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  1. Jan_Joubert
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    Jan_Joubert New Member

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    Writing an Introvert and applying show not tell

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jan_Joubert, Mar 6, 2011.

    Hi there,

    I've been working on a novel for about a year and a half and am in a research and rewrite phase with my characters. Its all evolving organically and methodically.

    How would you guys say one can write a protagonist which is introverted, always thinking about something and is generally an island onto him/her self (due to a lack of identification with others in his outside world)?

    The tendency is either to write as a 3rd person, or all through the thoughts / eyes of the character. Alot of the 'show not tell' type advice I read suggests steering clear from having a character describe a situation or place and rather letting dialogue bring it all out. But that doesn't quite seem to work with this character,

    any ideas on how to approach this from a writing style viewpoint without getting cheesy?
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The same principle applies.

    If you have a character that don't directly interact that much with the environment, the character do interact with the environment somehow even if it is trough indirect means. The character will think about things, judge and value them, etc. Show that indirect interactions.
     
  3. aimlessgun
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    aimlessgun Member

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    Agree with w176, your character will interact, even if isn't verbally. And of course what they don't do in certain situation is also important (for example that's how we'd know your character is introverted, right? you're not telling the reader directly "This character is introverted" I hope)

    As for describing places, if that character's description is colored by their views and judgements, it will be fine (I mean, that's half the point of doing it in dialogue, to mix in the views of the characters).
     
  4. Spring Gem
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    Spring Gem Member

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    Introverted doesn't necessarily mean passive, plus there are varying degrees of introversion. Someone could be an introvert in social situations, but a dynamo for a cause or activity that has meaning to him. Give your character a passionate interest in something and contrast that with other situations in which he is introverted. Also introverts may be seen as snobs by those who are more outgoing.
     
  5. Jan_Joubert
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    Jan_Joubert New Member

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    thanks guys, that all makes sense!

    But still, even if introverted, the character does not actually speak to anyone for half of the book. He harbors an illegal secret and is a bit of a fugitive, hence the introversion. (so sorry yes he isn't necessarily an introvert but comes across as one).

    again, one can show things through dialogue when he encounters other characters. but for most of the time he avoids talking to other characters in general, so there isn't much dialogue. Until the second half of the book anyway when he joins a group of rebels whom shares his views and is safe....

    see my dilemma? Again either I describe everything that happens in this first half of the book objectively (and milk the dialogue when I can), or all through his thought patterns and perceptions, his internal cognitive process (which tends to be metacognitive).
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah. You sort of got to do that. Making an extreme character sometimes means the narrative structure must be extreme. If you don't feel up to handling it change the character.
     
  7. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I don't think so. Dialogue isn't the only way to 'show'. I don't think your understanding of "show, don't tell" is accurate.

    In The God of Small Things a character named Istha completely stopped talking because of traumatic experiences as a child. In a scene he is describe as walking up to the vegetable vendors, selecting whatever he wants to buy and silently waiting. The vendor will then make the other customers wait, weighed Istha's vegetables and always returned the correct amount of money, never cheating even though they knew Istha would say nothing even if they cheat. In another scene Istha's silence is describe as "never intruding or loud". People usually took more than an hour or so to finally noticed that Istha had never spoken the whole time, and some people never even noticed it.

    So, those scenes says a lot about the char and the people around him. It isn't necessary to have dialogues to "show".
     
  8. Jan_Joubert
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    Jan_Joubert New Member

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    thanks for the advice! Yes my narrative structure is very intense, lots of big life changing events!

    @Manav,
    Right, thanks, so in this case 'show not tell' is being used by an objective / 3rd person describing instances where we 'see' this persons character (through his actions at the market). Good to know, I'll bear that in mind thank you!

    I guess I'll have to switch between 3rd person and 1st person most of the time. ;)
     
  9. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    There is always internal dialogue. Not neccesarily properly thinking sentences without saying them, but more reflecting.

    "He thought about how the lady across the street, no matter how caring she seemed to act towards anyone else, would never accept his ideals as right. She believed in the inherent goodness of society."

    That's awkward, I know, but hopefully it's a good enough example.
     
  10. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I don't think the 'show, don't tell' rule is about showing per se. Neither, it involves dialogue exclusively.

    Imho, it's about describing a situation in such a way that readers can draw their own conclusions rather than the author is telling them what to think/conclude. For an introvert character, you can use another POV that tells us about this feature, or you could use internal dialogues ('thoughts'). Also body language is a great show-er.

    If you say for example "The girl looked as if some stranger had drawn all her money from her bank account" - is that showing or telling? To me this is showing without dialogue. Or am I mistaken?
     
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  11. Jan_Joubert
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    Jan_Joubert New Member

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    yes i think your right leonardo
     
  12. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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  13. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    If the person is supposed to seem sort of introverted or secretive or something, then the social habits of the people he interacts with are probably picked up on by calculating and observing. Maybe to show how this person thinks, you could deliberately tell what the action is and let the emotion show itself through that. For example, if a girl were to pass him and do a double take, you could have him notice that she glanced at him and how her eyes widened slightly and she walked away a little faster. Perhaps she knows something about him? Perhaps she holds the same illegal secret? This is just an example, of course, but the reader will draw his/her own conclusions of why it was suspicious, so you half show, half tell sort of. (That probably wasn't the best example, but it was just to show the concept!) Hope this helps somehow! :)
     

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