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  • Kritika M Narula

Workshop at S@H! Fringe Litfest: Empathy in fiction writing

Updated: May 17, 2020

As a part of the Stay at Home Fringe Litfest organised by the students in Glasgow Uni's Creative Writing department, I hosted a workshop called 'Watch Your Language', part-writing, part-sensitivity training in how to create responsible depiction of neurodivergence in fiction. Here are all the details:

Watch Your Language!

Workshop to discuss how stories can be sensitive in the language around ‘disability’

Brief description of event:

Mode: Zoom

The recording is available here:

The presentation is available online here or as a .pdf here:

Lived Experiences in Fiction
Download PDF • 7.27MB

Here is the transcript of the audio, to make it accessible to all: Workshop Transcript

Concept Note: The description/depiction of mental illnesses/psychosocial disabilities, neurodiversity and physical disabilities in fiction is susceptible to being mired in insensitive imagery and language. The temptation to dramatize or sensationalise a traumatic event is always present: fiction and non-fiction alike, but when a writer chooses to broach this topic, it is up to them to handle it with empathy.

Workshop tools:

  • Excerpts from fiction that do/don’t handle the theme sensitively

  • Alternatives to plot points, words and phrases

  • “Expert by Experience”: research


  • Person-first versus identity-first language

  • Stigmatizing language versus safer language

  • Use of humour to ‘humanise’ a situation that has been robbed

  • Research about such issues usually involves experts; it’s time to consider including people with lived experiences

Books mentioned in the workshop Memoirs:

  • How to be alone by Lane Moore

  • Maybe you should talk to someone by Lori Gottlieb


Other resources to read:

Henry kindly agreed to let me use his illustrations in the presentation. Check him out on Instagram or Twitter.

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Delhi, India | Glasgow, Scotland


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