel for her help!
Nobody likes a perfect character. Someone who is super good at everything and gets everything right is annoying.
Even the most suave secret agents of indestructible superheroes need to make mistakes in order to make the story interesting.
There are two parts to using wrongness in a story. There’s the actual mistake (which sometimes isn’t known to be a mistake at the time), and there’s the consequences of the mistake, usually forcing the character to deal with powerful feeling of guilt or regret.
There are a lot of things that go into creating a super powered being, and all of them can be boiled down to two words: back story. You have to decide what power they have, how they got it, when it showed up, and a million other things before actually writing out the good parts. However, developing the super hero (or villain) is a bit more complicated.
The first thing to do with the development of a super is to teach them how to use their power. This can be a lot of fun because it gives you the chance to have your character make a lot of mistakes. The character is brand new to this and has no idea what the limits to this power are, or even if there are limits. So this is your chance to have them turn invisible in the middle of a first date, tear their car door off, or burn down the model airplane they’ve been working on forever. Teaching your character how to use their power can also help develop the super as a character. It helps to show how they handle different situations, or how they think about the world and the people in it.
The important thing to remember about super heroes and villains is that deep down they’re still human. They have the same wants, needs and motives as anyone else: love, greed, sympathy, anger, etc. However, what makes them interesting is the fact that they have power. They have abilities that no one else has, and that’s where writing these characters gets really interesting. Once the character has these powers (and knows how to use them) the logical next step is to make the “big decision.” Are they a hero or a villain. In comic books the decision to be a hero or a villain is almost always made after a major life event. This can be the death of a loved one, being framed for a crime, sometimes even after the character’s own death. What the writer has to think about is how the character deals with the particular event. This is just like any character development, but with the addition of powers. This may not seem like a huge addition, but it is, and this is because it gives a lot of possibilities for a reaction scene.
After any huge life event a person is going to feel a very strong emotion or maybe a bundle of emotions they can’t easily untangle. The trick to this part is figuring out how the power plays into it. When people are sad they cry, then they’re scared they scream and run away, when they’re happy they jump up and down, however, these aren’t just ordinary people. The tricky part (and often the fun one) is to figure out how the power reacts to this emotional cacophony. There’s a ton of different ways to do anything and the best part is it’s all up to you.
ADMIN NOTE: A collection of great descriptors for attributes generally associated with people with light skin (white people), though there are fewer descriptors that would be well-suited to people of color, especially in the skin color section. Descriptors listed include categories for face shape, skin color/complexion, eyes, hair, and clothing.
Thank you to WriteShop for writing this article and to cparks-mighthelp for posting it on Tumblr.
Witty characters are what I, in my own opinion, write best and enjoy most; even though I do like to try as wide a range of different characters as possible in order to develop myself as a writer. Being witty is not an easy task, especially if it’s not a gift you were born with. Often the result is varying, to a degree where I end up either loving or hating what I’ve written.
The guide begins with an introduction to wit and different types of it. If you think you already have that part covered, feel free to scroll to the ending where I share some pointers on how to go about writing a witty character or witty dialogue.
Anonymous asked: "In order to avoid creating the dreaded 'Mary Sue', people say to give your character flaws. Do you think flaws in a character should be physical (ie. weight issues, bad skin), characteristic (ie. selfish, jealous) or a healthy mixture of both?"
Characters are people. Do you know a single person whose flaws are limited only to the physical or to the mental/emotional? Probably not.
Okay, hi. I have a slightly different answer here. Though I agree with O that character flaws should run the gamut of physical and psychological imperfections, I want to stress that these “flaws” are extremely subjective. If we look at the examples you gave for physicality for example, many people do not interpret overweightness as a flaw, and there are people (not me*) who have fetishes for stretch marks and therefore do not consider that particular skin condition to be a flaw.
For me, physical characteristics can’t really be considered flaws. They are just the way a character looks. Giving a character who is otherwise perfect a bit of acne is not going to magically remove their “Mary Sue” status, if indeed such a thing exists. The relationship of character physicality to character psychology is more complicated than that. Better to set about creating a physicality for your character which suits the needs of the story you’re trying to tell than to think of height or weight or skin blemishes or crooked teeth as character flaws.
On to the psychological. If you feel your character might be too “perfect,” my suggestion would be to try writing out the attributes of the character and tweaking them a bit. An example:
You can easily make a “virtue” into a “vice.” All you have to do is have too much or not enough of that virtue. Let’s take another look at Lula. This time, we’re going to push two of her virtues off the deep end, over-stressing them to the point that they become vices. Observe.
self-confident → prideful
brave → rash
Where there is too much self-confidence, there is pride, and if she is too brave, her rash behavior could get her into trouble. Now Lula is looking a bit more balanced. What else can we do? Let’s dial down two of these virtues a notch as well.
kind-hearted → considerate
loyal → trustworthiness
Neither virtue has become a vice, you see, but both are significantly less vague. A considerate character is nice and polite if possible, as opposed to a kind-hearted person who can be Snow White-ish in her sweetness and amiability. And loyalty demands allegiance in all respects while trustworthiness is merely reliable honesty. After toning both virtues down a bit, we have a less extreme and more streamlined idea of Lula’s personality.
Is there anything else to be done? Well, we could add more specificity.
intelligent → avid reader
Lula isn’t just vaguely “intelligent,” a catch-all word that doesn’t tell us much about her as a character. Now we know that she gets her wits from the books she reads, but that she is also at their mercy. The books she chooses to read will shape her understanding of the world as much as they will distract her from it. With her nose in a book, she is less likely to experience “real life” but more likely to know the answers on the American Lit test next week. “Avid reader” gives us much more to go on than “intelligent.”
So now we have a Lula who is more rounded.
Though at times prideful and rash, Lula, an avid reader, is a loving, trustworthy, and considerate person.
If we know nothing else about her, we at least know that much. And, bonus! This is not a description of a “Mary Sue” anymore! Success! While we didn’t necessarily add “flaws” to Lula, we did drag her down from the lofty, positive-traits-only heights of perfection. She is a more rounded character. Ultimately, that is the goal.
We have a creakingly-aged section of WriteWorld devoted to character building that might serve this topic well. Though it is desperately in need of a revamp, our Character Virtues and Vices page might be able to offer you some character help.
We also have a guest article on this topic that is well-worth the read: Guest Article from Elizabeth: Switching Up a Too-Perfect Character. Check it out!
Thank you for your question!
*Okay, yes, it’s me.