Friday, February 10, 2017

Writing Introverts: Some Things to Keep in Mind

I am an introvert, and I am proud of this fact.  The problem is, there's a lot of stereotypes out there that aren't always true.  What are they and how do you fix them?  Well that's what I'm here for.  What would you do without me?  (Answer: NOTHING)

Now that we've established that, let's move on to introverts.

I think most of the reasons for misconceptions is that we are not usually the most open people.  You'll come across introverts who wear their hearts on their sleeves, but in my experience we tend to keep a lot to ourselves.  If we don't think it needs to be said, we don't say it.  This results in people having to assume things, and usually getting them wrong.  I'm going to roll up my sleeves and settle this down once and for all, so I don't have to answer 500 extroverted questions every time I lean against the wall and watch quietly at a party.  Ready?

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1. Not all introverts hate people.
I personally happen to LOVE people.  I love learning about them, spending time with them, so on and so forth.  In fact, when I'm hanging out one-on-one or in small groups, I can get pretty lively.  But I am most certainly NOT an extrovert.  Never have been, never will be, as far as I can tell.  See, here's the thing a lot of people are missing: Extroverts get their energy from people, introverts get their energy from solitude.  This means that an introvert could love people and enjoy hanging out with their friends, and even be outgoing and friendly towards strangers, they just need time to recharge when they're done.

2. Observing does not equal unhappiness.
When I'm at a party and the room is filled with people, or I'm at a large family gathering and the table has lots of conversations going, I'm probably not saying anything.  I'm probably sitting or standing quietly, possibly eating or hanging out around the snack table.  This doesn't mean I'm not enjoying the party.  While I'm doing this, I'm absorbing all the conversations happening around me and generally listening and watching what's going on.  I happen to like this.  Sure, I might occasionally wish someone would come over and talk to me (heaven help me if I go up to them first!), but leaning against the wall pretending to be invisible is the next best thing.  You hear some pretty awesome things that way.  Or we're just here for the food.

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Actual footage of an introvert at a party.

3. We don't like talking on the phone.
"Martha called Laura, but Laura didn't pick up the phone.  Martha started worrying.  Was she hurt?  Sad?  Martha began to frantically think of ways to help her friend."
Laura was not hurt or sad.  Laura was enjoying a very nice show on Netflix, in her pajamas, and eating pizza.  When the phone rang she looked at it and said "nah, not today".  Laura happens to be just fine.  
I'm not honestly sure what it is about telephones we don't like.  We just...don't.  We avoid them.  Text us.  TEXT US.

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4. We're not always the best at handling outward emotions.
This isn't true for everyone, of course, but if you want your character to spill their guts out, well, don't pick your introvert.  Of course, not all extroverts are super-emotional people who can't shut up about their feelings, but introverts in general are less inclined to trust people with the things they've mulled over until 4 am.  And then when we do tell it's very hesitantly and in absolute privacy.  We don't tend to express our emotions physically unless we're extremely comfortable with the people we're around, or we're acting a part to keep you from bombarding us with questions about our mental health and do we feel anything?  Because you're really not sure (shhhhhh this is a secret but we're not sure either).

The same thing is true when a lot of people around them are emoting.  It's very draining on introverts to handle other people's feels.  We might not mind it, we might be good at it, but it's going to leave us very tired and ready for a long nap or all the Avengers movies watched back-to-back.  Again, some are more sensitive to this than others (I happen to be really empathetic, so I'm partly speaking from personal experience), but as a general rule we aren't prepared to be bombarded with emotions.  We'd love to help, but warn us first and give us some way to recharge when you've finished.  

That being said, your introverted character might be the friend everyone trusts with their secrets and goes to with all their problems, and they might be the character who has wise advice when you need it, but they're going to follow their counseling sessions with long walks in the woods, an entire pizza, or their nose in a book for at least a week.  

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I hope this has been helpful in your writing adventures.  I will continue to introvert, and try to answer any other questions you might have on our behavior patterns.  If you do happen to have any questions, I'll be in my Hobbit-hole and tea is at four. 


  1. I am an extrovert! At age 4 I would wander daily to surrounding campsites during family vacation! I loved meeting new people and eating the grilled cheese or pb&js they would create for me as I enlightened them with my bubbly chatter.
    I simply cannot help myself! I find silence to be! I want to put all the introverts in my pocket and protect them from the boisterous explosions that are me !

  2. Great post, Grace! I think I'm a little of both...I feed off of other people, but after a while just need some solitude to recharge!

  3. Love this, Grace. I'm an introvert, too, and get so weary of people thinking that means I'm shy. I'm not shy at all. :) Love your site.

  4. I'm an INFJ!! I actually took the test a couple times a couple months apart because I didn't feel I was/am anything like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela. Really?? I don't like to sacrifice the last piece of anything! This was fun to read and I'm sure I'll love reading your books too when published..... Its fun to read your thoughts. Introverts unite! Virtually, of course, I don't really feel like going anywhere, and neither do you most likely ;)