Writing Introverts and Extroverts
Sunday night at an Easter potluck dinner, a group of my friends and I were talking about our Myers-Briggs personality types. I’m an ESFJ, and have been since I first took the test in high school, but in the course of the conversation, one of my friends mentioned that TVTropes.org had a list of fictional characters that had certain personality combinations. I found out that other ESFJs in fiction include Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, Lily Aldrin from How I Met Your Mother, Buffy Summers, the vampire slayer, and Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. ESFJs are awesome.
Although my MBTI hasn’t changed in the past 10 years or so, I have moments where I’m more introverted than extroverted. Right now on the internet at large, there seems to be a heavy focus on introverts, and how they should be approached differently than extroverts. The different elements of the MBTI can be really useful to develop characters, and can give you a great point to reference in the case that you hit a wall in fleshing out your characters.
Extroversion and Introversion
Extroversion/introversion doesn’t have anything to do with how social someone is, but it indicates how an individual reacts internally to a social situation. In a crowd of friends or strangers, an extrovert will feed off the social interaction and be energized by the situation, while an introvert can handle the situation and may not have any problems being social, but they may require alone time in order to prepare themselves for the socializing, because it takes more energy for them to interact in social situations.
This pair of personality traits may be best utilized in either first-person or third-person limited, since extroversion and introversion in the context of a social situation can look remarkably similar. An extrovert will become antsy when they’re left to their own devices for a weekend, while Bonnaroo or Coachella is an introvert’s worst nightmare. Showing character reactions, anxieties, or exhaustion through the writing process will prove more effective than just telling the reader that Guy Person hates crowds or lives for networking events.
Who is your favorite fictional introvert or extrovert?
Take fifteen minutes and write a scene from the perspective of either an introvert or an extrovert as they approach a Friday night. Maybe they’re planning a surprise party for their roommate’s birthday, or maybe they’re settling in for a Netflix night. Post your practice in the comments and check out the work of your fellow writers.
About Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.