Definition: disposed to avoid a person or thing; hesitant in committing oneself
Causes: natural predisposition, fear (of meeting new people, not knowing what to say, feeling awkward, rejection), a feeling of unworthiness, shame, a sheltered childhood where new people were seldom encountered, a history of isolation
Characters in Literature/Popular Culture: Lena (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), Edward Scissorhands, Celie (The Color Purple)
Positives: Because shy people spend more time alone than most, they are often introspective and have a knack for thinking things through. Their passion and focus turns from people to ideas, projects, or other hobbies, increasing the likelihood of them becoming expert in a certain area or field. There are varying degrees of shyness; many shy people are only awkward around new people. This makes them highly loyal to their comfortable inner circle. Easily misunderstood, the shy character is more likely to surprise others with their intelligence, wit, wisdom, and other positive characteristics.
Negatives: Shyness is often seen as a weakness because people associate it with insecurity and lack of confidence. Shy people tend to keep to themselves and the people/situations they know, which limits their experiences. They are more often followers than leaders. Because they're quiet and keep to the background, they are often overlooked, ignored, and underestimated.
Common Portrayals: the new kid at school, the shy little brother or sister
Cliches to Avoid: the wallflower at the school dance; the shy girl/boy living in the shadow of a popular and successful sibling; the socially-awkward genius
Twists on the traditional shy character:
- Shy characters are so often quiet and retiring. For a twist, give your shy character a booming voice or a terrible temper
- Villains are hardly ever shy. One who has to overcome his fears to achieve his dream of world-domination would be interesting
- Instead of your character having to overcome his shyness, let it benefit him in achieving his goals
- Make your shy character glamorous or drop-dead gorgeous instead of drab, bland, and fashionably clueless
Conflicting characteristics to make your shy character unique or more interesting: angry, wicked, glamorous, spoiled, noisy, obnoxious