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  • Sunayna Prasad

Friendship in Real Life and Its Portrayal in Fiction

A lot of authors base their stories off their own life experiences. For many years, however, I had thought that I did not since my life had been too “straightforward.” At some point, though, I realized that my life did come with several challenges due to my disability.

The diagnosis I was given was Asperger’s, which I still call it, despite its removal as a condition in 2013. So, I am on the mild end of the autism spectrum. Unlike other mildly autistic people, as well as what authors stated on multiple sources, I did not have trouble making friends during my life. In fact, I have made so many friends throughout my life, including those I have lost connection with, that I cannot keep track of how many.

Just about all of my current friends are on the spectrum, too. They are also truer and more loyal to me than the few neurotypical (people without autism) friends I have made in school. I also have a lot more than I did in my school days, ranging from pre-K to college.

That being said, not every friend I made throughout life treated me well or vice versa. In the stories I write, my main character has loyal friends, but they don’t always get along. At times, some of those people want to dump my protagonist, while during other moments, they want to help her. The protagonist has also lost connections with or dumped friends in her life before. Yet, without the guidance of her peers and mentors, she might not have made it alive.

A common moral in stories, regardless of their genres is that friends matter a lot and can aid you to get through anything. This can range from family issues, low self-esteem, danger, and much more.

The point is that depicting friendship in stories should not be perfect. Of course, every story needs to have conflict, which means that characters, and their relations to others, should include flaws.

One example I noticed comes from the book, “The Witches of Willow Cove” by Josh Roberts. The story opens with a few children trick-or-treating on Halloween. They come across a haunted house and fly on broomsticks. Of course, this leads them to their parents punishing them, which causes them to “dislike” one another for a while.

However, a protagonist’s moments with his or her friends must also have some light moments. It may be difficult to portray, especially since conflict should occur on every page. But when the end hits, the characters are expected to be different people than they were at the beginning. An idea could be an enemy of the main character who becomes friendly with him or her.

The other way around may happen, too. Something I was taught in my mid-20’s was not to reward bad behavior and stand up for myself when someone displayed rude attitudes toward me. The first friend I’d made in college seemed nice at first, but after I graduated, his treatment toward me changed. He would either show kindness and good manners, or be disrespectful and call me names.

The lesson I learned about standing up for myself when somebody mistreated me inspired me to apply this kind of goal to a friend of my series’ protagonist in one of the installments. This is one of those times where I base an event or character’s goal off if my own life experiences.

Research is necessary, however, if you want to develop characters a way in which you are not familiar with. Although I don’t have any characters in my stories with special needs, should you choose to apply disabilities to your characters, use caution. Otherwise, you might offend somebody.

That being said, it would be great if you had a disabled character have lots of friends with similar traits that make them relate to one another. This could be your protagonist, or a secondary character. While you shouldn’t have too many characters, unless they’re necessary, it’s okay for one to mention if he or she has a lot of friends. I know a lot of people on the spectrum that have so many friends, that I can’t keep track of all of their names, faces, or personalities.

Regardless of my connections, you should also be considerate to people with special needs who’ve made few to no friends throughout life. A character they can relate to could make them feel better, especially if the character learns how to make friends the right way.

The portrayal of friendships in stories doesn’t always have to be based off your own experiences. Characters also do not need to be based off of real people. I often just develop my characters’ traits and behaviors off of people I know; but that is it.

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