He just wants to stay in his room and read a book. He'll go kill that dragon when he's formulated a plan. And when there aren't any onlookers to make him nervous or rain to get his novel wet.
Pesky character. Why can't they ever do what they're told?
Introverts pop up in books quite often, and quite often they are done very, very well (Bilbo, Nick Carraway, Katniss, Sherlock, Jane Eyre, Walter Mitty, Batman). But sometimes they are very inaccurate, and sometimes they are simply painful to read about.
As somebody who's made it her profession to sit alone behind a screen and talk to imaginary people, I feel that I am singularly qualified to write about how to create introverted characters. Here are several points that can help writers steer clear of writing lame introverts and move directly into the "awesome introverts" zone:
3. Introverts spend a lot of time in their heads. This means us authors get the chance to explore facial expressions, internal monologues, context, and between-the-lines dialogue when writing introverts.
4. Not all introverts like to read or play video games or garden. That's cliche. And goodness knows introverts don't like cliches, since they fall into the "shallow things" category (Suddenly you all understand why I keep writing cliche bashing articles). Some introverts like to play sports or go to coffee shops or people watch or bungee jump or listen to hard rock cranked up super loud. Your introverted character is allowed to like pretty much everything that other people like. Except for being around massive amounts of people for extended periods of time. That doesn't follow.
5. Cut the "reluctant leader" introvert. Please. Being an introvert doesn't mean that your character has to hate being the leader of a group, especially if that group is only comprised of a handful of people. In fact, some introverts may feel uncomfortable being the follower. Because they spend more time internalizing and thinking things through, they're the ones who are likely to say, "Um. NO! Splitting up is never a good idea. That's how people get eaten by spiders or attacked by people with chainsaws. Stay as a group. Don't listen to the idiot who suggested otherwise." Introverts can and do lead, so don't be afraid to put your introvert behind the wheel.
6. Introverts are loyal friends. So maybe an introvert only needs one or two really good friends, but you can be sure that they'll stick by these friends no matter what. They'll carry you up Mount Doom even after you accused them of pigging out on the elvish food you packed. They may be generally quiet, but you mess with an introvert's close friend and you'll find yourself running for your life while the introvert's pal yells after you, "She's our friend and she's crazy!" They'll even mascarade as extroverts while dressing up like a giant man-bat at night if they think it'll help or honor their loved ones. And, in case you're wondering, yes, your introverted character can and should have extroverts as friends.
7. Confident introverts are the best and should be in more novels. Think about it. The introvert who slays the dragon and doesn't feel awkward leaving the Dragon Slaying After Party early. The introvert who is comfortable being quiet and doesn't feel the need to explain their silence to anybody. Or the one with a great sense of humor who shows up late everywhere wearing this shirt:
Novels need more introverted characters who own their introvertedess.
8. Introvertedness is a disease that needs curing. There is something very wrong with somebody who is comfortable in their own company and doesn't crave being around large herds of humans. If you have an introverted character, that character needs to be fixed by the end of the novel. Have him meet a manic pixie dream girl who shows him how to live life to the extroverted version of fullest. Make her take off her glasses and go to a party. Introverts are not as valuable as extroverts and thus must be converted. Introverts are a public menace, undesirable No. 1, America's most wanted. There are only two ways to handle a fictional introvert: fix them or kill them off.
And there you have it. 7 tips to keep in mind when you are writing introverts. Also, remember that this pointer trumps all of the above:
Make your character a person first. Then an introvert.
Character building 101. Applies to the creation of every kind of fictional being.
What do you think? Do you have any tips or comments to share? I'd love to hear from you via comment or social media. Not through a phone call. That freaks me out. Please don't.
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