Character Types: The Introvert

Hey SE Readers. Joan with you today. This is the fourth in a series of posts about character types. Most are from my personal observations or public knowledge of well-known people. The other posts are The Attention Seeker, The “I Can Top That” Person, and The Know it All.

My mom used to say, “Be careful of the silent type.” At the time, I was seeing a boy who was somewhat introverted and soft-spoken. Coupled with my extreme shyness at the time, you can imagine how that went. But that’s another story.

I’m an introvert. I think that is a characteristic of many writers. I need alone time, but I don’t want total isolation. At the start of last year’s pandemic, I worked from home for five weeks. I hated it. Getting back to the office and my coworkers was a huge boost to my morale.

There have been many famous introverts throughout history. Among them are Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Hillary Clinton, J K Rowling, Meryl Streep, and Michael Jordan. You can’t argue that each of these people achieved success in their respective fields.

Some people were once in the public eye, then chose to live a more reclusive life. Actress Greta Garbo, chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, and author J D Salinger are a few who come to mind.

But there are others who I refer to as extreme introverts. Billionaire Howard Hughes was considered eccentric and suffered from extreme obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Huguette Clark, heiress, painter, and philanthropist, lived in a hospital for the last ten years of her life while her various mansions remained unoccupied. She hadn’t seen or spoken with some relatives since 1957. She died in 2011.

Ted Kaczynski lived a reclusive life in the Montana mountains. Known as the Unabomber, between 1978 and 1995 he mailed or hand-delivered a series of sophisticated bombs until his capture. During his crime spree, three people were killed, and twenty-three others were injured.

I envision the extreme extrovert as an antagonist. While Huguette Clark or Howard Hughes weren’t evil people, there’s no doubt Kaczynski was. Another possibility is to write about a character as a loner. They could be a protagonist or you could give them a minor or supportive role.

Would you write about an extreme introvert? How would you use this type of character in a novel?

40 thoughts on “Character Types: The Introvert

  1. I am definitely an introvert, though I put on a good show in front of people. Lol! I’ve always been the wallflower in larger groups. I enjoy being around friends but don’t want all the attention on me, and I’m perfectly comfortable being alone. My soon-to-be released novel has an introvert in it, but she’s more of a situational introvert because of circumstances. I think there is a lot than can be done with introverted characters, as an antagonist, protagonist, or side-kick, because there are so many ways to depict an introverted person. Great post, Joan! 🙂

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    • I call myself an “extroverted” introvert. I’m okay in small groups and I can speak to a group when necessary. But being the center of attention isn’t my thing. I think introversion is a characteristic of many writers.

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  2. An extreme introvert … my son is like this. He lives for his studies, reading, and computers and achieves 90s for most of his subjects including 100% for IT and maths. I think some very clever people are just not able to talk to others on the same level, their minds are on another, higher plane. Greg is very gentle though so he would never hurt anyone. He loves babies and small children. If I wrote an extreme introvert with OCD, Greg would be central to the character so it wouldn’t be a murder story. Actually, he is a child protegee in my climate change book if I can ever bring myself to finish it. Researching climate change is very scary.

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  3. There’s an old animated series in the UK called Captain Pugwash and the star of the piece was Tom the little cabin boy who kept in the background but was privy to everything going on and able to save the day. The tagline was ‘Tom the little cabin boy who smiled and said nothing’. A character like that is a useful one to have and can work as a positive character (putting things together and helping the protagonist) or a negative one (putting things together and exploiting them!). I enjoyed this piece. Many thanks, Joan.

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  4. Another interesting type of character. I’ve written about characters who are private but not extreme introverts. It would be a challenge, I think, but an introvert has lots of possibilities. Now my brain’s going to fiddle with the idea:)

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  5. Great examples of introverts, Joan 🙂 I think my introverted side slips into my characters. They do make it interesting in stories as they quietly play their part. I’m enjoying this series.

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  6. It’s interesting that a lot of singer/songwriters I know are extremely introverted and until they get on stage. Then something happens. Perhaps that’s where they let the alter egos out. 🙂 In Ghostly Interference, Jag Peters was an introvert until he got on stage. For me, writing introverts into my stories comes easy. While I don’t consider myself an introvert, I grew up with a sister who was painfully shy and I had to go out front for both of us, so I have first-hand experience with that type of personality. Great post today!

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  7. Very interesting, Joan. I’ve not thought of typing characters, but as I write I’m instinctively giving them an extroverted or introverted approach to life. Thank you for pointing this out. Well done!

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    • I think as well write characters, their personalities come out. I haven’t set out to make a character introverted or extroverted. However, planning that ahead of time might lead to several possibilities.

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  8. Pingback: Character Types: The Introvert | Legends of Windemere

  9. There is a movie starring Sigourney Weaver and Harry Connibk Jr. called Copycat. It came to mind right away. She’s agoraphobic, which forced her to become extremely introverted. Sandra Bullock’s The Net also comes to mind. She was an extreme introvert by choice. Both made fascinating characters. Loving this series, Joan.

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