13.39: What Writers Get Wrong, With Wendy Tolliver

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Wendy Tolliver

Wendy skis, and snowboards, and  writes YA novels. She is also the parent of three, one of whom suffers from mental illness. She joined us to talk about how writers can do a better job of depicting it, and how to avoid the pitfalls and the harmful cliches.

Credits: This episode was recorded live at Salt Lake Fan X by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Pick a mental disorder that you think pop culture has informed you about. Study up on it. Then write a scene in which that disorder informs the character’s behavior without actually naming the disorder.


Life Inside My Mind, by Maureen Johnson, Robison Wells, Wendy Tolliver, and 28 others.

4 thoughts on “13.39: What Writers Get Wrong, With Wendy Tolliver”

  1. At Salt Lake City Comic Con, the original quartet, Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, sat down with Wendy Tolliver to talk about what writers get wrong about mental illness in a family, in particular, when a family member has OCD tendencies. All five podcasters talked about their experiences with friends and family dealing with these kinds of problems. Perhaps the most important lesson in this discussion is that beyond the humorous media representations, there is a wide variety of very human struggle behind the label. Read all about it in the transcript available now in the archives and over here:


  2. Thanks my adult daughter suffers from Bipolar and it was great hearing from others with children that have issues.
    I can so understand the desire to not have the thoughts of ‘is she harming herself’ today. After a long and healthy discussion and she now comes to us before the self harm thoughts escalate into action.

  3. Did everyone get permission from the people with OCD in their lives to share these stories? Because the parental perspective is important, and I agree with a lot of the points made.

    But the parental (or friend or sibling) perspective is not identical to that of a person who has OCD themselves.

    For many mental and neurodevelopmental disabilities, parents talking over the people with the disabilities is a widespread problem.

    And as an ADHD person, it’s really frustrating when parental narratives get more airtime than the people experiencing it.

    That said, most stories featuring people with disabilities also include parent characters, so there is a lot to be gleaned here. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

    1. Enumerating your questions:
      1) Yes, those of us who shared information from OCD sufferers in our lives have permission to do so.
      2) Your frustration is noted. Please balance it against the fact that Howard and Mary have both been quite open about their own neuroatypicalities, and do not mean to be “talking over” other neuroatypical folks. We are among them. Among YOU, even.

Comments are closed.