Is the author's connectivity/isolation reflected in writing?

Many stories involve groups of friends or acquaintances and their mutual growth and change, while others are focused more on individual characters who interact less often and are usually focused on their own thoughts, goals, etc.

I personally am kind of a loner, and I find that it is easier for me to write from the perspective of single characters who occasionally run into other people. Perhaps those who are more gregarious and socially connected might find the opposite to be true: a group perspective where sometimes individuals carry the focus.

I’m not saying that one mode doesn’t have individuals who do things on their own, and the other never has group or other social events. It’s more about the relative centrality of those two different perspectives. A loner can be alone in a crowd, and a highly social person will bring friends and companions along with them in their mind even when they are actually alone.

So, that’s the question: do you find that your personal mode of social interaction gets reflected at a fundamental level in the fiction you write? If you’re a loner, does your writing focus one individuals with social interactions in the background? If you’re very social, does your writing tend to assume highly social contexts and situations that are secondarily made up of individuals?

And, assuming that this is actually a thing, what could be done to write effectively in the incongruent mode (I.e., socially if you’re a loner or individual-focused if you’re highly social)?

9 Likes

This is an interesting question.

I tend to think of myself as a loner, but when it comes to my stories, my characters tend to function in pairs or very small groups. Which made me think about my life–going through my life as a pair with my husband, or in small groups with him and one or two close friends. That is what’s reflected in my writing.

I’ve tried writing people with more connections, but I find it hard to fit them all in the story to make it clear. I mean, I write plenty of stories with large casts, but those tend to be epic or political fantasies where people are working against each other. The main crew still tends to be small within those others.

4 Likes

This really is a very interesting question and not something that I had actually thought about before. But I just went through my whole folder of original fiction as well as fanfiction, going back a long time (the oldest story I have is from November 1998, when I nine …). What I found was this:

Out of a total of 68 counted stories, I wrote about single characters 18 % of the time, about duos 51 %, and about small groups 28 %. 2 Stories were written about big groups of characters; both of those were fanfictions.
Also, fanfiction is heavily weighted towards duos (70%), while original fiction is more likely to be about single characters (33%) or small groups (50%).

So, that tells me several things.
(1) I’m actually interested in the way characters relate to each other. Which is surprising, because when I first read your question, I would have guesses that about half of my stories are about single characters. I’m autistic (Asperger’s) and have considerable trouble with social interaction. Maybe I’ve been subconsciously using my writing as a means of exploring how groups work?
(2) I like exploring how characters in books/movies/shows I like relate to each other. Well, I knew that. :wink:
(3) In original fiction, I seem evenly interested in exploring an idea only (single characters) or exploring social interaction as well.

So, my personal experience definitely influences how I write and what sorts of social relationships I write about. I’m an introvert and an Aspie and I definitely cannot deal with large groups of people, so that shows in how those are rare to come up in my stories. (Even the two fanfics that had them were really long works.) But if I do write larger groups of characters, then I need to break them down into smaller chunks that I can deal with more easily. One of those big-cast stories had time travel, so that conveniently broke the cast up, and the other had intersecting groups of characters.

Thanks for asking this question, by the way! It was really interesting to consider, as well as to look at my stories and find something I really wasn’t expecting.

8 Likes

This is a very interesting question indeed!
I would consider myself as a loner for most days - with writing however I feel that I’m doing a lot better in a group. That is probably because I’ve known those friends in my writing group for years and we do regular meetings to write together and my productivity is a lot better when we’re doing challenges and sprints. I don’t see them all that often because I don’t live too near to them so they’ll motivate me via our group chats :slight_smile:

It does show in my stories. I think my characters do have traits on how my social dynamics work. I tend to have at least a pair of main characters and while they are loners in some regard I deem it important to have them have social interactions just like myself. That doesn’t mean that they do not have a complex mindset on their own, or at least I tend to think so. They have traits, strenghts and weaknesses just like the people around me. Fundamentally I try to mix social interactions with individual context and I think I’m getting there.

One thing I learned in my years of writing is that I do better with duos and trios and do not that great with writing really large groups - so that’s where my focus shifted towards to and so far I can say it’s been fun writing those kind of stories!

4 Likes

Very interesting! Especially how all the answers so far match my experiences… Like @Akino_K, I’m autistic and like everyone so far, I’m something of a loner - introvert, plus autistic, pretty much a given. I’ve got a few close friends, but half of those are online mostly-to-only.

My protagonists tend to be duos, and if I’m writing fanfic with larger groups I tend to focus on a primary duo or trio (depending on the original). There are often interactions with larger groups happening in the course of the story, of course - hard to write a story with only two people involved, at least for me! - but the protagonists themselves do tend to be more loner/small group people.

On the other hand, when I’m reading, I can keep track of large casts and know what they’re all doing at any particular point in the story (assuming we’ve been told, that is), whereas one of the reasons my mother doesn’t care for SF/Fantasy is because she can’t do that. :wink:

So yes, I’d say at least somewhat in my case.

3 Likes

interesting question. I never really noticed it in my writing. I have a tendency to write alone most of the time because the writing group in my region meets at times that I’m not able to attend. It really doesn’t matter to me if I’m in a group or not. I’m using my imagination so much while I write that I really don’t notice anyone around me anyway.

Interesting. I’m very introverted and a loner. Almost hermit status. Even being with close friends tires me out.

But I still enjoy fiction that focuses heavily on character interactions. My favorite show is Hannibal, for example. I adored the scenes of two men sitting in chairs across from each other just… talking. I think the entertaining tension that drives my favorite stories is usually generated by two well-rounded characters just sharing the same space and watching them go.

1 Like

I’m too lazy to interact with people (I swear going or and making new friends is on my to do list) so I suppose I fall into this category.

I tend to write large casts of characters. With multiple soap opera like plots occuring while my cast attempts to save the world (or the cheerleader). My thought is life continues to happen even in a crisis and I want to show that.

I have two characters whose marriage is on crisis. He’s close to divorce because he feels abandoned, she’s embarrassed because she realizes she hasn’t lived up to the promises she made when they married. But they have to work together to save the world. That also doesn’t mean any of his friends want to be in the same room as her. That also doesn’t mean they don’t have to be.

I like that multi level dynamic. It makes the world feel more real to me.

Welp, I guess I’ll be the first extrovert in the thread. :joy: I have a wide and varied social life and enjoy interacting with large groups of people. However! My stories tend not to have very many characters? I tend to write first person or third limited and I rarely have more than one narrator. Usually it centers around the narrator’s close friendships, partners, or family (usually one or two people). But I do tend to write them going out and doing things. I rarely write stories that take place in somebody’s house or alone, for example. The settings are usually places like bars, conventions, parties, coffee shops, road trips, big city streets, and other places with lots of potential interaction rather than two or three people talking in a room with no one else around, if that makes sense? Which really reflects how I interact with most of my friends. We’re usually out somewhere doing something. So I guess my writing is influenced by those experiences.

1 Like

Like many of the others here, I am an introvert and a loner. I tend to spend a lot of time at home and I have mild social anxiety. I could go on about my lack of friends, but I probably already sound weird enough as it is…

Anyway, the characters in my stories tend to interact mainly in small groups. In my main story right now, the MMC started out much like me (a loner, very few friends, kinda nerdy, etc.) then, over the course of the story, he started a relationship with his long-time crush. In future stories, he met his best friend (who started out as a love rival, actually) and another friend that he dated to make his girlfriend jealous (long story, but it makes sense in the plot).

Another story that comes to mind is very similar. The FMC is a loner and borderline-gothic (there really is not much more description about her personality before the story begins) and then later in the story, she becomes a part of a strange small group assortment of other characters (a centaur, a fairy, and a rejected palace guard who also just-so-happens to be a werewolf).

Yeah, my characters all have better social lives than I do…

5 Likes

I think I sway both ways, which is shown in the works I have published as well as drafts that have never seen the light of day. One of my published series is about a large group of people who all interact with each other constantly, and the other duology is about a highly introverted girl who almost never interacts with anyone. And that pattern plays out in most my works - I swing to one end of the scale or the other without much difficulty.

But then, I am an ambivert and often swing between wanting to be entirely alone to needing to be surrounded by others. So maybe that is reflected in my work, as well, and it just depends which side of the scale I am on when the project is dreamed up and started.

I can honestly say that I’m not an extrovert but not truly an introvert. I’m happiest staying at home with my boyfriend and maybe a friend coming over once in a while. But if put in a social situation I can play the part of an extrovert quite easily.
I have PTSD which sometimes can make social interaction quite difficult if not nearly impossible.
I will say that I think that comes through in my original fiction. A character who has to work at social situations and is much happier being left alone. My epic that I’m currently working on seems to be altering that trend though. I guess that can happen sometimes.

I’m an ambivert with a varied (and rather demanding) social life, though I’m happier alone. Most of my characters operate as a duo/trio in ways I do not (the pair of friends with whom I hang out most are married; otherwise, I’m usually in a big group).

However, I feel this is more indicative of literary restraints than it is that the characters don’t do well in a bigger group (5-20 people). It’s difficult to give adequate characterization, importance, and dialogue to that many characters in a scene or story, so the roles that might have been represented in “real life” by a dozen people are focused into a single character or two for economic reasons.

2 Likes

I’m going to flip this around a little and talk about what I write, then get into my interactions with people.

In general, my stories focus on an individual who happens to have a close group of friends gained over the course of the story (or trilogy). The group usually maxes out at around six people, and I’ve found if I have the group of friends in the story, it’s easier to hit 50,000 words than if there’s only one or two close individuals to the main character (like last year’s where I was struggling to pad out to 50k). This is probably why my short stories have a main character and one or two supporting characters.

Now, this actually translates pretty well to how I am in social situations. I have a bit of a strong (if not sometimes unfiltered) personality that tries to get people to see how clever I am (I’m always cracking jokes/puns). I’m fine with being an introvert, but if I’m ever invited to a party or other social interaction, I always make it a point to go (who knows if I’ll get a chance to talk about my writing? :wink: ). I also do this because I have tried to put on social events on numerous occasions…and nobody shows up. It kind of hurts because it says to me, “We’re all busy enough that we don’t want to take the time to develop a friendship with you.” Granted, as I mentioned above, I can occasionally be abrasive and not realize it, which is probably part of the problem. As a result, I’m now incredibly cynical and find most people are too flaky to pursue friendships with. Consequently, I only have about 5-6 close friends who I can rely on at any one time. They are good about including me in events and I make sure to invite them to any of the events I put on as well. While I’m just fine being my introvert self at home, I do occasionally like to talk to other people so I can get my varied thoughts off my chest.

1 Like

I think I’m somewhere between a loner and a social person. I like being alone but I also love hanging out with people. And when I think about it, my characters are like that too. The main character of my biggest project, God Lives in Amuri, is kind of a loner. But the thing is, I focus on her interactions with others. I don’t write about the time she’s alone, because that wouldn’t be as interesting because of the story. So… Does this mean I kind of focus on one part of myself too? Is it easier to think about the times where I’m with people, because I get bored when alone, no matter how much I like it? Because what’s being alone if you can’t compare it with the time I spend with friends? I don’t really know.