How to Write Realistic Introverted Characters in 7 Steps {Collaboration!}

In case you didn’t know, I’m an introvert. It’s not that I hate being around people, exactly; in fact, I quite enjoy some specific people’s company. But after being around them for a while, I can get very drained.

I’m pretty lucky, in that I’m actually an online homeschooler. I get to go to activities, like sports, but I don’t have to be physically around people and talk to them all day. Even though I’m around my own family all the time, I’m not talking to them 24/7, and that allows me to be a rather pleasant person when I do interact with them (in my oh-so-humble opinion 😝)

The fact that I’m an introvert kind of shines through my writing. Looking back over most of my more recent projects, I’ve found that a lot of my characters are actually introverted. That’s probably because they come out of my brain, and that’s just the easiest thing for me to write as I’m already one.

So, when my sister, Mary, proposed that we write posts on writing introverted and extroverted characters – the personality types that each of us are – I thought it sounded like a pretty good idea. Make sure you check out her blog, Wild Writing Dreams, here, and read her post on writing extroverts, since that’s a subject all of its own!

Disclaimer: this post is directed at introverts based on what I’ve personally seen, been, and written. However, not everything I say might apply to every introvert, and some might even be able to apply to an extrovert as well. Also, all general examples I make for extroverts are general examples. They are not all-encompassing to all extroverts, just as my examples for introverts aren’t, especially as I’m just aiming to show the contrast between introverts and extroverts. I don’t write extroverts, so please don’t take offence if you’re an extrovert and my examples are nothing like you.

How to Write an Introverted Character in 7 Steps

Writing characters is a long and complicated process at any given time, so these steps are not the place you should begin and end with a character. But if you specifically want an introverted character, they are a very good way to set you on the right path to having a character who is developed, interesting, relatable – and realistic.

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During this post, I’m going to use 3 examples a lot:

  1. Amanda Dale from The Storm Inside
  2. Wren Sanderson from an unannounced story of mine
  3. And myself!

Step 1: How Far Do You Want to Go?

The first thing to establish is how far their introversion will go. This is something that will affect basically all decisions you make on their character from now on. If you have an idea of how introverted they are, that can kind of act as your guiding star.

This is also basically you choosing out what your character’s personality type is. Now, there’s no need to go all Myers-Briggs on me, as this is at least a general thing any author should figure out about their character at some point.

If you think about it, you don’t want to say that your character is an introvert, then have them act like a very preppy character who’s always skipping around. That strikes me as more of an extroverted character – unless, of course, they’re a super-undercover secret spy and are acting. In which cause, tip of the hat; I never would have suspected them of being introverted.

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But, spies aside, introverts can have quite the range of personality types. Extroverts like being around people, and are usually rather happy to be around people. But introverts have quite the array of personalities to choose from. They can range from being friendly and approachable – like me – or complete haters of the human race. Some just don’t care. They don’t go out of their way to be around people, but don’t really avoid them, either; they just sort of drift around.

Myth: Introverts hate people.

Truth: Introverts can get very drained by being around people for a while.

For example:

  • If the character is introverted like my own character, Amanda, then they’ll avoid people at all costs.
  • If the character is introverted like my other character, Wren, then they’ll not really mind people, but will push them away (in her case, to protect her secret)
  • If the character is introverted in the way that I am, they don’t really mind people, but will get drained after a while.

Step 2: Give Them A Quirk

Okay, this one may just be me, but I like it when the characters have a bit of a relatable quirk in them. Maybe they don’t like their full name, and are embarrassed by how long and flowery it is, and instead only go by a nickname.

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For example:

  • They character could be a bit of a pushover, just to make sure that people leave them alone, like my character Amanda.
  • Or they could practically be a professional psychologist just so that they know how to make sure people around them go away, like my other character, Wren.
  • I’m a writer. It’s a rather introverted job, as I spend more time with fictional people than real ones, and it definitely brings out the weirdness in me. 😛

Step 3: Get into Their Head!

Now, this is where some delicious internal conflict starts to come in. *rubs hands together gleefully*

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Any character can be introverted. Any person can be as well. But both need a legitimate reason to want to stay away from people to the extent that they do. If they don’t have one, they’re going to seem very fake. (going back to that point of making them realistic)

Ask yourself: why do they not want to be around other people? If the character doesn’t really have a reason to push people away, you need to ask if they really are even introverted.

Myth: If you’re shy, you’re an introvert.

Truth: Many people can go through phases of being shy, and can grow out of it. Mary did, and she’s an extrovert! Being shy can be a facet to a character’s personality, but doesn’t necessarily make them an introvert.

For example:

  • In The Storm Inside, Amanda pushes people away because she feels like they think she isn’t good enough, and are judging her. She hides in books, hanging out fictional people instead. 
  • In my unannounced story, Wren pushes people away to keep her secret safe, and to keep herself from being hurt. 
  • In real life, I don’t mind people – until I’ve been around them for too long. After a few hours, I start pushing them away so that I can have time to recharge and get my energy back.

Step 4: Figure out What Their Cure is

Once an introvert has been around people for too long, they can get pretty drained. That is the big difference between introverts and extroverts: introverts get drained by being around people, and extroverts get more energy.

After being drained by being around people, introverts need time to draw into themselves and be by themselves for a while. They usually have something they like to do while they recover their energy. What they like to do usually says a lot about who they are and what they are like.

For example:

  • Amanda likes retreating into books, blocking out the outside world.
  • Wren hides behind her music as an excuse. As long as she’s working, no one will bother her, which means she gets left alone.
  • I usually like to be alone in my room, reading, playing video games, or just generally doing something that doesn’t require much brainpower (or having anyone else be around me)
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Step 5: Find Their Want

If you’ve ever read K.M. Weiland’s book on character arcs, you know what I’m talking about. (Though, if you haven’t, I’ve written a post on character motive before!) The basic idea is that, throughout the story, the character is pursuing something that they Want. Usually, they must learn something that they Need, and then either never gain what they began the story Wanting so that they can fully claim their Need, or else they only can gain what they Want by first learning their Need.

Some great examples are the movies Thor, Cars, and the story The Christmas Carol.

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When I look at my own characters, their Wants reflect the fact that they’re introverted. It’s a great opportunity to really show what kind of character they are inside – and as that includes their personality/who they are, which we covered in Step 1, that will reflect that they’re introverted. An introvert probably won’t Want to sing a solo on stage in front of millions of people, for example. Maybe they Need the courage to be able to do so, however. That’s up to you to decide.

For example:

  • Amanda Wants her twin sister, Gina, because she’s her best – and only – friend. She sees the way to be worthy of her as being as good or better than her perfect sister, and subsequently Wants to be better than her. (a little convoluted, I know; it’s even harder to try and write that 😂)
  • Wren wants to keep her music she writes a secret from others so that they can’t steal it from her. This means that she pushes people away from her. (Until later, when she forces herself to actually talk to people so that her family will stop badgering her and thus leave her alone, lowering the chances of them finding out her secret.)

Step 6: Give Them A Good Fear

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All characters fear something, and in stories, fear is a lot more important than most people give it credit for.

In the story-writing-world, you learn pretty quickly that your whole story must be based on the concept of cause and effect. Absolutely nothing is allowed to happen that doesn’t have a cause. And when it comes to a character’s fear, there is the chance for some juicy internal conflict and the thing all writers love: a traumatic backstory.

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There is a moment in your character’s past that gave them a skewed view of the world around them. This is generally referred to as the character’s Ghost, because it still continues to haunt them. This Ghost is what drives the character’s Want. If, as we already discussed, the Want reflects the fact that the character is an introvert, so will the Ghost.

The Ghost is the cause of the Want. More than that, however, it’s the cause of the very person the character has become. This Ghost must be tailored to your character. For instance, an introvert and an extrovert might react differently to the same Ghost. The fact that your character is an introvert will be reflected in what the Ghost is.

For Example:

  • Maybe they’re afraid of losing the one person who ever really was their friend. (like Amanda)
  • Or maybe they’re afraid of something important to them being stolen for other people’s purposes – again. (like Wren)

Step 7: Give Them Something to Overcome

Okay, so this one is once again a little more of a thing I personally like, but I find it rather poetic when a seriously introverted introvert must do something that puts them outside of their comfort zone. Sometimes, this can be as simple as just talking to other humans. But at some point in the story, they’ll have to stand out, being the center of attention.

Depending on the personality type you chose for your character, they’ll react to situations differently. But, in my experience, all introverts don’t really like being the center of attention.

  • For Amanda, she had to become fearless in who she is, not caring what other people thought. This leads to her being the center of attention when she finally changes.
  • For Wren, she had to learn to trust people. She has to prove herself in a moment where she literally does the very thing she’s been avoiding during the whole story.
  • And, a bit of a personal story here: I am in a choir, and, years ago, I had to sing a solo. It wasn’t even a real solo, technically speaking, because I did it with 4 other people, but the thought of having to sing it made me nauseous. I did it, of course, and I’m glad I did. Not that I’m in a hurry to have a repeat experience of it or anything. 😂

To some extent, all introverts hate being in the spotlight, so I’d 10/10 recommend a super poetic scene where they have to be in it. 😉

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Don’t forget to save this post for later!

Make sure you check out Mary’s post on how to write extroverted characters here!


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

The Inciting Incident: The Point of No Return… Or is it?

Character Problems: Not Making Things Personal from Day 1

The Domino Effect (And What it has to do with Your Writing)


If you want more awesome writing tips, make sure to subscribe! You’ll get a free 7-day course on how to defeat writer’s block butt, emails with exclusive insider info, and the monthly password to my Resources page! 😃 Can’t wait to see you on the inside!

Have you ever written characters that are introverted?

Which are you: an introvert or an extrovert?

Do you also follow Mary’s blog?

-Julia

Photo by Unsplashon Unsplash

6 thoughts on “How to Write Realistic Introverted Characters in 7 Steps {Collaboration!}

  1. MWHAHHA YES TO ALL THESE GIFS! They’re all awesome 😂
    And this was definitely very insightful for me, because-obviously-I’m an extrovert, and I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about introvert characters before 😆 Thanks for doing this collab with me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah! I really liked all of them 😉
      Writing characters as introverts comes way easier to me than writing and extroverted one, so I’m glad I could help you out! 😊 You had a pretty epic post, too! I enjoyed doing this collaboration!

      Liked by 1 person

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