Knowing how to properly write introverted characters is something that every writer should know how to achieve. Having both extroverted and introverted characters in one’s story can be a great way of creating a diverse set of characters with an interesting dynamic.
However, writing about introversion can be difficult if you’re unaware of how someone with this personality type functions. You want to avoid writing a story plagued with misconceptions about introversion.
So, where does the introvert/extrovert theory come from?
The theory of introversion and extroversion first came from Carl Jung, a well-known psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst. In his theory, he states that there are two different types of people in life: introverts and extroverts.
However, this separation is more nuanced than what most people assume. Some believe that an individual is either one or the other. This is simply not true.
It is important to think of introversion/extroversion as a spectrum in which most people lean towards one side more than the other. Some individuals may even fall in the middle of the spectrum. They are commonly called ambiverts.
Even Carl Jung himself, states that there is no such thing as a pure introvert or a pure extrovert and if such a person existed, they would probably be a lunatic.
Carl Jung characterizes extroversion as the interest in outward factors. According to him, extroverts tend to draw their energy from external factors.
They tend to be less fearful in social situations and are capable of meeting new people with ease. However, extroverts easily break relationships and can sometimes lack self-criticism.
Introverts, however, are “characterized by an inward flowing of personal energy”. They tend to prefer reflection over activity. They value alone time and have a lot of imagination.
Jung also describes introverts as lacking “confidence in relation to people” and a tendency to be shy and unsociable.
The biology behind introversion/extroversion
People often ask the question: is it possible for an introvert to become an extrovert or vice-versa? Well, the answer to that question is a big fat no. And in order to understand why that is, you have to understand the biology behind introversion and extroversion.
According to the theory of Hans Eysenck, a British psychologist, you are born either an extrovert or an introvert and it is very unlikely that you will be able to change this throughout your life.
Everything boils down to the amount of cortical arousal a person has. Introverts have a higher amount of cortical arousal meaning that they process more information within a certain time period.
This explains why introverts can easily become overwhelmed in certain environments. It also explains why after socializing, introverts need alone time to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, have a lower amount of cortical arousal and need the external stimulation provided by social interaction.
The Characteristics of Introverted Characters
Introverts characters are good listeners
Introverts always listen before they speak. They do so because they need to analyze and comprehend the situation before they vocalize their thoughts.
An introverted character has an introspective nature and spends a considerable amount of time thinking about the complexities of their own emotions. Because introverts tend to be in tune with themselves and what they are feeling, they are easily able to empathize with what others are feeling as well.
Introverts characters are indecisive
Introverts are introspective beings and they ponder over the pros and cons of each decision for an unreasonable amount of time. This makes decision-making a frustrating task for them.
Whereas others might just go with the first option or follow their initial gut feeling without question, introverts will consider one option, hesitate, then consider the other.
Social gatherings are draining
This is the defining trait of all introverts. As explained above, introverts tend to be overstimulated in social situations.
This is not to say that all introverts hate social gatherings (although some most certainly do), but all of them have a limited “social battery” and once it is completely drained, there’s no going back. Alone time is needed or else they might start to appear cranky or rude.
Spending some quality alone time is a must
Building on the previous paragraph, having alone time is not only necessary in order to recharge their “social battery”, but it is essential for their overall well-being. They have a physiological need for more alone time than extroverts do.
Introvert characters hate small talk
Introverts hate small talk for the simple fact that they find it exhausting. Subjects such as the weather or the news don’t have enough substance for their wondering minds to grasp onto to and they have to put in more effort just to be able to hold such conversations without going back to their reveries.
Hence, whilst others may prefer the lightheartedness offered by small talk, introverts find it to be a hard task and prefer deeper conversations over meaningless ones.
Introverted characters are observant
Unsurprisingly, introverts are very observant beings. Unlike extroverts who learn by doing, introverts learn by observing. They feel more at ease when observing someone execute a task repetitively before attempting it themselves.
On a daily basis, introverted characters will spend a great amount of time observing their environment and reflecting upon it which makes it hard for changes to go unnoticed. They will be the first to notice that new haircut or the small stain on your t-shirt.
Introverts characters are overthinkers
Overthinking is like a part-time job for introverts. They do it constantly and consistently. Their reflective nature makes them incapable of stopping their radical train of thoughts from spiraling down into dreadful and extravagant scenarios.
Introverted Characters are self-aware
When writing introverted characters, keep in mind that one of their biggest qualities is self-awareness. When spending a great amount of time in your own head, it is only natural to develop a good sense of self. Introverts are very aware of their qualities, faults, desires, and emotions.
5 Mistakes to Avoid when Writing Introverted Characters
It is no secret that most societies praise and uplift the characteristics associated with extroversion. Extensive social skills and dominant personalities are widely valued (especially in North America) whilst introverted personalities are undervalued. This makes up the perfect breeding ground for the seeds of misconception and misjudgment to grow.
There is a great deal of false information and inaccurate perceptions of introverted individuals floating around in the vast network we call the internet. Below you will find the 5 most common misconceptions about introverts that you should absolutely avoid in your writing.
1) No one is a 100% introvert or extrovert
“There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum” Carl Jung
A common misconception is that there is a clear cutthroat separation between introversion and extroversion and that you can either be one or the other. However, things are never so black and white. There are always nuances of grey in between both extremes. It is important to think of Introversion and extroversion as more of a spectrum than as separate personality categories.
According to psychologist Adam Grant, ambiverts compose up to half of the population. This means that individuals who are mostly introverts and extroverts are minorities. Hence, even if you are writing a character that mostly has introverted traits, it would be good to have your character also display some extroverted traits at times.
2) Not all introverts are shy
Shyness and introversion often get confused with one another and are used as interchangeable terms, but they are not the same. Shy people do not purposely reject social interaction, but they lack the social skills to confidently interact with others.
On the other hand, introverts can have excellent social skills and still get drained from social interactions. A good way to think of this is shyness, being a feeling of apprehension and discomfort, can be treated but introversion, being a personality type that one is born with, cannot.
4) All introverts are the same
There is a common belief that all introverts possess the same personality characteristics and react similarly in social situations. But this is simply not true. Many people are unaware that there are in fact four different types of introverts all possessing different personality traits: social introvert, thinking introvert, restrained introvert, and anxious introvert.
This information is especially useful if you are planning on including multiple introverted characters in your story. Although they share common features, Introverts do not all act the same and your characters shouldn’t either.
5) Introverts always want to be alone
Although introverts do love their alone time, they also need social interaction just like everyone else. Humans are social beings and need to interact in order to keep their sanity.
Hence, when writing your character, keep in mind that it is okay for them to crave some form of social interaction.