5 Tips for Writing Quiet Characters

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Hello friends!

How goes these first few moments of summer? Living in Florida, summer never really ended for me, BUT, I am starting to boogie with those lovely summer vibes.

Summer reminds me that I am actually a lot like Olaf from Frozen. I’m in love with the idea of summer (you know, beach towels, popsicles, sprinklers, sunglasses, watermelon, rainy days, etc.). I’m just not a huge fan of the humid heat that suffocates you every time you walk outside.

ANYWAY.

Today we’re going to talk about something I’ve struggled with in my writing for a long time. Something I could never seem to get right:

Writing quiet main characters.

Although the brash, feisty, outspoken MC’s seem to be the trend of today’s novels, perhaps you’re wanting to create a meek-and-mild person to head your story’s adventures.

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

1.) Depth without Dialogue

Never underestimate how much readers can see even when there isn’t direct dialogue. Don’t be afraid of adding their thought process apart from what they actually say.

I learned a lot from writing my Wattpad story, “Where the Ghosts Lie”. It was my first time writing a reserved character…and I made a lot of mistakes.

Nolan is a man of few words. He has a lot of baggage and is quite calloused, so a ridged personality is to be expected. But he just seemed so…flat.

He just didn’t have that vibrant personality I was hoping for. He was witty, sure, but would never stand out to a reader years after they read his book.

But I was forgetting something that almost all quiet people have in common–their greatest asset that deepens their personality.

Their rich inner world.

As a quiet person myself, I have no idea why I didn’t exemplify this attribute.

Even though they don’t say much, they probably think ten times what other people conceive.

In your writing, you can use that as an amazing advantage!

For example:

The clerk shook his head. “I’ll only take fifteen coins for those blankets–no less.”                                             

Amar frowned and turned to leave. “Thank you for your time.”

That scene is okay. But you can see how flat it is–there’s no emotion, no urgency. Amar seems a little disappointed, but otherwise there’s not a lot there at all.

Now, let’s see what happens if we write it this way:

The clerk shook his head. “I’ll only take fifteen coins for those blankets–no less.”

Amar’s frown deepened as the seven coins in his pocket seemed to mock his efforts. Fifteen coins? For a spread of wool? The price was outrageous…but if he had the money, he would’ve said goodbye to every single one of his coins in an instant. Anything for Sylvia. The thought of her shivering on the street made him sick, so Amar couldn’t waste any more time with this crook. He turned to leave. “Thank you for your time.”

See how Amar says so much without saying hardly anything at all? The dialogue happens in his head. It makes our character seem softer.

One problem with a lot of quiet MCs, and my MC included, is that we miss out on their soft side. Without dialogue, a lot of writers make their characters come across as blunt and gruff. Which is fine…in moderation.

2.) Be careful not to overly describe their inner thoughts.

No, don’t disregard what I just said.

Please.

Keep it together before you start throwing rocks.

While expounding on their inner thoughts, make sure not to repeat information or hound on it excessively.

In the example above, what if we’d already had a moment where Amar decides that he’d do anything for Sylvia? What if he’s already said he’d give anything to make sure she’s safe?

We don’t want to milk that thought process too much. That would get boring.

3.) They can still be sassy, angry, frustrated, etc. Show their actions, if not their words.

Actions speak louder than words, yes? Yes. Let’s say you don’t want your character to have an outright argument in this scene, or do something that would take up too much room in the story.

Let them use their face.

No, not for hitting people.

But for expressing themselves. Quiet people have the widest variety of expressions and gestures, and in books you can really exaggerate that. (because really, how can you tell the future of what a character has for dinner just by that glimmer in their eye? Only in books, people.)

4.) Make their conversations count.

What gets your character talking? What makes them go on an angry rant?

Knowing which buttons to press makes their words ever more powerful.

Did some scumbag just insult your MC’s pet dragon?

Is someone they love crying? What words do they use to comfort them?

Understanding what they’re passionate about will evoke conversations that matter to your story.

5.) Let your voice reflect your character.

Check yourself as the narrator of your story.

The witty remarks, deep thoughts, and general opinions contribute to what a reader thinks about your MC.

Something I’ve run into and have had to fix is separating my characters from my narration.

There needs to be cohesion there.

Is your character cynical towards life? Instead of saying the hotel curtains are “bright yellow”, say that they “make the room look like it’s coated in mustard”.

And fluctuate the emotion of your narration with the story.

You, as a narrator, are really the heart of your story. We’ll connect with your character through you. Remember that.

 

So there you have it! I hope these tips helped in writing those wild creatures of the silent tundra.

Do you have any tips on writing quiet characters? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “5 Tips for Writing Quiet Characters

  1. I like these! As an INTJ, I’ve always enjoyed writing about the rich inner worlds of introverted and/or quiet characters. These are all tips I’ve found very useful in my own writing.

    One thing that has helped me is “translating the silence;” even if the quiet person is a secondary character, the viewpoint character can guess at what the other one is thinking- ie, translate their silence. It gives us a clue as to what the quiet one is thinking, and it also reveals a little more about how the main character views the world. Win-win!

    Liked by 1 person

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