I could use some advice on whether what I'm doing is fundamentally flawed.

Bramandin

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This feels like you're moving more towards the good ol' Omniscient Narrator, which is less fashionable that it used to be but stil a perfectly valid way to tell a story.

Many writers nowday default to Close Third Person, Multiple Protagonists, where you follow one character's viewpoint strictly for the duration of a whole scene or chapter. In contrast, the Omniscient Narrator is free to describe the thoughts and feelings of any character at any point, and also to NOT describe their thoughts and feelings if that doens't suit the scene. You can view the thoughts of two different characters in two successive sentences; you can have entire scenes of just actions or speech with no inner commentary whatsoever.

I haven't read a recently-published book in ages so that's probably why I gravitated towards an outdated style. If it's still an acceptable way to go, I'm willing to keep doing it. This morning my problem is that I want to mention that the non-pov character is waiting patiently. They're both telepathic, but I'm resisting the urge to use it at this moment. It would be like a character outright announcing that they're waiting patiently.
 

Bramandin

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My impression is that you are struggling because you are relatively new to writing and trying to do something quite complex, including presenting characters who are not neuro-typical (to use the currently fashionable terminology).

I'm not sure how much total writing experience I've had, but I've been doing it off and on for about two decades. I just don't get much feedback. I've been writing pretty consistently on this one project since the plague started. This next section is actually stepping back from the complexity because I realize the last bit was something that I don't handle well.

Also, does having a neurodivergent character add that much difficulty over a neurotypical one who has a different personality than me? Among the problems I can think of, I'm assuming that there is a lack of good examples due to how many stories are written by neurotypicals for neurotypicals. This is not an opinion that I've done enough research about, but it seems like many authors do get it wrong if they're intentionally writing a neurodiverse character.


I have a couple of suggestions, neither of which is a quick or easy fix. I've put them in the order I thought of them, but really swapping round probably works just as well.

Firstly, and summarising some of what @The Judge and @tinkerdan have said, you need to take a step back and decide what the story is that you are trying to tell. It feels like you have got bogged down in technicalities of style and POV and the complexity of the story when what you need to start with simplifying things. Step one has to be a concise statement of my story is... Then you can try to decide who is telling my story, and then how is my narrator(s) going to present it. And just to repeat - this is NOT easy to do. (And honestly, I often can't tell you what my story is until I've finished writing it.)

Secondly, take a small part of your story, a scene or chapter, and pick out your top two or three possible POVs and re-write the whole thing from each of those POVs. This isn't just going through and swapping a few names or pronouns around, but getting yourself into the head of each character, being the advocate for each character, making the story about them and telling it as they see and feel it. Again this is not easy to do, but it might help you to think about the story and the presentation.

And finally... a sort of "full disclosure". I write a lot of 1st POV, which is a very different beast from a multi-POV 3rd narrative, and makes choices of POV and how a story is presented very different. I am not suggesting that you abandon your own approach to writing, but just undertake the exercise of teasing out the bare bones of what you want to achieve and exploring simplified scenarios. I come from a science and problem-solving background, and this seems a prime example of where things have become overly complex and the best answer is to wipe the board or take a fresh sheet of paper and start again, as simply as possible, only putting the complexity back in once you've solved the basics.

I do realize that I need to decide on what the heart of the story is, even if the story drags itself off of the rails. I often can't identify themes until I go back and reread them. I could try to make it just about one Young Guardian, the other three won't be doing nothing but I could try pushing their problems to the side. I'm still fond of the idea of trying to approach the story as if it's supposed to be about the one character but it keeps getting as distracted as her chaotic mentor.

I could also take a break and do a story about someone completely different.

I'm also willing to go in and rewrite some scenes as close third or maybe even go first-person. First person would probably be good for me since I've done very few times and I don't think I'm good at it. I'll reread Nightmares from Space before I get started.
 

Biskit

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Also, does having a neurodivergent character add that much difficulty over a neurotypical one who has a different personality than me? Among the problems I can think of, I'm assuming that there is a lack of good examples due to how many stories are written by neurotypicals for neurotypicals. This is not an opinion that I've done enough research about, but it seems like many authors do get it wrong if they're intentionally writing a neurodiverse character.
Here's my take on the question:

A different personality is a much smaller difference than neurodiverse. The bottom line is that very crudely, the neurotypical majority see things roughly the same way, and essentially follow a common pattern, even with the variations of personality. The neurodiverse follow a different pattern, and then have variations of personality.

So far as I can see, there are four big challenges writing neurodiverse.
1: If you're not neurodiverse, you need to do the research to get the character right, and it you are neurodiverse you need to research the neurotypical to understand why you're different.
2: Unless you're writing for a matching neurodiverse audience, you need to make your character in some way relatable for the neurotypical audience, which conceivably ends up glossing over some of the detail.
3: How diverse is your neurodiverse? I think people tend to expect or opt for the extremes, but in reality a lot of people go through life, adequately(?) functional but actually neurodiverse, with behaviours that look like "personality quirks" which are really signs of the underlying pathology.
3b: Whatever you do, no matter how well you do it, a significantly neurodiverse character is probably going to be incomprehensible to most people. A modestly neurodiverse character is going to look like just another misfit. (Which also argues that neurotypical authors have been writing perfectly valid, well-observed neurodiverse characters, but with the label "misift" or "oddball" rather than neurodiverse.)

I am aware that I often write characters who are odd, and there are indications that I may be a noticeable distance from the centre-line of neurotypical. I definitely write characters who are no so much atypical but rather not entirely human. What I haven't done is tried to write a character for a specific pathology, although if it turns out that whatever strange things happen in my head count as neurodiverse then some of my 1st POV characters definitely share my personal pathology.
 

Bramandin

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I second Dan's and Bisket's comments that you seem to be overthinking matters and perhaps as a result you've made everything far more complicated than is necessary.

I also think you're spending more time worrying about technicalities than just writing a thumping good story. We all need to be both writers and storytellers, but of the two aspects storytelling is by far the more important for those of us dealing in genre fiction -- fashionable authors beloved of the literati can write a no-plot-going-nowhere-wordfest, but we humble mortals need to have more if we want readers. And not only is it easier to impose good writing standards on a great plot -- as Dan says, that's what second (and third, fourth, fifth...) drafts as well as beta readers are for -- but in some cases poor writing doesn't actually impede sales, as long as the work is eminently readable. (I rest my case on the shoulders of Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer and EL James.)

That is valid. Computers are getting to the point where they can generate a decent story, and I imagine that it's not hard to correct a story with a good heart that has problems. I realize that it's mean now, but I used to spork fanfiction and I remember one where I was thinking that it would actually be a solid story if the villain weren't so corny.

I do think you're confusing two very separate issues. We conceal/keep secret things from the reader in order to give a surprise reveal -- A is actually in love with B not C; D is the murderer not E; F did overhear the conversation that changes everything -- it's a plot issue, so we can have misunderstandings and red herrings and the like which propel the story along and give a satisfactory ending. But that's very different from when we just don't tell the reader things. It isn't keeping things "hidden" if we don't provide unnecessary backstory, or we don't allow the characters to angst at length, it's just getting on with the story and keeping to what's important.

So pretty much I have to develop a feel for how much really needs to be there; not too much or too little.

To jump to a more visual medium, I'm deciding how many marks to make to get the image.

Probably a reason why I'm making it so complicated is that maybe I'm thinking about it like drawing. There are rules for composition, there's proportions, structure, negative space...


Again, I think you're confusing issues. If the scene is being given through the POV of another character, you're not "limiting" the cadet's point of view, you're not giving it at all -- you're only showing what she says and does, and giving the reactions and voiced suppositions of those who are present, and the unvoiced thoughts/emotions of the POV character alone.

I think it's the terms themselves that are confusing to me. But yeah, I'm thinking that the only way the cadet's thoughts should make it to the page is if she tells someone.


The "starving artist" concept is really nothing to do with having taken classes or being educated -- it's a false notion that only those who concentrate on their art to the exclusion of all mundane things like earning a living or having enough to eat are true artists. It's not only demonstably untrue, it's actively dangerous in my view.

As to the issue of taking classes, I'm willing to bet that most of us here are self-taught. For myself, I did school exams in English a good many years ago, but I had no formal training in creative writing -- whatever skills I've picked up have come as a result of just getting on with it and writing stories for myself and friends, and then being interested to learn more.

Basically, stop worrying about technicalities. Just write a good story. To start with, have a look at the Writing Challenges -- there's a 75 worder open, and many previous Challenges which you could look at and try for yourself. That will perhaps help you to step outside your worried over this current project and enlarge your actual storytelling ability.

The part about starving artist was more about how I was focused on only getting training that would be useful. Why pay for something that isn't going to Return On Investment? Whole thing was a scam, but now I'm really trying to figure out how to be a decent writer.

I'll look into that challenge.
 

Bramandin

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Here's my take on the question:

A different personality is a much smaller difference than neurodiverse. The bottom line is that very crudely, the neurotypical majority see things roughly the same way, and essentially follow a common pattern, even with the variations of personality. The neurodiverse follow a different pattern, and then have variations of personality.

So far as I can see, there are four big challenges writing neurodiverse.
1: If you're not neurodiverse, you need to do the research to get the character right, and it you are neurodiverse you need to research the neurotypical to understand why you're different.
2: Unless you're writing for a matching neurodiverse audience, you need to make your character in some way relatable for the neurotypical audience, which conceivably ends up glossing over some of the detail.
3: How diverse is your neurodiverse? I think people tend to expect or opt for the extremes, but in reality a lot of people go through life, adequately(?) functional but actually neurodiverse, with behaviours that look like "personality quirks" which are really signs of the underlying pathology.
3b: Whatever you do, no matter how well you do it, a significantly neurodiverse character is probably going to be incomprehensible to most people. A modestly neurodiverse character is going to look like just another misfit. (Which also argues that neurotypical authors have been writing perfectly valid, well-observed neurodiverse characters, but with the label "misift" or "oddball" rather than neurodiver se.)

I am aware that I often write characters who are odd, and there are indications that I may be a noticeable distance from the centre-line of neurotypical. I definitely write characters who are no so much atypical but rather not entirely human. What I haven't done is tried to write a character for a specific pathology, although if it turns out that whatever strange things happen in my head count as neurodiverse then some of my 1st POV characters definitely share my personal pathology.

You are hitting a lot of the right points with this. Though because I am neurodiverse, I've already done a lot of the research just for myself. At least fictional neurotypicals don't act like real people, so that's easier to work with.

Though I'm not sure that it's so much harder to write a relatable neurodiverse character than it is for most other characters. Oddballs, aliens, and jerk-savants are plentiful; as are rich, poor, male, female, black, white, introvert, extrovert, smart, dumb, generous, greedy... I'm not sure if it's just confirmation bias because another of my internet haunts is a cesspool, but do people generally seem to have less capacity for empathy than in the past?

I haven't gone too in-depth about trying to learn more, but I've seen other people comment that a lot of characters that are supposed to just be quirky actually read like neurodiverse. They're probably based off of someone where the author didn't know that they're neurodivergent. One that I feel strongly about is Barclay from Star Trek. I'm sure that his first appearance was before aspergers was a diagnosis, and I heard that the writers based him off of some awkward fans that sometimes show up at cons. Even with awareness, the way his problems present would probably be considered moral failings instead of diagnosed if he was in the world today. I also hate to bring up Sheldon Cooper, but once you(general) get past how he's a jerk-savant that's just as misogynistic as Howard, some of his quirks read as autistic.

You've also pointed out why including a neurodiverse character can be problematic; the author tends to go to extremes. It's like they wanted to include all of the pathology like they were loading a plate at a buffet. One thing I think is a good thing is to write a character without a specific diagnosis in mind. Start with a person, give them hangups, even if there is a diagnosis that matches them, maybe they lack a symptom that is common. One thing I've seen is adult autistics trying stimming and it doesn't do anything for them. Some like felt, others can't stand it, some are picky eaters, some aren't...
 

Toby Frost

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So pretty much I have to develop a feel for how much really needs to be there; not too much or too little.

To jump to a more visual medium, I'm deciding how many marks to make to get the image.

Probably a reason why I'm making it so complicated is that maybe I'm thinking about it like drawing. There are rules for composition, there's proportions, structure, negative space...

Yes, that's definitely a balance that you have to find as you go along.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of the comparisons you've made are of visual media and things like manga, neither of which work like novels. Even a Western graphic novel doesn't work quite like a paper novel. I would suggest reading some recent successful fantasy novels and seeing what they do and how they go about it.
 

Bramandin

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Yes, that's definitely a balance that you have to find as you go along.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of the comparisons you've made are of visual media and things like manga, neither of which work like novels. Even a Western graphic novel doesn't work quite like a paper novel. I would suggest reading some recent successful fantasy novels and seeing what they do and how they go about it.

I intend to correct how everything I've read is either old or self-published. Do you have any suggestions? I just looked at my library's new releases in Overdrive and they seem to have a thing for fantasy romance. I might have better luck borrowing a proper book once I stop feeling like I'll get germs all over it.
 

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