There’s this huge push for diversity lately, especially in characters. More this, more that! I like some of the changes that I’m seeing, but there’s one character I don’t see often and I wish I did.
The biggest problem with introverted characters is that there are attempts to write them. I’ve read about plenty of characters who are shy or antisocial/asocial or socially-awkward. There are definitely wallflowers in fiction.
But being a wallflower isn’t what being an introvert is.
Part of the problem, I think, is that a lot of people don’t actually understand what introverts are. I’ve heard people describe introverts as being those shy or wallflower people. Someone else I knew thought that it had to do with how well someone could communicate. Someone else I know thinks of introvertedness as a character flaw that needs to be overcome.
The thing is, being a wallflower or being shy are sometimes effects of being an introvert. But it isn’t the root of it.
I’m an introvert, and for me, being an introvert isn’t just how I communicate or how I make friends. It’s true—I hate crowds. If I enter a room with a lot of people, I tend to stay near the edge of the room. Usually by a wall. I’m shy when I meet new people, and sometimes, I have a hard time initiating a conversation with somebody I’m not real familiar with.
But that isn’t what being an introvert is about.
I like being alone, sometimes. But I hate being lonely. I have friends, and I need my friends. Without them, I’d go crazy. I might have more fictional characters in my head than real friends, but what friends I do have that are real are really close friends.
Sometimes, being an introvert means I will pick one really close friend over a group of people qualifying as “I…think we might be friends? Maybe?”. I prefer deep conversations over light and fluffy useless ones. (That’s not to say I can’t talk about the weather. In fact, I like to compare the weather from where I live to the weather where some of my non-local friends live.)
Sometimes, being an introvert means breaks from routine are tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I love to have something a little different happen. I can go stir-crazy as easy as anybody else. But if something goes differently one day, then it needs to be normal the next day so I can recover. I think this goes for most people, actually, but as an introvert, my “downtime” is really important. I went to a birthday party this afternoon? Okay, I’ll probably spend the evening holed up in my room with my headphones. I went on vacation for two weeks? Great, it was awesome, and now the next week is probably going to be spent mostly at home. Without the downtime, I get more easily overwhelmed and my stress level rises.
I gravitate towards the walls in a room, but sometimes it’s just so I can see everything going on. I’m shy at first, but if I warm up to somebody, I can talk until they’re sick of me. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are important. I need my routines, and I love breaks from them, but then I need the routines again.
To bring this back around to characters, I think the thing is, there are introverted characters. But they only just scratch the surface. They only have a few of the stereotypical “features” of an introvert. Or, even worse, they’re viewed as having a character flaw and it has to be overcome.
“Oh, don’t worry, by the end of this story, you’re going to be the biggest social butterfly in existence.”
Being an introvert isn’t just being shy. It isn’t a character flaw. There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s the way I think. It’s the way I interact. Being an introvert can introduce flaws or be coupled with them—like being too shy to make friends—but it isn’t the flaw itself.
I wish there were more truly introverted characters, instead of just shy or asocial ones.