Character Trait Entry: Shy

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

10 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

This is the perfect post for me - I'm having trouble developing a shy character at the moment. Thanks

Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

tracikenworth said...

I can identify with this. Definitely a hindrance...

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Interesting post. Thank you, dear lady. How about a shy politician or public figure? Wouldn't THAT be a refreshing change? What's that saying ... better to remain silent and be thought the fool than to speak, and remove all doubt.

Heather said...

This is good stuff! Just reading the causes and twists gave me idea. :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Good tips! Thanks.

kara said...

Yes! This is a perfect post for me, my MC's love interest is shy, and shy is very hard to write! Thanks. :)

Carrie Butler said...

I adore the idea of a shy character with a booming voice. Quirks can be so entertaining. Great post! :)

Sarah said...

A lot of the super-shy kids I've worked with were really loud and controlling at home, so there's really something to that! Great post!

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post. Wonderful examples of shy people in movies. I've seen two out of the three movies.

Selene Hughes said...

I'm a little shy myself, so 'shy' is easy to write for my MC. But now she's also absolutely gorgeous and charismatic - despite just wanting to be left alone. Thanks!

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