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"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)

4.28.2011

Xenophobe vs. Xenophile

a.k.a. Battle of the Verts.

In one corner, we have the Extroverts. Extraversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self". Extroverts enjoy human interaction; they are gregarious, aggressive, enthusiastic, and talkative. They are energized when spending time with other people and tend towards boredom when left to their own devices.

In the opposite corner, we have the Introverts. Introversion is "the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life". Introverts are energized through reflection and sapped by interaction. They tend to be more reserved and less outspoken than their counterparts.

So, which are you? Chances are that you are an introvert, as the archetypical artist – and we writers are, indeed, artists – is highly introverted. The bigger question is, can you write extroverted characters? Or do you let your own biases sneak in where they don't belong?

Let's say you have a character who is a teacher. Does she come home exhausted every day, eager to lose herself in a little Jane Austen and a glass of wine? Then you'd better not make her the life of the party at her sister's wedding. But that scene is critical to your story, you say. Easy fix – she becomes more dynamic in the classroom, maybe offering after-school tutoring or mentoring a club.

How do you create characters that are alien to you? What are your strategies?

12 comments:

Donna Weaver said...

I agree more with the Kiersey idea of extroverts and introverts where the extrovert draws energy from interacting with other people while the introverts draws energy from solitude.

Whereas I used to be in flaming extrovert, I've become more introverted as I get older.

walk2write said...

You've brought up a great point. I think most people are a little of both types. So if the teacher wants to withdraw into her Jane Austen and wine world, why shouldn't she? It's not at all inconceivable that she could kick up her heels at the wedding. Pigeonholing people and characters is an easy trap.

K.C. Woolf said...

I'm an extravert, but not necessarily fond of people in general.

I prefer to interact with people I'm comfortable with and care about, even though I'm okay with speaking for large audiences and spending the odd bit of time in a larger group.

I use MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and my letter 'M' in this challenge) to create my characters and get a grasp of what they're like.

Cheree said...

I'm definitely a bit of both because it depends on which crowd I'm in as to whether I'm an introvert or extrovert. With creative drama/writing people I'm definitely an extrovert, but with business people I'm an introvert (don't ask me why). I think that has more to do with the confidence to be myself.

But at least I know what it feels like to be either so it's a lot easier writing different characters.

Carrie Dair said...

Oooooo what a great post and question that you pose. I am by all known definitions an extrovert. Always have been. Even as a writer I can't help myself. I experience the world around me and then write about it. I grew up in a noisy and busy environment so there wasn't a lot of space for being an introvert. I would read to get away or go running, but always found myself craving human interaction all too soon again. How do I write about other characters? Doesn't hurt that I've been a lot of things in my life. Tried lots of different things. Know lots of people that I can base my characters after. So I guess just to know people and take lots of notes. :).

Great post! As always.

Shelli said...

Donna -- I'm not familiar with Kiersey, I'll have to look it up. I've always been a classic introvert.

Shelli said...

Walk2Write -- I agree that you need to avoid stereotyping your characters. My point is that you should be aware of who your character really is and not let what YOU would do color your writing.

K.C. -- That's an interesting take. I hope it's not from too many negative experiences. People can be disappointing.

Cheree -- I agree, it can be a benefit. What I read said that it's a continuum. It sounds like you're right smack in the middle!

Carrie -- Look at you, coming up for a breather! I hope finals went well for you. I knew you were an extrovert! You have amazing energy. It's fun to take observations from different people and mix them up.

Mercy a.k.a Rogue said...

"My point is that you should be aware of who your character really is and not let what YOU would do color your writing."

I struggle with this with my main character right now. I try and make her different to me which is foreign because I have always made my heroines close to me on the inside.

Charmaine Clancy said...

My main characters are easy because you really get to know them, and I can write extroverts by observing them, it's the secondary characters that sometimes just lurk about until the edits :)
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Angela Felsted said...

Most people are a combination of both, even if slightly more one than the other. I took a test in college that said I was about 45% introvert, 55% extrovert.

So there you go. I can swing either way.

Langley said...

I'm a classic introvert but had a career that would have better suited an extrovert. I can 'act the part' of an extrovert when necessary.

I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

Shelli said...

Mercy -- I think we always leave our "stamp" on our characters. It's fun to go outside the comfort zone and get creative.

Charmaine, I agree, it's easy to overlook those other guys.

Angela, that seems like a nice mix! They say it's a continuum. So, I guess you understand both sides.

Langley -- Me, too. I've worked for a long time to survive as an extrovert whenever I need to. It can be exhilarating. I still like nothing better than curling up with a nice book, though.