Making the shy speak: Quiet characters

What IS she thinking?

I have a problem: one of the main characters of my new novel-in-progress is shy, quiet, tongue-tied. She’s also passionate, secretly sensual, and fiercely dedicated to what she cares about. But how do I get her to speak? What does it mean for narration when a character is quiet? Do I write in the third person? Or would that be like saying that, because she’s shy, Naomi can’t speak for herself?

You’d think I’d know what to do with Naomi since I am, myself, rather shy. It’s something that few people realize because I tend to project a bubbly personality–probably an overcompensation. Teaching, too, has helped me to be able to turn “on” even when I’d rather go hide behind a filing cabinet. But as this website all about shyness (and famous people who were shy) says, “Shyness is not who we are, but something we feel while we do the things we do.”

Okay, so Naomi doesn’t = shyness. But I believe she is–unlike me–the kind of shy person that other people recognize as shy. For the boy who’ll fall in love with her, that shyness is part of her mystique.

But what does the inner voice of a shy person sound like? If, for example, Naomi has trouble finding the words she needs to speak, does she nevertheless feel very strongly–inside–what she wants to say? How can I capture this contrast?

For my own confessions about overcoming shyness in the classroom, check out this post.


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