As some of you may have heard the screenplay I wrote adapted from my novel concerning a young autistic man who has magical abilities just won two “Best Screenplay” awards in two separate film festivals. I’m thrilled, of course. I have to admit I don’t post the festivals which reject the screenplay. I like to focus on my successes, but I do take into account where I can do better and one such festival offered an extensive critique on the story.
I’ve had others critique the story as well and I have made changes, of course. Editing is a continual process and where my work is weak I want very much to make it stronger. But we must always consider the critique, and use our own judgment sometimes. That’s why I’m writing in defense of Dylan.
For those of you who have read the story, thank you. For those who haven’t there might be a few spoilers here for you, but I don’t think it will ruin the story. This will be more of a character analysis self-review.
Most of the criticism I’ve had concerns the antagonists in the story. Aunt Agnes, and Dylan’s mother Emma. I did not ‘stereotype’ these people. Dylan is a young man whose character I modeled after many passengers I drove while working for our local ACCESS bus service. I purposefully set Dylan in a hostile family environment. Why? The reason is part of the story’s message.
We, as a passionate people, would like to think that the entire world is sympathetic to autistic children. That is a misnomer. As far advanced as our society has come, and as aware as counselors, schools, teachers, and parents have become, there are still children and adults that are mistreated for their weaknesses. I have seen it with my own eyes, and have written this problem into the novel. I was quite conscious of how my passengers were treated at home, and the way they responded. Those from good homes were well cared for, working, and functioning as well, or better than many people who don’t have challenges. But the people who are not in healthy homes, who are institutionalized, are mistreated, had fears, anxieties, and outbreaks unaddressed.
Dylan borders the two. He lived until 12 years old with his mother in an abusive environment until the social workers discovered him, took him away and his loving uncle (brother to Dylan’s mother) adopted him. Those 12 years gave him enough trauma that kept him from functioning as he could have. While living with his kindly Uncle Jim, Dylan was able to come out of his shell somewhat, finish school, help his wheelchair-bound uncle, and learn how to cope with daily life.
Aunt Agnes tries to be kind, but she’s overloaded with responsibilities taking care of her drug addicted sister, her spoiled daughter, and then her brother’s death slaps the responsibility of Dylan in her lap. She’s not ready for it and so she looks for an easy answer. A boarding home. It’s an adult boarding home because Dylan is an adult. There is nothing legally binding Dylan to this home. His aunt pays rent, that’s the only thing keeping him there.
Dylan’s mother, on the other hand, is angry, bitter and a meth addict. She may look like the worse villain any story could have, but I have lived around meth addicts. What she does is nothing out of the ordinary for someone whose mind is imprisoned by street drugs.
There are many issues I wanted to address in this story, and for those who understand I think I’ve succeeded. I inserted magic, because it’s the magic that Dylan hangs on to in order to stay sane, until Liona comes into his life.
Thanks for bearing with me. I’m thrilled about the awards and I’m equally thrilled about the audio that talented Jeff Stillwell is making for me. Take a peek at this little sample I made up. It takes place when Dylan is at his wits end, missing his beach home with Uncle Jim where he used to take solace in nature. You can pre order the audio here.
For those who have read my other works, you’ll know I always have characters that are flawed. I don’t care if they are supposed to be a role model. Ian’s dad in Ian’s Realm is one character some people disliked, and disliked the story because of him. But not all people are perfect and not all parents are perfect parents. I refuse to paint a golden picture to boys whose fathers skipped out on them because those boys won’t believe a word I say if I do.