1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Shy vs Quiet

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rumwriter, Jun 16, 2011.

    Quiet and Shy are very different things.

    I can write a character who is quiet and make them seem shy. Add fear and apprehension and cowardice to a lot of what they do.

    What I struggle with is the opposite. When I write a character who may simply be soft spoken or simply observant, more of a listener than a talker for whatever reason, it ends up with them falling more into the background, especially when I want to keep them the focus of attention.

    Ideas?

    P.S. characters are HARD WORK
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Well first I'm a little confused by the description of the first character type. By fear and apprehension do you mean insecurity and nervousness (though apprehension works fear is really throwing me off). Someone who is shy is not automatically fearful.

    On the other hand with the other character type the easiest way to do it is with your other characters. Take the observant, quiet type. Usually very intelligent and doesn't speak without a reason. The way you show this (and keep him centered where you want him) is by showing your OTHER characters dependency/need for approval-assistance from him. Make them need him and he's right back where you want him.
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unfortunately, without dialogue, that's pretty much what'll happen. It'll seem extremely repetitive and redundant to be like "He inclined his head, showing his attention" every time someone speaks, even if you vary it. You're pretty much going to need dialogue, I think. Even just a simple, "Yes," or "That's right" every now and again. They'll still seem soft-spoken, but readers will be reminded that the character is there.

    EDIT:

    Take my advice if your character is not the type to be relied upon.
     
  4. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I write the characters for the parts they need to play. I use people I know to give them their traits.

    As for shy, I have not done shy yet. I can only speak from people I know who are not just quiet they avoid all forms of communication (Body Language, Eye contact and speak under their breath) because it is revealing and dangerous.

    As for quite, quite people still communicate. They communicate with body language. Their dress reflects their personality. Who ever he/she is and what ever their personality, dress them in it. Also, quite does not mean they do not ask questions. It usually means they do not give up information about them selves easily. They never talk about the weather or idle chit chat.

    I hope this helps.
     
  5. haribol
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    haribol Member

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    Characterization is a big challenge for writers. We have to be very watchful of human beings, the way they speak, and act. And to look for a character in my novel I seek it in a real life situation. I search for them in villages for I the city the character we want is polarized and he does not belong where he is. If I live in New York I do not belong there mostly since Ney York is a city where we run into people migrating from different parts of the world. Yes of course the one who lives in a transcultural setting behaves differently and my character will not depict his true colors. Camouflaging he wanders off in swing.

    I always want something different in my story and I abhor the usual, the repetitive. I want something different and that is why I believe in exploration. I often venture out on a long expedition and go far adrift from one village to another and in the course of mission I bump into people with their idiosyncrasies and quirks. That is exactly what I want in my novel and let my readers have a different experience, not the everyday humdrum stuff. It dulls and nauseates my readers.

    Characterization is a bigger challenge even than plotting. It is the characters who create plots or streamline the course and I do not have to worry about it. It goes on its own. I am not so much engrossed in plotting my story. The plot is not that important compared with characterization.

    If we read big and classical novels like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and the Fountain Head we stumble upon impeccable characters. Or if we read Siddhartha by Herman Hess the central character
     
  6. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to be painfully shy and quiet.

    Although I didn't say much - I thought a lot (the brain works constant).

    So why not let the reader in on the characters thoughts and feelings?
     
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  7. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry, I completely disagree with this. It's a big generalization that is more wrong than right in my opinion.

    I think what you first need to answer is why you want to make them shy and quiet? What does it add or detract from the characters, and further, how does that impact the plot.

    If you think being shy is being fearful, apprehensive, and cowardly, keep in mind that the reader may not view it that way and may be getting a completely different message than what you intend.

    To me, being fearful and apprehensive doesn't mean shy, it means insecure.

    Being a coward to me is trait that stems from deeper fears and insecurities than just being shy.

    ---
    If you want them to be shy in the sense of being apprehensive and fearful, then it's pretty easy. You already have that inner conflict to which you expound on to show the reader exactly why your character may be apprehensive and fearful.

    If you want them to be shy without it being a negative personalty trait, it might be easier if you let other characters observe this trait and say it aloud rather than forcing your character to be a certain way or having them inherently know that they are shy.

    Most people who are shy don't want to be shy - so that might be something you can elaborate on.

    As far as being quiet. No one is simply quiet. In almost all cases, someone "quiet" can come to life when you pair them with a situation they find themselves to be at ease with. A job they are passionate about, another person that just "clicks" with them to where their shyness disappears and another, more vivacious personality dominates. You can use this to contrast your character. For situations they are not at ease with or don't have an opinion or any investment on, they stay back and just observe, but for the other situations that they do have some sort of investment in, they take charge.
     
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  8. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with all Sundae says, above.
     
  9. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I totally disagree with Sundae.

    Just because you are quite does not mean you are shy. They are two different things.

    Shyness comes from fear. I know some people who do not talk a lot that are very far from being shy. They just do not talk a lot because they only say what needs to be said and the rest is a waist of breath.
     
  10. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I agree on the point that being quiet doesn't mean you're shy. (as you can see in my earlier post)

    I disagree completely that shyness comes from fear. That's simply not true. Shyness is a product of insecurity and distrust, which are different than fear. Though both of those things can turn into fears of being in crowds, the center of attention, etc. it is not an automatic designation. You can be shy in a science class that you're not good at, but very outspoken in a history class where you know your stuff. You can be shy around strangers in small groups, but confident in very large groups where you feel the attention is not completely centered on you. There are most definitely degrees of shyness and shy does not equal fear.
     
  11. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Wow. Where did I say that being quiet and shy are the same thing? I agree, they are completely different things.

    I also never said that shyness doesn't stem form fear. It does, but not the to the extent of it being crippling. Shyness is merely a superficial manifestation of deeper fears and insecurities. When your shyness is deemed to be crippling, the root of the problem is deeper than just being shy.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that in my opinion, being shy, is superficial fear that can easily be overcome. If it can't be easily overcome, you're not shy, your insecure; and ONE of the ways that insecurity is being shown is shyness.

    EDITED: what I mean by superficial fear is that shyness most of the time is something that is attached to a small fear that can be overcome - you should be able to overcome your shyness. When it can't be overcome, then it's not that you're shy, it's that you have deeper fears and insecurities and are instead using your shyness to cope with them. At this point, I believe your shyness becomes a device - and in order to get over the shyness, you have to deal with those deeper fears and insecurities first.

    I am quiet. I don't like to talk that much because I don't think it's necessary unless what I have to say contributes. I also prefer silence to too much noise. I'm more introverted than quiet if you want to say. And I'm shy too, but only in the initial stages until I become familiar with things around me, then my shyness usually dissipates. It's not even that I'm fearful, it's more of a mechanism to gauge my surroundings so that I don't have to go into something blind.
     
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  12. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm very shy and quiet myself so perhaps I can enlighten you, but of course everyone's different in their shyness and being quiet.

    Like Jim said above, being quiet does not necessarily mean you're shy. Being quiet means you choose when to talk. You don't feel the need to make your opinions heard, you only talk when you want to. I think if you've got a quiet character, you should show that they are confident and willing to talk when they choose to, but also that they are a good observer and listener. Like someone else suggested, integrate their thoughts and feelings towards the things the character is seeing/hearing. Perhaps they'll only talk or make themselves heard in situations such as when two of their friends' arguments get out of hand, as in when what they say matters? A shy person wouldn't do that, but a quiet person would (I know that's generalisation). A quiet person would also be less reluctant to indulge in conversation, but it doesn't mean that they aren't capable of it. Maybe make the character have short/brief responses.

    I disagree with your opinion of what makes a quiet and shy by just
    But I won't go into that.

    Also, like Sundae said, why do you want your character to be quiet and shy? Is there a reason for this? What does it bring to the story and the character?

    Edit:
    I strongly disagree with this. I'd rather not go into it, but you're wrong that shyness is a 'superficial fear'.
     
  13. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    It is not fear it comes from fear just like "insecurity and distrust" comes from fear. Fear is not a bad thing. We all have and must embrace it. It is a survival instinct that enables us to adapt to a great many of situations.

    I use to be a very shy person when I was young. When I grew up I accepted my fear and the shyness went away. You can defeat fear with experience like you said. The more you are experienced in something the less you fear it. It is like jumping out of a plain. You fear it until you do it then you want to do it again.

    It was not meant to be an attack on someone who is shy. Again I say fear is not a bad thing and fear does not make you a courard it is how you handle the fear that determines if you are a courard or not. To deny that you have fear is just denial because every one of us has it, which is good.

    If you are going to write a realist shy person then you have to accept the root of their nature.

    Sorry, I meant it for those who wanted to deny that shy does not stem from fear.
     
  14. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I don't see how I'm wrong if you don't explain your reasoning. I don't' believe I'm wrong and yes, I consider myself to be shy and from all the self-internalization I have done, I believe shyness can be attached to different levels of fear. It doesn't all have to be deep fears, it can be small surface fears too. My shyness is attributed to surface level, it has never held me back, and it's always been something I can get over. If it was any deeper, I wouldn't just be shy, I'd also be insecure.

    Again I don't mean to say that one can't have deep rooted fears attached to the shyness. What I said is that it is superficial manifestation of deeper fears and insecurities. That doesn't mean its a superficial fear.

    What It means is the shyness is the presentation of that deep rooted fear and insecurity on a superficial level, as in, an outwardly level or in other words, how that fear and insecurity is presented to the world and others. And I think that it's one ONE manifestation of those deep fears/insecurities.
     
  15. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    That's just not true though, in my experience anyway. (for the record I'm not at all shy or quiet -I know shocking, right?- but I know many people who are and I am close to those people)

    Insecurity and distrust do not have to come from fear. Though people usually think of distrust as a fear of trusting, that's not always true. You can be distrusting in the way of holding yourself back until you know what you're dealing with. Perhaps "reserved" would have been a better word choice? Not because you FEAR what will happen, but because you don't see the point in wasting time with people who you don't like. Like waiting for the "first impression mask" to fade and for them to show who they really are. I hope that makes sense.

    Also you can be insecure without fear. For instance the girl that KNOWS she's beautiful, everyone tells her, everyone stares at her, everyone wants to be near her because she's so gorgeous, yet she feels like she wants to vomit everytime she takes her clothes off in front of someone else because SHE thinks her thighs are too fat. She knows the other person won't, but SHE does, so she's insecure. It's not fear of rejection or anything, she knows she won't be. It's just her own mind. Not the greatest example, but I think you can see what I mean... I hope, lol.
     
  16. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shyness did not stop me from going out or joining large or mixed company. I'd be out there and every now and then, like Sundae has said, I'd come out of my shell and excel at, whatever.

    Nor was I, nor did I feel inadequate in anyway. Nor was I insecure.
    It was more the blushing aspect of it, blushing - the bane of my young life.:redface:
     
  17. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sundae: Okay, I think I get what you're saying.

    Also, I agree with Trish about insecurity and distrust not coming from fear. I'm reserved/private because I don't see the point in sharing my life story and everything I feel to people who may not be in my life very long. Why should I bother burdening someone with it if they'll only be around for a month or whatever? It's not that I have a fear of trusting.
     
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  18. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see shyness as a 'superficial fear' either.

    I've never really thought about it before (I lived with it) but I think my own shyness came from the lack of confidence.

    If I'd have only realized this at the time then maybe I would have been able to do something about it.

    I say at the time, for I no longer think I'm shy and I am more confident that ever.
     
  19. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry. I should apologize. I just went back and re-read my posts and I can see where you though I meant that shyness is only attributed to superficial fears. I didn't word myself correctly.

    But I still think that it can be both applied to both deep rooted fears as well as small fears that can be easy to over come.

    To me, shyness is not equivalent to fear or insecurities - though it's presented to be that way more than not, and why I believe so many people think that it's automatically tied to fear and insecurities as Trish said earlier.

    I use shyness as a mechanism to gauge my surroundings and get myself acquainted so that I can be more comfortable. Sometimes, its nervousness... like when I go out on date and I blush and feel like I don't know what to say. Other times is really is fear, but in those times, I don't think I'm shy, I I'm just scared.

    I don't really associate shyness with fear. If I do, it's just that superficial fear that is nervous energy more than fear.

    If it does go deeper and is tied to deep fear, then I think that it means you are have deep rooted insecurities and fear, and you're showing that THROUGH your shyness. So at this point, your shyness is USED to cover those fears and insecurities up. It becomes your device to help you cope with your insecurities/fears. And I think, people then think that shyness is equivalent or synonymous to fears/insecurities when it's really the device use to portray another feeling.

    Anyways, that's my view. I'm sure people have different experiences and opinions and at some level, it's all subjective.
     
  20. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    Same, I think mine partly comes from lack of confidence.


    No worries. I think what you're saying is sort of right.
     
  21. ImaginaryRobot
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    A great place to look at how to do quiet characters well is the way detectives are portrayed in classic mystery novels like those by Agatha Christie, PD James, etc. With his or her friends, the detective is often very expressive, though generally they have their little secrets - suppositions or deductions they're not quite ready to reveal. When in contact with the various suspects, the detectives speak infrequently - usually only to push the conversation in a revealing direction - and listen carefully. Check out one of Agatha Christie's short story collections and look at the difference.

    Another great place to look at quiet characters who are anything but shy is pulp fiction from the first half of the 20th century. Characters like the original Conan (the Robert E Howard stories), or Gully Foyle from The Stars My Destination could be considered quiet in the sense that they speak very little. Those kinds of characters are interesting as well because they don't fade into the background.

    Something to keep in mind is that often internal dialogue, or narration can make any character seem chatty. Ismael from Moby Dick doesn't speak out loud very often, but because of they style of his narration (also just because he narrates he is one of the chattiest characters in all of literature. Ahab, in contrast, has some long soliloquies, but he seems like a quiet, brooding figure - he looms over much of the novel without speaking, or sometimes even being seen. When Ahab does speak, it is with passion and vigor.
     
  22. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Yes we don't even get to see Ahab until well into the story. We only get to hear him walking around on deck after hours and the rumors about him. I loved that part because it built up the men's fear of Ahab without ever meeting him. Then we get to see him and find out that he is stark raving mad.

    Ahab was a man without fear and a good example of why it is unhealthy to be fearless. I like Starbuck's quote to the men, "I will not be having no man who ain't afraid of no wail on this ship." I think that's how it went. I will have to dig my book out to get it right. I also like how Ahab spoke a lot of times through Starbuck as his proxy.

    I found it...

     
  23. MatthewR
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    Good listners do many things that are different from simply being quiet that even dialogue can show:

    > Good listners ask insightful and tactful questions that lead the speaker to the answers they sought without providing the words for them.
    (Think of Yoda, man of few words that leads Luke to answer his own questions without actually providing the words.)

    Luke: What's in there?
    Yoda: "Only what you take with you... you're weapons --- you will not need them."

    A big talker would have fully explained the metaphorical presence in the cave. But, yoda knew he needed to discover this for himself.

    > Non-verbal cues can give the reader a sense of a characters demeanor. Leaning forward or thoughtfully pondering before their limited lines add some emphasis. Maybe this person uses fewer words, but each one needs to pack some punch. Each line of this characters dialogue should carry the weight of three lines of other character's prose.

    Take Apocalypse Now's Col. Kurtz "I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream; that's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor... and surviving."

    In a single line he summed his entire character up. In the immediate context he is being assumed to be insane. however this line's metaphor is so potent that is reverbarate's to the entire character's core being.
     
  24. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Coming back to OP's question: often you can use body language to show people are "present" without letting them make a sound...
    BTW, you might find the Emotion Thesaurus a great help (at least it is to me, having ESL).
     
  25. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I still feel the best way to make the shy person more noticeable, would be to relay their inner thoughts and feelings.

    When A asks ...?
    and B answers ...
    what is the shy person thinking - these thoughts can be: empathetic, evil, kind, stupid, intelligent or whatever, depending on their character.
     

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