Why is Flowers for Algernon so underestimated
How can you make a mentally retarded character believable?
John M. Landsberg
One of the most famous short novels, John Steinbecks Of Mice and Men , has a mentally retarded character as one of his main characters. It is imperative that you read this to understand how to treat a character of this type superbly.
The hero of my own story "Conditioning" that im Magazine for fantasy and science fiction was published, is a mentally disabled adult. The story is not about his mental limitations, but about certain actions he takes that are due to how he sees the world. In order to achieve this, I had to put myself in his head and imagine how I would react to certain situations if there were some features of these situations that were simply unrecognizable for me and therefore for him. (And that really is the basic foundation of how you do what you need to do to write such a character in a personable way.)
Let's take a very, very, very rough example of this. Let's just say you imagine an alien creature landing in the forest. He is leaving the forest and wants to go to a city to meet our political leaders. He comes to a motorway but has no understanding of the fact that cars bring people to cities. He says to himself wow, these are sure to be interesting fast animals when he sees cars drive by. And he walks past the freeway and into the woods without ever stopping a car.
Obviously, the situations and circumstances in serious fiction are far more subtle, complicated, and sophisticated. However, in a context like this website, I hope that the broad and simplistic example above can give you an idea of what the basic concept is. Good luck!
Make sure you show that their internal logic makes sense to them. It won't work often, but it's normal from her POV.
For example, when my daughter was young she found that adding salt to food made it taste better. She would taste food, add salt, it would taste better, so she would add more salt, rinse, and repeat until the food was so salty it was inedible.
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