Friday, January 7, 2011


There is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. A BBC report pointed out that not everyone who is alone feels sad about it. A true loner likes being alone.

The assumption that people who are alone are not alone by choice is usually made by extroverts. Extroverts love being the center of attention; they thrive on being around people. But too much attention can frustrate an introvert. Introverts need time alone to recharge after being around people.

I am definitely an introvert. I enjoy visiting with my friends at conventions, but then I need time alone. When I found Jonathan Rauch’s article in The AtlanticCaring for Your Introvert”, my primary reaction was relief. Someone else understood.

It takes time though, for young introverts to realize that it’s okay to be an introvert. Parents and friends will tell them that they want to be popular, that they need to be social. They’re told ‘Don’t be shy, talk to people’ (even when they actually enjoy listening and can’t think of anything to say). The message passed along is that there is something wrong with you if you don’t like being the center of attention.

It’s not always easy to remember the introvert when writing YA. Even introverts are indoctrinated to write a character as wanting to be popular, to be the center of attention, and to consider many friends as good things for their characters. But what about the character that wants to be alone at times, who has a few good friends, who likes to listen and observe? Who enjoys quiet walks along the beach or in the countryside? Why is being alone or being a loner and liking it not celebrated more often?

Jonathan Rauch’s 2006 followup article “Introverts of the World Unite” pointed out that various cultural times will better suit one type over the other. In the agricultural time period, loners were more appreciated. That is definitely apparent in westerns and fantasy stories where the main character often is required to work alone. Science fiction stories with the lone explorer will need an introvert personality in order to function well, but ships with large crews can have a mixture of introverts and extroverts. And those characters who save the day by striving on their own to conquer a computer code? Usually loners, unless that particular code needs a group to work together on it.

What personality type are you? Do you enjoy reading about extroverts or introverts?



  1. I loved your definition of introvert because it fits me like OJ's famous bloody glove. I never needed a crowd of sychophants around me or a leader to follow. I have always had a few very close friends with whom I shared my most private thoughts and feelings; that was sufficient to energize me.

    What is paradoxical is that I chose career roles in which I worked intimately with dozens of people a day -- that of psychotherapist, administrator and salesperson. However, my success in those roles was noted by the fact that all the people reached out to me first.

    Of course, my inner-writer lay hidden waiting to emerge at mid-life which it did. The thousands of hours spent alone contemplating, writing, revising, editing ... marketing were easy. I didn't miss the human contact and was content to live within myself, allowing the thousands of voices I kept stored within me to emerge via a keyboard.

    Now, I live in a place where I can stare out the window and contemplate the sea. For me, it is the end of my rainbow, my pot of salted mackerel.

    But, I am not a solitary sailor. I do have a loving wife; she is an introvert like me. I also have a grown son whose contacts I look forward to.

    So, my life is both introverted and full of special people as well as accomplishments I can look back upon and from which I can derive warmth.

    I am a retiring person but I will never be a retired one. My latest book came out last April; I'm writing a new one that is enhanced by the suscerations of the sea. And, just to keep myself active I own real estate which I rent to students. My latest project is a start-up restaurant in my condominium building. I am developing the concept and doing the advertising. When it opens in March, knowing me, I will probably do some of the cooking too. I will learn what I need to know the hard way because I never could reach out to anyone for help. The next time I raise my hand in school will have been be the first time!

    My reading doesn't reflect who I am or who I might dream of being. It reflects the fact that I love reading the written word far more than I endure conversations in which I am forced to take 50% of the responsibility for its maintenance and development.

    Thanks for this precious moment of your time and your ear.

  2. Introvert or extrovert. I believe I'm am ambivert since I can go either way. There are times when I want to be alone and there are times when I want people. I'm not sure which type of character I'd rather read about but I tend to shy away from the stories about characters who feel sorry for themselves because they are alone and lonely.

  3. Wow! Kathy and Milton, kudos to you both! Great posts.

    I also raise my hand on the introvert side.

    It's actually funny because people I know forget. With close friends the extrovert side of me appears, so to them I don't seem shy at all. It's fun to watch them get flustered when I mention that I'm shy or they see me suddenly become that way in front of strangers. Like I've been replaced by a pod person. :P

    And it's friends who've made going to convention to hock my books so much more enjoyable and pushing me out there to commune with others.

    But, yeah, the alone times when I'm writing, reading or doing online marketing, even making book trailers, are precious to me.

    Characters too can be extremes or combinations. It's what makes them so utterly fascinating to write about. What fun!

  4. I'm an introvert living in a house full of other introverts. Most of them are autistic so they wouldn't know how to be social if a lion were about to eat them if they weren't. It's no wonder my MC in Nexus Point just wants to be left alone.

    But my youngest, a sweet 7yo, drives me bananas because she is most definitely an extrovert and NEEDS social interaction. We send her to the neighbors on a regular basis.

    Thanks for posting this. Not a topic most writers think about.

  5. I'm more reserved than anything. I like my alone time but I also can't stand being by myself for too long. Ditto goes with not being around other adults. Since I homeschool, I make sure I have some time to be around other adults.

    I'm also passionate about things I believe in. I'm not afraid to speak my mind on certain issues.

    My nine-year-old who has sensory issues is playful, very outgoing, and outspoken too(wonder where he gets that from?)

  6. It is posssible to be a mixture of both and that can be a good thing as you gain insights into the way both sides react with others. Hiding inside almost every extrovert I suspect there is a little of the introvert and vise versa. Good topic.

  7. Count me with the introverts. One reason I like to write, I suppose. I shut myself away in my writing world and am never lonesome. How could I be with my characters to keep me company?

    When I was teaching, of course, I was around lots of kids and a few adults. That was okay, because I still had my quiet time when I got home.

    Great post, Kathy.

  8. Introverted extrovert here. I do well in front of crowd (taught for about 20 years) and alone or in one-one-one settings. But parties exhaust me and so do mix-and-mingle situations.

  9. I, too, am very introverted. The marketing of my book has been the hardest part of this ordeal for me because I had to put up a photo of myself and speak at engagements and force myself into situations I would never normally do. I believe most writers might be introverts. It's why we choose this profession.

    Excellent posting.