If you’re an introvert, like me, you know what it’s like to be a “quiet” person living in a “loud” world. We’re often misunderstood and judged unfairly. How can we show the truth of who we are? For those of us who are introverted writers, we can do this through the characters in our stories. We can shatter the myths by exposing what lies beneath the surface of a “quiet” personality.
The Dos of Writing Introverted Characters
Make Them the Main Characters
Introverts can steal the spotlight. Take Sherlock Holmes, for example. He’s a fascinating main character. He’s driven to solving every crime that comes to his attention. Despite his shrewdness, he’s unable to connect emotionally with others, and is a drug addict. We can forgive his flaws, because he thwarts evil at every turn. Who isn’t in awe of his unorthodox, incomparable deductive reasoning? Plus, his dry wit and sarcastic tongue provide comic relief. We wish he were real. Well, I do.
Use Holmes’ dominant Ni to show what makes him tick, and the way his mind works.
Make Them the Mastermind
…even if they turn out to be a ruthless, cunning psychopath like Professor Moriarty. What’s a great story without a brilliant villain?
In “The Final Problem”, Holmes describes him as “the Napoleon of crime… the organiser of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city…”
Also, in The Valley of Fear, Holmes elaborates further:
“The greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every devilry, the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations—that’s the man! But so aloof is he from general suspicion, so immune from criticism, so admirable in his management and self-effacement, that for those very words that you have uttered he could hale you to a court and emerge with your year’s pension as a solatium for his wounded character…”
Make Them both Sacrifice and Saviour
Do the unexpected. Kill your darlings.
In the last book of the Divergent trilogy, Tris Prior saves the day by giving her life. In comparison, the eponymous character of the Harry Potter series also dies (but returns to life) so that he can defeat Voldemort. Both are introverted characters and strong, dynamic leads. Likewise, make your introverted characters truly heroic. Let them be outstanding in their roles.
Use Tris’ dominant Ti, and Harry Potter’s Fi to show their intuitive powers, and the ways in which they go inward to process stimuli and information.
The Don’ts of Writing Introverted Characters
Don’t Make Them Shy
Introversion isn’t the same as shyness. Don’t make your characters dull, retiring wallflowers. We’re not antisocial. That’s a myth. What we do loathe is small talk. Instead, we value deep, meaningful conversations.
Don’t Make Them the Stupid Sidekick
Avoid the clown trope. Your readers should see how significant sidekicks are to the main character.
A good example is Dr. Watson. If Holmes is the bones and blood of Doyle’s stories, then Watson is the vital organs and sinews. Holmes relies on him, especially for his skill as an excellent doctor and surgeon. Doyle reinforces Watson’s importance by making him the narrator in most of the stories, as well as Holmes’ biographer. Not only is Watson intelligent, he also tries to solve a few crimes by himself, using the deductive reasoning he learned by observing Holmes.
Don’t Make Them the Hero
Consider the anti-hero or anti-heroine role. This flawed, central character has dark personality traits. Think Batman, the Dark Knight. Or, Professor Severus Snape. Despite his back story, which influenced his ill-treatment of Harry Potter, Snape became a hero in the end, in a way readers never saw coming. As such, Harry honoured his memory by naming his second son Albus Severus.
What’s our truth? Our quietness is our greatest strength. Let it be the same for your characters. Then they’ll live in your readers’ hearts forever.
MBTI Reference: The Sixteen Types at a Glance