I was speaking with a fellow adult diagnosed autistic writer, in one of my many favorite online support groups, and I told him, “looking back at my unfinished novels, I think I made almost all of my main characters autistic, without even knowing it. I think I was always searching for answers or connections with someone like myself.”
For those that might not understand that, I wanted to share a few excerpts from my “unfinished zombie novel” that I have been writing through my unmedicated ADHD for a good ten years. Writing with ADHD is nearly impossible, FYI. Sure, you get some good spurts with hyperfocus but for the majority of the time you are fighting with yourself to get some legitimate work done. Not easy.
In this untitled work, a young woman who left town due to a trauma at a very young age, returns home just before the zombie apocalypse. I should mention that this is more of a zombie-fantasy novel, with some complex religious themes, because, you know, I don’t do anything simple or easy. The following is from a study I wrote to get a better idea of the character.
She was a rule follower, for sure. The sheep of sheep. Which made her perfect for church. Jesus was a shepherd, was he not?
But the thing about sheep is they are often frightened. And so was she. Frightened. All the time. Of everything. But most of all, she was frightened by no rules at all. Not anarchy, not a complete lack of rules. No, she was afraid of not-knowing the rules. Not-knowing the right things to say. Not-knowing the right thing to do. Not-knowing what would spare her the stares of those that did know what to do. A room of people where everyone knows the rules but her, like a stage she had casually happened upon during opening night.
Which is why she avoided the post office. There were just too many rules to follow. Too many rules to know, rigid rules that she would never-ever remember. Air holes, fragile and not fragile, freight versus priority, thirty two cent stamps and those that supposedly lasted forever— and the lines. Oh, the lines. She never knew which line not to cross. So, she didn’t cross any. She hand delivered her letters instead.
It’s why she skipped adolescence too. She looked at the beautiful girls that her brother dated, and they were all the same. They all understood something that she didn’t. They all had read the same rule book: on how to dress, how to speak, how to speak to boys, and how not to speak to other girls. Girls like her. They would never tell her how to be, what to do, what to say. She knew that the instant she became a teenager, it would be like walking into a room with no rules to guide her. The post office, all over again.
So she skipped it. She turned twelve, ran away, and became a teenage mother. The one thing she knew she was not supposed to do. She simply skipped over adolescence, like a crowd she wanted to avoid. Now… she was the oldest seventeen year old she knew.
That almost makes me emotional to read. It was practically a cry for help. I wrote this particular piece of writing probably six years ago? It shows you that even though I had no idea about my diagnosis, I was still autistic. And severely suffering from that lack of knowledge.
Here’s an interesting bit of dialogue that shows one of my favorite “stims”, the ocean. As a bit of background, my main character is talking to a young man who has also returned home from a failed escape. As to any quality of the writing, like I said, this book has been a ten year process. I’ve matured since some of theses original drafts.
“I wanted out of the Midwest. It’s just so flat,” he gestured at the dark horizon. “I wanted to see something else. So I thought…”
“You thought, California.”
“Yes, I thought California. I thought of the ocean. I mean, is there anything more different from the Midwest? But what’s funny is that the ocean is so flat. You wouldn’t think it, but once you get past the waves it’s nothing but flat water. In the right light the ocean looks just like a wheat field. It looks like nothing more than grass for miles. And so much horizon—it goes on and on.”
“Only a boy from the Midwest would think the ocean looks like a wheat field. Were you disappointed?”
“A little. I left to find sunnier skies but the skies were no different in California, because California is just a place like any other. Just like here. Same sky. But I loved the sound of the ocean. It looked like grass, but the sound—the sound was something else. It was so loud and so visceral. It was biblical—like it was pulling me back into the sea…this… push-pull.. push-pull… push-pull.. It was so…so…”
“Wet,” she blushed.
He grinned. “Yes. It was wet.”
And again later:
“My whole life I had always worn a tie and stiff, lace up shoes. I was eighteen, and I had never worn sandals. So the difference was liberating. I spent two weeks just listening to the sound of the ocean. This slap, slap, sure,” he clapped his hands together twice and slid them together slowly. “Slap, slap, sure. Sometimes I would fall asleep right there on the sand.”
I also dealt with a sensory related, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria meltdown, long before I knew what it was. Again, remember that this is a zombie novel, so I am about to mention said monsters.
Her head was swimming. It was like the church bell had gone off, right beside her. And the wave of it was ringing through her whole body, making her dizzy. Like the first time she heard a church bell chime. Everything faded away, their laughter, her shame, muffled under the vibrations of something so large and resolute.
She stumbled to the high windows, once so beautiful, now boarded up and hidden away. Through the cracks she could see the sun dropping below the bell tower. Already there were monsters careening across the square, looking for others. Already she could hear their moans, calling to the other people locked safely away, calling to her.
She felt trapped.
And these are just a few of the examples. There are so, so many more. But I don’t want to dump my entire novel into a blog post. Need to finish it first! But honestly, now that I am properly medicated, that is a legitimate possibility for my future, for the first time. It’s not some far off goal, some “someday.”
And that is a wonderful feeling.
As my lawyer, my husband would like to mention that all writings original to this blog or novel excerpts, complete or otherwise, are copyright to Holly Beardsley, 2020.
So, uh, don’t steal my book.