Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing Wallflowers

I've been recently awarded the One Lovely Blog Award from Liz Davis. Click her name to visit her site. Thank you, Liz! I'll agree with one of her random facts--I don't like coffee either. I's so un-American.

Face it. Most writers are introverts. Not ALL of us, but introversion lends itself well to huddling over a keyboard trying to capture fantastical storylines, compelling characters, and wisps of inner dialogue. We live in our minds a lot. And we're quite comfy there, thank you.

A quip I read lately: Writers are people who have a story to tell, but don't wish to make eye contact while doing it. 

INTROVERTS: Our Characters
So assuming we're pretty introverted (and even if not), do we make our characters the same way? Or do we make them flaming extroverts, doing and saying the things we only wish we could? A lot of my characters are pretty extroverted. They're thinkers, but most of them have no trouble merging and dialoguing with others. Sure, they have their hidden insecurities, but they get to mingle in crowds and say those witty things I only think of hours later in real life. I do write introverted characters too…it really depends on the story.

So how do we write an introverted character if we're extroverted, or at least if we're more extroverted than our wallflower main character or sidekick? Here are some ideas, a lot of which are dredged up from my own very shy childhood. In list form, since I like lists!

General Wallflower Characteristics
1. Dislikes crowds. Favors hanging with family, or retreats solo to one's room.
2. Mole-like, squinting into the glare of social spotlights, shrinking from attention.
3. Terror and near-panic-attacks when asked to speak publicly.
4. Feels like everyone is analyzing or judging him/her (which may or may not be true).
5. Frequently buries one's self in a book, video game, or other solo activity.
6. Tend to be thinkers, analyzing themselves and others. Often keeps a journal.
7. When in a group, echoes or agrees with others rather than coming up with new ideas or opposing ideas that have been brought up.
8. Hates group projects in school. Would rather do assignments by him/herself.
9. Feels insecurity or shame about one's identity, appearance, or lack of social skills.
10. Often has no sense of clothing style or interest in fashion.

Specific Wallflower Characteristics
1. Keeps head down. Finds it difficult or impossible to make eye contact.
2. Dry cotton mouth when confronted with a public speaking occasion.
3. Alternately, a sudden excess of saliva that makes convulsive swallowing necessary.
4. Blushing, flushing…that awful RED face that is a public sign of embarrassment.
5. Shaking hands, trembling and weak legs. Even lightheadedness and nausea.
6. A heartbeat that pounds and/or beats much faster than normal.
7. A tongue that turns thick and uncooperative, so he/she stumbles over words.
8. An inability to think straight. Confusion and general muddledness.
9. Drops things, is clumsy: trips on rugs, stumbles on stairs, bumps into things.
10. Tight body language--legs crossed, arms folded, hands clenched.

And if there's a crush on someone involved, pure petrified panic sets in. Then ALL of the above physical reactions might happen in that person's presence!

Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert? 50-50?
Do you usually make your characters introverts, extroverts--or a combination thereof?
Are you intimidated/freaked by the idea of personally marketing your book, or eager to do it? (author visits to schools, readings and signings, lectures or talks)
Can you add any characteristics that would describe a shy or introverted character?


  1. We did personality training at work and I'm definitely an introvert and yes marketing a book is one reason I'm having a hard time querying. Most of my main characters are introverts, but I surround them with flamboyant friends.

  2. definitely more of an introvert. I can entertain myself happily for hours - days even! - without the help of anyone else. Not that I don't enjoy going out now and again or hanging out with my large family but I prefer infrequent gatherings. Anyway, I'm much too busy writing to socialize :)

  3. I usually come out just slightly on the introvert side of 50-50. That has changed a lot over the years--I used to be quite painfully shy. After reading Jung, who came up with the distinction in the first place, I like his idea that it's a lifetime goal to seek balance between the extremes. So I try to push myself a little to be outgoing when I can (knowing I will need solitude to recharge later). I recently did a school visit and though I was nervous, ended up enjoying it a lot. I've pretty much gotten over asking complete strangers to review my book too. If they run a review site and liked stuff like my book, then they're likely to say either yes or wait.

  4. I'm 50 50. My writing life is more introvert, but my regular job and real life is more extrovert. An unusual balance.

    I love the quip - Writers are people who have a story to tell, but don't wish to make eye contact while doing it.

    Great stuff, Carol!

  5. I'm one of the strange 50/50's, and even in my introvert side, I'm a little off.

    A classic-introvert-behaviour from my childhood was, I would read by myself in the classroom (when it rained) or outside on the school steps (when it was nice). BUT, it wasn't so much that I was shy or afraid to talk to people. I was mature for my age and found playing pretend/house/or isolating kids by saying they had cooties or whatever, seemed stupid and pointless.

    I also knew my teachers quite well, and not in a brown-noser, suck-up-way. Like, my Grade 1 teacher was Japanese, and I thought it was interesting, so I'd stay inside and she would teach me some Japanese words/letters/etc, or my Grade 5 teacher would recommend books to me ('cause she knew I liked to read) and would bring them from home occasionally to lend to me, stuff she had read in high school.

  6. I'm an introvert too, Carol. In a strange way wrting has brought out my ability to be more extroverted: my desire to learn and grow led me to attend a few writers' events (as you know ^_^). At my first retreat I new exactely zero people. I forced myself to reach out (awkwardly), even though I wanted to stay in my room the whole weekend! Writing an extroverted character is still a challenge for me. Thanks for the great tips!

  7. I'm an introvert, but many of my main characters are in between, although in one of my current WIPs I have a raving extrovert. She's unlike anyone I've ever written.

    People think I'm quiet, but I've overheard my students say I talk too much. My teaching day job does bring me out of my shell. With writing, being a in a critique group and going to conferences, as well a speaking at a few, has made me more of an ambivert.

  8. Congratulations on the award! And I thought I was the only person who didn't like coffee in the blogosphere.

    I'm an introvert. If people are talking about books or something else that I have a lot of interest in, though, I can talk away.

  9. I guess I'm a mix. I either want to be invisible or be the center of attention. (blushes)

  10. Yeah, coffee is overrated.

    I think I'm a mix depending on my company and how much sugar I've recently consumed. ;)

  11. I'm an intravert with extravert tendencies. But I don't really like boxes, my characters never seem to fit in any of them ;-)

  12. I'm kind of half and half on these. This is a very comprehensive list. I don't think I have anything to add to it.

    Congrats on your award!

  13. Oh definitely an introvert. I do all right in small groups, but don't ever ever ask me to get on a stage.
    Congratulations on your award!

  14. Comprehensive lists. I'm a mix. I'm more of an introvert who tries hard to not let on.

  15. I'm a happy introvert. I have surprised myself by some extrovert behaviour, the result of which saw me doing a singing audition and tap dancing in a dance show.

  16. I think it's true that a lot of writers are introverts. I'm 50-50. My tendency is to be introverted, but because I do so much work in the public, I've learned to overcome it.

  17. Hi Carol! Great list. I really am 50/50. I can be a comfortable mole, or assume the role of social butterfly. I'm just as content not talking as I am talking. I know for some, it's awkward not to run their mouth all the time. lol Prolly no coincidence that I write both types of characters as well.
    As for marketing and promos--the thought of doing it just about my book and saying me me me makes me feel nauseous. BUT flipping that circumstance into a teach-in session on craft and I jump at the chance. I'm much happier giving back then drawing attention to only me.

  18. I'm about 40/60, being slightly more introverted than extroverted. Most of my characters are more extroverted than me for sure. But I do have some quieter ones.

  19. I think I'm a little bit of both, actually!

  20. I am definitely an introvert, but I love to make my characters extroverts. I guess I just like to live vicariously through them.

  21. I'm both . :)
    Introverted extrovert... Or extroverted introvert

  22. I sit on the border of introvert. I do love my alone time. Most of my characters are more extroverted than I am... I think.

  23. Fabulous! I think I'm a bit of both too, actually. I love your writers quip :)

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah With Joy)

  24. I actually tested on this one years and years ago, and came up 55/45 being more introverted than extroverted but not all one way or the other. Specific situations get me into shy mode - mingling at parties, meeting people for the first time (or three), and having conversations with people I don't know well. I sweat, bite my lip, blush, etc. But when it comes time to stand up in front of a crowd of 30-100, I go from initial stage fright to total ham in 60 seconds or less. Microphones are not safe around me . . .but if I have to look someone new in the eye and introduce myself, I want to run away. My husband is the exact opposite - he loves to meet new people, and hates to talk to a large group.


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