How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

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SelenesMemeory
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How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#1 Post by SelenesMemeory » Fri May 25, 2018 7:58 pm

Heyya! So I'm having a little difficulty here and I need a little advice. One of the characters I'm writing is very quiet and socially awkward. Buuuuuuut he's already dating the MC. The problem is I'm having a hard time fleshing him out as he tends to get overshadowed whenever any other character is around (it doesn't help that the other characters have kind of loud personalities.) This isn't a very good thing especially when he's with his girlfriend but after someone else shows up, he's just kind of there. It makes it look like they are only "dating" in name and have no chemistry. I thought about changing the "quiet, socially awkward" into "doesn't like people" (I didn't want to many loud characters) but then that would throw the whole game off. Any advice?

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#2 Post by Katy133 » Fri May 25, 2018 11:45 pm

A big element to this character would be who the MC is. Is she outgoing and less quiet? That would make her a foil to his character, allowing their personalities to shine more brightly when they're together.

For ideas, take a look at other works' characters who fit the archetype you're looking for (quiet, awkward, love interest), and ask yourself what makes these characters work (or not work). Examples that come to mind are Emile from A Monster in Paris, Milo Thatch from Atlantis, Dr Horrible/Billy from Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and Wheatley in Portal 2 (or more specifically, his characterisation in Waffles' fanfiction, Blue Sky). In those examples I've mentioned, all four characters are men (with female love interests) who are socially awkward and quiet (or submissive) when around other characters.

On TV Tropes, the articles you may want to check out for examples and reference are the articles titled Shrinking Violet, Adorkable, Socially Awkward Hero, and No Social Skills.
Last edited by Katy133 on Sat May 26, 2018 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#3 Post by Draziya » Sat May 26, 2018 8:36 am

I think the first question that came into my head when I read your post was "why is the MC dating him in the first place?"

Obviously, socially awkward characters are fine, and I'm not saying it doesn't make sense he is. However, the fact that the MC is already dating him means that they've probably dealt with social situations together as a couple.

Does the MC know how uncomfortable social situations are for her partner? Does she do anything to help make sure he's as comfortable as possible? Is he insecure about the fact that he's not good with talking with people? Figuring out how they support each other even when there are other people in the conversation will help showcase their chemistry as well!

A dynamic I quite like is from the game Night In The Woods. In that game, the character Angus is not a sociable guy, the kind of person who goes and stands in corners at parties. However at one point in the game, he states that parties with his boyfriend Gregg are different because "Gregg is his corner." So having a character be socially anxious but be less anxious around their partner is definitely an option.
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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#4 Post by Ezmar » Sat May 26, 2018 10:10 am

I'd advise getting into the head of this character, and even if it doesn't come up in the writing, know what's going through their head in a given situation. Quiet people aren't totally passive, they just keep their thoughts to themselves most of the time. If you know what those thoughts are, you'll have an easier time understanding what this character will do, and why.

On that note, having the character be debilitatingly socially awkward is probably a bad idea, because that will just serve to get in the way of the story. Feel free to let them warm up and open up to other characters as you see fit. It doesn't have to defeat their characterization, but it will make the character more natural and dynamic, as well as prevent them from becoming a hindrance to the story.

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#5 Post by traineroflegend » Sat May 26, 2018 11:48 am

Some traits of a loner that you can show off in your dialogue to make them more believable includes:

- Have them appear bland and cold; if someone congratulates them for a job well done, they should have little to no reaction.
- Is oblivious to social cues. If there's a situation, they might do things that make it awkward. It's about bringing conflict.
- They might appear superficial or self-absorbed. So if the MC has a problem, this character might not be a good listener because he is thinking about his own problems first.
- They might get slightly uncomfortable at the suggestion of going to a party with friends, out drinking, etc.

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#6 Post by Westeford » Sat May 26, 2018 2:26 pm

So he's socially awkward but already dating the MC. My immediate thought is that he's quiet and slightly uncomfortable in groups, but opens up and shines when with one person. It's probably why he and the MC are dating. Perhaps his story could be about him coming out of his shell. Or maybe he doesn't understand why he should get along or make friends with others when he's already dating.

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#7 Post by Widdershins » Sat May 26, 2018 5:00 pm

To add to the excellent advice above (Draziya's quote from Night in the Woods-- He is my corner-- is a particularly apt description of a healthy relationship for a shy personality!), I'd recommend you first sort out how his social anxiety can be characterized. You specify the character doesn't dislike people, which is a good place to start: he isn't avoiding conversation on principle, then. Is he insecure? Is the insecurity with himself, or with his ability to communicate his ideas to others? Because those can be very different things.

Also helpful: how exactly does he cope with his anxiety when confronted with social situations? Does he fall silent and gravitate to the corner/wall/door, does he smoothly redirect attention away from himself, does he stay silent until he feels like he's making things awkward and uncomfortable for everyone else and then unleash with a long monologue because oh god he's started talking and now he just can't stop because he doesn't know if he's made his point yet and what if it came out wrong he'd better clarify and everyone is staring at him now and oh no no no no please let me just disappear...?

To illustrate what I mean (because I don't know if I've made my point yet and what if it came out wrong etc etc etc), I had a very similar issue come up in my own writing, where during group scenes my more introverted, quiet character was regularly steamrolled by the extroverts (who admittedly don't leave much room for others to talk, regardless of social anxiety). Once I dug into his personality, though, it became much easier to write his part in the group dynamic: despite his social anxiety, he's secure with who he is; he deflects attention away from himself by asking questions about others, and when annoyed he has specific verbal tics that he knows will repel further conversation. This template fills in a lot of blanks for me: I know what statements will annoy him into speaking, I know what is going to elicit his compassion, I know when he's going to be too uncomfortable and simply peace out.

The relationship to the MC is a fantastic tool, but since the MC is also the player's "eye" in the story, if possible I'd look into what relationship (if any) your shy guy has with the other characters. Another tool I found was in establishing an antagonistic (but not mean-spirited) relationship between my character and one of the more outspoken ones: they squabble like siblings. If you've got a less inhibited character regularly harassing your quiet character, they're obligated to speak up more often or take real action to avoid doing so. If nothing else, it keeps them an active part of the scene, even if your more aggressive character fails to get a rise from them. Finding his place in the group dynamic is easier when you piece out what individual relationships are.

Lastly: unless every scene involves an ensemble, I think it's both realistic and okay for certain characters to shine more in some sequences than others. It's realistic, because not everyone is "on" all the time. Maybe when the MC is one-on-one with the boyfriend, he's brilliant, charming, and funny, and that makes it frustrating when he refuses to speak up in the group and shrinks away from giving his opinion when solicited. Maybe he's an enigma the MC is still trying to figure out. As long as you, the writer, know what is going on with his inner life, and his value to both the story and the MC, you can portray that in quieter, more intimate scenes, and your shy character then doesn't need to be as noisy as your "loud" characters when everyone's all together.

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#8 Post by Mammon » Sat May 26, 2018 5:45 pm

The above posts already cover it really well, but an introvert will still be hard to write. However, it's always the question of what kind of introvert they might be.

I personally in real life can hold up a conversation with ease but am a massive introvert because that conversation has to be started by someone else, I am not exactly the easiest to approach and start a conversation with, it has to be a topic that I can actually contribute to and want to talk about spoken in a manner that allows for continuation, and of course the other needs to also continue and want to continue it. If your character would be like that, you would have him be really quiet in many conversations and events that leave no opening for him to contribute but can make him much more adding to the narrative if it's something he knows about and wants to talk about. It's not just that they're quiet, the asocial factor already mentioned before that they simply don't care too much about what's being said applies too.

I'm currently writing a project with a similar hurdle in the form of one of the LI's being shy and quiet. She's not necessarily introvert rather than being polite with expectations and responsibilities of being presentable and quiet all the time, and she is a mannered girl who doesn't want to impose herself upon others to a great degree. Most of her sentences start with 'I'm sorry' or 'My apologies' whether any such apology is needed, and then letting others talk and make decisions. If someone else asks her to make a decision, she'll probably choke and draw back into her shell trying to figure out what they expect her to choose. And making a character like that is quite an error, as I've found. The solutions are either to give her a friend to coaches her to say certain things, have the MC have a deciding personality so she can just follow, or be ready for a lot of hard to write scenes with very slow (yet meaningful and noticeable) progress and growth to overcome her insecurities over time.

If your introvert is some other variation, feel free to describe them further for more detailed potential solutions.
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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#9 Post by dreamfarmer » Sun May 27, 2018 10:51 pm

There's a show simulcasting right now called Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku. The MC's boyfriend is socially awkward, although not really socially /anxious/. He's very quiet. In an ensemble with three others (all of which are louder, more outgoing and more dynamic than he is), he still absolutely shines. I'd recommend checking it out for inspiration on what could be done.

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#10 Post by SelenesMemeory » Sat Jun 02, 2018 2:33 pm

Thank you all so much!!!! This has actually been very helpful :). I work with this for a while until I find what works, thank you!!!

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#11 Post by karenbubblegum » Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:24 am

SelenesMemeory wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:58 pm
Heyya! So I'm having a little difficulty here and I need a little advice. One of the characters I'm writing is very quiet and socially awkward. Buuuuuuut he's already dating the MC. The problem is I'm having a hard time fleshing him out as he tends to get overshadowed whenever any other character is around (it doesn't help that the other characters have kind of loud personalities.) This isn't a very good thing especially when he's with his girlfriend but after someone else shows up, he's just kind of there. It makes it look like they are only "dating" in name and have no chemistry. I thought about changing the "quiet, socially awkward" into "doesn't like people" (I didn't want to many loud characters) but then that would throw the whole game off. Any advice?
What about giving him more room for interaction with other characters in groups, to show the multitude of facets of social awkwardness?
That's a tricky, but very rewarding way to go - there's a need to balance between "socially awkward", "pathetic" and "cool, but would this character really say that in a real life scenario?". So that would border on the experimental literature - like they called in in the late 19th century.
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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#12 Post by StellaPurple » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:59 am

Take example from Watamote (Tomoko). She's so awkward that she causes social misunderstanding, which sometimes causes some sexual comedy. Audience love it because she's funny.

So what you wanna think about is: What entertaining aspect can your character offer?
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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#13 Post by Cyanade » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:34 am

If he's not able to express himself well with dialogue then maybe he might be more demonstrative in action. Something like, he suddenly plays footsie with her underneath the table. Or something more subtle if you want the character to be less bold, but remember that quiet and socially awkward doesn't necessarily mean shy. Instead of a roadblock I think it's a great opportunity to show how a person can be intimate without words. He can react to the conversation with a subtle shift in posture that perhaps nobody but his girlfriend has picked up on. He can also steal the scene when they discover that he has fallen asleep during the conversation, when he suddenly snores or faceplants after nodding off.

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Re: How to make a socially awkward character...interesting??

#14 Post by OokamiKasumi » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:34 pm

SelenesMemeory wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:58 pm
Heyya! So I'm having a little difficulty here and I need a little advice. One of the characters I'm writing is very quiet and socially awkward. Buuuuuuut he's already dating the MC. The problem is I'm having a hard time fleshing him out as he tends to get overshadowed whenever any other character is around (it doesn't help that the other characters have kind of loud personalities.) This isn't a very good thing especially when he's with his girlfriend but after someone else shows up, he's just kind of there. It makes it look like they are only "dating" in name and have no chemistry. I thought about changing the "quiet, socially awkward" into "doesn't like people" (I didn't want to many loud characters) but then that would throw the whole game off. Any advice?
Give your socially awkward character a Talent or Hobby they're actually good at.
-- Believe it or not, the better someone is at whatever they do the more socially awkward they tend to be, mainly because the amount of time they've put into their craft takes away from time spent socializing.

examples:
-- BBC's Sherlock Holmes
-- House
-- Monk
-- Sheldon of Big Bang Theory
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