Tips and Tricks 4: Writing ADHD (or other Neurodivergent Characters)
What's up Write Voicers!
This month has been crazy busy since I'm in the process of moving, finalizing information for my new apartment, working on multiple writing projects, and dealing with personal life stuff (that I'm not ready to talk about just yet). It's all been nerve-wracking, overwhelming, and exciting all in one. But, of course, that's how life goes.
And, of course, thinking about all my life stuff and the characters that I'm currently working on in my WIP The World That Hides Our Love, had me thinking about ADHD and other neurodivergent individuals. So, that's what today's post is about: Writing ADHD Characters (Or Other Neurodivergent Characters).
#1 Just Write
I know this might sound weird, but just writing a character as they appear in your mind is the best way to get an idea of who they are and what they are like. I didn't plan for the male lead of The World That Hides Our Love to be ADHD. In fact, I initially just wrote a character that I thought was interesting and gave him some of my traits-- including the inability to sit still from time to time.
It wasn't until a close friend of mine (who does have ADHD) pointed out that the way he behaved was reminiscent of someone with ADHD that I even considered adding that as part of his character. Sometimes just writing a character as they come to you will allow a perspective that you never thought you could write to come to mind.
Neurodivergent people, including those with ADHD, are just people. If you write the world as you see and observe it, you're bound to write a character that is true and recognizable to others.
#2: Do Your Research
Just because you've written what you know, doesn't mean that the process stops there. After you sit down and write out your characters, you'll want to see if they display any traits that could be perceived as ADHD or another type of neurodivergent behavior.
For my friend, what stuck out about my character Kaliq was more than just his inability to sit still. It was also the way he talked and how he approached his everyday life. Because Kaliq has agoraphobia, he's often by himself, which allowed me to write what he was like within his home when there were no distractions around.
But that doesn't mean that I'm going to stop there. Kaliq is still a work in progress, and I'm still researching what other characteristics would cause him to stand out as a character with ADHD. Just from a quick Google search, I've found:
Makes careless mistakes
Lacks attention to detail
Has difficulty paying attention to tasks
Seems to not be listening when spoken to directly
Fails to follow through on instructions
Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
Easily distracted by other things, including unrelated thoughts
Forgetful in daily activities
Mind you, these are just a few traits that I found on Vyanase, which is definitely biased since they're dedicated to selling ADHD medication (among others I'm sure).
Of course, the best way to do your research is to always ask someone from that specific community. Everyone doesn't experience the world the same, but people generally recognize when you've put effort into portraying their community as close to the real thing as possible.
#3: Be Careful of Where You Get Your Information
We just discussed doing your research. Did you notice how I pointed out the source that my research came from? I did that because it's important to pay attention to where you get your information from.
If you absolutely can't find someone within the ADHD community (or another neurodivergent community) to speak to about representation in your project, and you decide to do all your research online, then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE pay attention to where that information is coming from.
I don't know how many of you remembered how disgusted the BDSM community was about E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey because she didn't actually consult anyone from that community while writing, but let's just say that you don't want to be THAT person. You know, the one that an entire community shuns because you got EVERY SINGLE THING wrong.
And this advice isn't just good for writing neurodivergent characters, it's good for writing from any perspective that isn't your own.
But, specifically on the topic of writing ADHD characters, you want to make sure that you are getting your information from an array of sources. Yes, you can totally do a simple Google search. But, if you want it to be authentic, check out things like this list of ADHD related subreddits or some of these Facebook groups provided by the nonprofit group Friendship Circle of Michigan whose mission is to "[create] friendship in the lives of individuals with special needs and those facing isolation while providing an opportunity to become a contributing member of the community." You can read more about them here.
But, no matter where the information comes from, just remember that the goal is to portray a truth and perspective that only YOU can. One that is representative of the world around us and that accurately shows that, regardless of being neurodivergent or atypical, we are all just people.
I'm still in the process of writing Kaliq's character, and I'm sure I have a lot more to learn about him and the ADHD community. As I continue developing his character, I'm sure I'll have additional and more specific tips to how to do this and how to do it well. In the meantime, what type of characters do you struggle writing about? Or, do you have any tips about this topic that you think I should mention? Let me know in the comments. Then, check out my other Tips and Tricks and let me know what you think!