One of the things about being autistic is that non-autistic people, (I refuse to use the term “normal” because I am convinced that “normal” people are a myth, like unicorns, yetis, supermarkets with all their registers open on a busy day, and the possibility of putting a USB in the right way on the first try) can be brain-meltingly indecipherable.
Supposedly there are these subtle movements of certain parts of their body, like hands and facial muscles, that form a intricate non-verbal language that explains how they feel, and what they really mean when they speak. After twenty five years of intensive research, I have deducted that a smile usually means they’re happy, a frown means they’re not, and checking their phone means “go away”.
They also possess a superhuman resilience; for example, they are able to touch doorknobs and handrails, shake hands, and have people cough or sneeze in their vicinity without being reduced to a quivering lump so saturated with adrenaline that their blood could be used to restart someone’s heart. I have even observed them using public urinals without suffering so much as a psychological meltdown.
As a writer, this presents something of a problem; unless I were to populate my stories entirely with clones of myself, (for not all autistic people will see the world as I do either; it’s a very diverse condition) then I have to try to simulate these remarkable yet bewildering beings in my stories. As someone who can scarcely fathom how their wondrous minds work, writing them as convincing characters is a bit like writing about war based solely on the experience of playing Call of Duty and watching Apocalypse Now. (The original version of which is a bitch to find on DVD, it always seems to be that annoying Redux version)
By far the hardest part of writing for me is trying to get inside my character’s heads and make them behave in a believable and relateable way. I try using traits from people I know, but then it becomes a question of how those traits interact. (I make a point of never dumping my real life acquaintances directly into my stories, as that always struck me as a bit creepy. Besides, it would make it harder for me to subject them to all the horrible things I tend to do to my characters)
To this day I have no idea whether my characters work, or whether they’re as organic as a McDonalds cheeseburger. I guess that’s for the reader to decide.