If you’re autistic like me, chances are social interaction doesn’t come naturally to you. After all, the autistic brain just isn’t wired for thinking about how the body expresses emotion or how the face and voice do the same thing.
There’s a very simple reason why you need to write about social interaction. It’s basically what drives your plot. Think about your favorite book. Chances are it’s some sort of thinking and feeling being that is interacting with the people and things around them. Even when people are writing about a robot or a table as their main character, the author tends to have them act like they’re human. And that includes everything about human interaction—from body language to starting conversations.
I’m pretty lucky that I got the social skills training that I did—because I do know that those subtle cues are there. But if you’re not as well trained in social skills and body language and social interaction, you have your work cut out for you. You will need to read some stuff on social interaction—which will be good for both yourself and for your writing. What’s a good example of a resource for you? The book Socially Curious and Curiously Social by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke is a good resource. So is the now well-known Hidden Curriculum. Go ahead and buy some of the calendars that are under that heading. Even Autism-Asperger’s and Sexuality by Jerry and Mary Newport is a good resource if your story involves romance. And if there are workbooks that go with them, they might help you out too.
Observing people is also key if you want to apply it yourself. If you want to do that, you’ll really need to pay attention to all aspects—what they say, how they say it, and how their bodies and faces are being held. Keep a body language book nearby so you can consult if you’re especially having difficulty. And go ahead and write it out in painstaking detail in your journal/s. Even if it ends up being extremely boring when you go back and read it.
I know—it does sound exhausting. And it is. Even for someone as high functioning as me. But here’s the good news. Even people without autism have to consult body language books sometimes. There are even books for writers about body language. One I have is called The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. So it’s not just you—it’s pretty much all of us.
So what are you waiting for, autistic writer? Go ahead and experiment and learn.