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.

onlineextrovert

Photo by Global X (Creative Commons)

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?

PRACTICE

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.

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  • Eliese

    What will they think of me? It’s such a cliché, shallow teenage girl thought, but it’s the one that keeps running through my head as near burning hot air whips my hair around my face. So much work just to get this wet brown hair dry and bouncy. My arm aches

    from holding the blow-dryer in one position for so long. Will this girly work
    be worth it?

    There will be guys there. Yea, there are guys at school, but this is different. Tonight there won’t be a strict teacher sitting at her desk keeping a watchful eye on us delinquents as we scratch our new found knowledge across the page. I won’t have a reason not to talk to one of these handsome, but to me, alien creatures. Adrenaline shivers through my veins.

    All the wet areas of my hair have disappeared. I shake my head around like a model
    from a shampoo commercial, enjoying the feel of my now straight, frizz-less hair. Next step: my evening mask.

    I have my own equipment for the task, and some borrowed from my proud Mother. First I wash and moisturize my face, and then search through the dark makeup bag
    until I find the foundation that matches my tan skin. Time races by as I
    carefully apply my face art, and then put on a little black dress that shows more skin than I am use to displaying; my costume. The finishing product is pleasing to my untrained eye.

    “Are you almost ready sweetheart?” My Mom asks. She glides gracefully into
    the bathroom looks me over head to toe.

    “You look beautiful honey.” She gives me a perfect white smile. “I am so glad
    you are going out tonight.”

    I sigh. “Most Moms wouldn’t let their kid go to an unchaperoned high
    school party.”

    “I guess I am just a cool Mom.” She raises one light brown eyebrow in attempt
    to be cool. It doesn’t work. “Just be safe.” She adds.

    “I will.” I grab my keys and purse, say goodbye, and head out the door to
    explore the social world. Even thinking about it makes me tired.

    • gianna serex

      This is really good! I could sense that this character’s not really up for huge events, but she wants to go tonight to check it out. I can definitely relate :) you had some great lines through here: “Adrenaline shivers through my veins” was one of my favorites, along with “I… head out the door to explore the social world. Even thinking about it makes me tired”. Good start to an interesting piece!

    • Alisha Joy

      You can definitely feel her anxiety. Loved the mask/costume references. “Even thinking about it makes me tired” That line made me laugh, I can SOOOOO relate! Great start.

  • gianna serex

    Interesting post, Liz. I’m writing a piece with more of an introvert trying to be more extroverted, and it’s been tough so far. Thanks for this!

    –*–

    Friday night. Ari’s gone again. Somehow I don’t think it’s because of another Calc project she claims to be doing. The parents are out, as usual. But I don’t want to stay here with a book or my laptop.
    I’ve never been one for going out on weekends. For me, each week has been draining enough that all I want to do is curl up in my room and chill for eighteen hours. But tonight is different. I don’t even want to try cracking the liquor downstairs, like Hayden recommended. Instead, I have the irresistible urge to be with someone. I need to talk.
    I’m not up for a party. I’m up for something private and quiet. But who’s home? Bailie, Savannah, and Adara are all in the city. Hayden’s at some guy’s house again, and Dixie, of course, is in Hawaii. I could call Emily. Except I don’t want to talk to her. I have this new feeling to go do something bad. She’ll give me nothing. I don’t call Emily. I call Sienna.
    “Are you coming by Cour anytime soon?”
    “Believe it or not, I’m coming back that way now. You want us to pick you up?”
    “Please. I can’t—I gotta go do something.”
    She laughs. “Welcome to North Ridge, Gianna. We’ll be there in fifteen.”

    • Eliese

      Interesting. This made me what to get to know the characters more. There were a lot of characters but I felt they were set up well. I liked that she was ready to expand her horizons a bit (even something bad). Nice.

      • gianna serex

        Thanks eliese!

    • Alisha Joy

      What does she do??? I am imagining this night going from interesting to WILD (think Hang Over)… Keep at this, this could get exciting.

      • gianna serex

        I’m thinking somewhere in between. Oh, they’ll get hammered. But it’s a small party, still. Haha. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Alisha Joy

    I pace back and forth outside the Sit ‘n Sip. I had left the house in a frantic rush—worried
    to death about being late—only to arrive seventeen minutes early. I catch my reflection in the shops window and regret not using those seventeen minutes to fix the mess I’d made of my hair.

    My plan had been to look sexy in a casually thrown together sort of way. I started by blowing my hair straight. One look in the mirror and I knew it was wrong—too obvious, too perfect. I tried to muss it up a bit by adding some strategically placed curls, but curls can be tricky. The more I added the more it seemed to need, soon my head was bursting with rows of impeccably formed corkscrews. I would have fit in perfectly with the rich town folk in Little House on the Prairie. In desperation, I had twisted my hair into a French braid but it looked too tight and too shiny no matter how many times I redid it. I’d finally just pinned half of it up and let the rest of the chaos fall free. My “plan B” was to pray that time and fresh air might mellow the debacle out. If that failed, I had an emergency “Plan C” hat tucked in my purse.

    I kept the outfit simple, thank God—a short black skirt and a light pink tank top, six silver bracelets, tiny butterfly earrings and my black platform sandals. Ultimately, it was the outfit that gave me the confidence to walk out of the house with my over-styled-head held high.

    My pacing gains speed with each passing second. Worried about looking like some crazed hamster in a wheel, I force myself to stand still. My legs stop moving but my eyes continue to dart wildly from side to side, scanning the street and sidewalk for any sign of Tiffany and Beth. I run my fingers through my hair. “Plan B” seems to be working.

    A fast approaching van catches my attention. Panicked, I duck around the side of the building and press my back flat against the rough brick wall. Tom drives a van. I’d die if he spotted me standing alone, the first and only person in line for his show.

    “Anais, what are you doing?”

    I jump and whirl around to find Tiffany and Beth walking towards me. They must have parked in the back lot and taken the shortcut through the side alleyway.

    “I was waiting for you guys,” I say, doing my best to keep the adrenalin fueled shakes out of my voice. I step away from the building as if I had been casually leaning there instead of hiding.

    Tiffany opens her mouth to say more, but is thankfully interrupted by Beth who runs over to give me an enthusiastic hug.

    “You look so pretty, I love your shoes” Beth gushes.

    Beth’s mom is a shopper so Beth always has a closet full of the latest and greatest to choose from. She’s gone with denim—floral printed Girbaud shorts and a matching sleeveless vest with a silky cream tank top underneath. I decide that as long as I stick close to her side, I will no doubt look casual in comparison.

    “I’m so excited. I’ve never been to a concert before,” Beth chorts, her words muffled as she attempts to speak around her tube of Cover Girl’s Shine Blast.

    “Sheesh Beth, it’s not a concert, it’s just some guy playing guitar in a coffee shop. Try to contain yourself,” says Tiffany, looking gorgeous as usual. Tiffany isn’t allowed to wear tanks tops or anything above the knee. Her mom doesn’t want her dressing too sexy. But Tiffany is the kind of girl who can make any outfit sexy, even baggy khakis and a Hanes t-shirt.

    “Let’s hurry, I want to get a good seat,” Beth urges, ignoring Tiffany’s jab.

    Tiffany rolls her eyes, “We better get in there before Beth has a conniption fit on the sidewalk, and I really need some coffee.”

    Tiffany leads the way with an overly energetic Beth right on her heals. I follow a few steps behind. Nervous butterflies flit restlessly inside my belly. My mind is a mess of rapid-fire questions and doubts—what will Tom do when he sees me? Will he be mad I came… or happy? Will he even care? What if he tells me to leave? What if he dedicates a song to me…

    I spot Tom the moment I walk through the shop’s front door. He is standing in a corner tuning his guitar. His dark hair hangs in front of his face, shielding his brown eyes from view. He doesn’t look up, which gives me a chance to study him undetected. He’s wearing black jeans, black biker boots and a black leather vest over a tight white t-shit. His guitar is also black. He is cloaked in darkness and surrounded by darkness with just a flash of light in the center—dangerously desirable. If I were someone else, Tiffany maybe, or even Beth I might have the confidence to walk up to him, give him a hug, wish him luck. But I am me, and that is never going to happen.

    • gianna serex

      Loved this. I can definitely relate to this gem: “If I were someone else, Tiffany maybe, or even Beth I might have the confidence to walk up to him, give him a hug, wish him luck. But I am me, and that is never going to happen.” Oh, the struggles of being naturally introverted. Thanks for sharing.

      • Alisha Joy

        Right!??!! I mean…. obviously I’m not writing about me here. haha

    • Eliese

      I enjoyed the rush of getting ready to only end up being early. The waiting was well done. I liked the romance and I am interested in the story and hope that one day she wall have the confidence to walk up to him. Nice characters.

      • Alisha Joy

        Thank you. Thanks for taking the time to read it. =)

  • Gary Phillips

    An Introvert’s Wild Night

    It was another Friday night. Just like most other Friday nights, my friends had tried to coax me into attending one of the innumerable parties they charged out to every
    weekend. I politely declined and explained that I had to work early Saturday morning. It was quickly becoming my go to excuse. How could anyone argue with that.

    To my friends’ credit they tried.

    “Come on, one beer isn’t going to kill you.”

    “You need to get out more.”

    “Don’t you get bored all cooped up in that room you call home?”

    “We promise, we’ll have you home before midnight.”

    I answered each of their concerns with a smile, and politely declined. They all seemed to have this belief that one could not possibly enjoy themselves unless there was
    alcohol, lots of people, and music so loud it would burst your ear drums. None of that appealed to me in the least bit.

    When the door closed behind me, I breathed a sigh of relief. Blessed solitude. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being around people, I just enjoyed being around a
    select small group of people. Working in retail had only heightened my dislike of large groups. I had just as much fun as my friends did, I just preferred to do it in the privacy of my home away from the constant drain on my energy and patience.

    I stood under the shower for about 30 minutes until the water started getting cold, then turned it off, and wrapped myself in a towel. A shower was the perfect way to cleanse
    myself of all the psychic debris I’d picked up throughout the day. Alcohol, music, and a good book were the other three ways.

    After drying myself off, I turned on my iTunes and clicked play on my Lindsey Stirling playlist. I had just bought her latest album yesterday and hadn’t had a chance to listen
    to it yet. As the sultry tones of her violin began, I reached in the fridge and pulled out a cold Coke and my bottle of rum. I filled the glass with ice, poured the rum in about a third of the way, and filled the rest with coke. I took a long sip of it. Ahhhhh.

    Now where was my book?

    It was on the nightstand where I’d left it.

    My job didn’t leave me a lot of time for reading. Pretty much my life revolved around work and sleep. When your schedule could change at a moment’s notice, you tended not to plan much. I laid back on the bed and propped myself up with several pillows as I flipped the pages to where I had left off reading the night before.

    Good tunes, good booze, a good book, and best of all – no people. My friends didn’t know what they were missing.

    • gianna serex

      Lovely! You describe the scene so nicely that I’d really love to be in her shoes. Good work.

    • Eliese

      I think that you described exactly what an introvert is. The scene was described well and by the end, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, you want to do the same thing as the character.

  • Chloee

    ” CJ come on!” My friend Mindy whined. I rolled my eyes and tried to ignore the sound of the pounding music. Somehow I let Mindy drag me to this nightclub even though I would rather be at home watching my favorite movie wearing PJ’s instead of in a nightclub with annoying music, alcohol, and people. Now I was stuck in the back wearing a cut too low black dress and heel and all makeup and hair.

    ” I don’t want to dance Mindy. I said. “At least flirt with some guys!” She went of to the dance floor drinking her third margarita. I turned back to the bar and stirred my drinking trying to ignore all the noise. I sighed the bartender slid a margarita towards me. ” It’s from the gentleman down there.” He said. Oh great now drinks from strange men. I looked at the man who got it for me. A man with wavy choclate brown hair and hazel eyes sat at the bar with three over men who seemed to be the only ones who liked all the noise.

    He came over and sat next to me. “Hey.” I glanced at him uncomfortably. “Hey.” “I’m Ben.” ” I’m CJ.” “That’s an instrasting name.” I looked at him. “Yeah.” I’m sorry I’m not very good talking to people I didn’t even want to come here but my friends talked me into it.” “Me too I would rather be home watching TV.” He laughed. “Me too.” I giggled. We sat and talked for awhile and I actually liked talking to him which was a surprise it turn’s out we had a lot in commen. ” CJ do you want to go get a coffee?” ” Yeah.” He held out his hand and I took it.

  • Amit Verma

    I should go to his son’s wedding, afterall he came to invite me personally. Don’t know what will I wear for the occasion. Its been such a long time that I went shopping for myself. I will have to go out and buy new and appropriate clothes; can’t wear jeans to a wedding. With only two days remaining, I don’t feel like shopping for clothes at the last moment. It will be such a hurried task with all the hassles of driving, parking, searching the right shop, trying the clothes out , ordering the alterations and then going back to collect. Readymade clothes are not to my taste. I should stay at home. I can always tell an excuse.

    He helped me when I had a wrist fracture. I must honor his invitation and go instead of insulting him. He is an orthopedic surgeon of some repute and not everybody is as lucky to get invited to such weddings. But I am on low carb diet. There would be no point going and staring at the buffet, not being able to eat and drink heartily. One Can of bear has 156 Calories hence four cans mean 624 calories. There goes my weight control program.Then there will be starters too.
    But I should go. Haven’t been on an outing for such a long time. It will be like a sabbatical. I can enjoy the atmosphere with music and all.

    With whom will I talk to? I don’t have any common friends with that doctor. Moreover it will be a family affair. Sitting alone without anyone to talk to is so ridiculous. Don’t even have someone to accompany me who can dilute my “out-of-placeness”. Wow! Thats a new word. See, what spending time with youself can do; create new words. Will be bored seeing all those women with lips colored with dark shade lipsticks. Some women wear lipsticks as if they ate it rather than apply it. What with all those smiles? As if the risorius went into a tonic spasm. People smile all the time and at everyone without any reason at these weddings.
    So today is the day. Let me cancel all my appointments for the evening. Done!
    Its 6 pm already. I have to reach at 8. The car gave me a lot of trouble yesterday. May be I should take a taxi.
    The met said there might be rain today. This yellow colored umbrella will look so funny.
    Let me watch the cricket match instead. Delhi are playing Bangalore today.

    • Alisha Joy

      I can definitely relate to this internal battle. Love all the excuses she comes up with. The diet excuse cracked me up “One Can of bear has 156 Calories hence four cans mean 624 calories.” funny that she already decided she’d need 4 cans to get through the night (or that was my interpretation). “Some women wear lipsticks as if they ate it rather than apply it.” Great line!

      • Amit Verma

        Thanks Alisha for reading it. Hope you liked it.

  • Sandra D

    He hiked up the hill. He looked at the house, he could see people dancing through the windows.

    He wanted to go, but he didn’t want to go. He closed his eyes and breathed in several breaths. And then he went to the house. A girl was at the entrance. He noticed her hair. Blond, reached just past her ears, and with large curves in it.

    “Hi welcome to the party,” she said in a soothing voice.

    “Oh thanks” he said. He lifted his arm and gave a stiff wave.

    Then two guys from gym, both taller and larger than himself, came on either side of him.

    “I didn’t see you come in.” said the first guy

    “Have you found the beer yet?” They walked him to the beer.

    “Thanks,” he reached into a large cooler and grabbed a dark beer. One of them slapped him on the back and they left.

    He saw some people form in a group in the bedroom. He became curious and wanted to see what was going on so he walked out of the living room and made his way to the first bedroom where people were crowding.

    “Stop,” said a short Asian girl in black square glasses. She stood in front of the door way like its guardian. “Only some people can be in there at a time.”

    “But what is going on?”

    “A seance. And too many people will ruin the vibes.”

    “You don’t actually believe that do you?” His hands rested on his hips defiantly.

    “Shoo, get back to the party.” She pushed up her glasses with her finger while also turning him away.

    “Alright.” He twisted open the beer, the top came up with a pop sound, and he put the top in his pocket. Then he took a long drink of his beer and sat on the couch. Some people were dancing together to the pop music playing. A few people were talking.

    A tall and very attractive girl, clearly out of his league sat next to him. “Aren’t you going to join the party? I mean why did you come here if all you were going to do is sit on your butt by yourself. Couldn’t you do that at home?”

    “No not really, this is how I sit on my butt at a party, when I am at home, I have a whole different sit on my butt.”

    “I see. Well I guess I was going to see if you wanted to dance, but I see you are busy with that.”

    “Wait. Okay, I will dance.”

    He realized this was a bad idea as he had not even considered dancing. She turned her hips naturally, and she smiled at him, which was his cue to now move too. He barely moved my hips, but he figured a little too little was better than too much.

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