My protagonist isn't very good with people. It's not because she is timid or an introvert but because she hasn't known anyone besides her grandmother and cousin for as long as she can remember. She hasn't had any social life. She however is talkative in front of people she is used to.

In this particular scene, the protagonist is left alone in a place she has never been to and meets someone new. It's dark and she can't see anything but learns that someone else is there because the other character breaks the silence first. She is in a state of panic because the last thing she remembers is an accident and she just woke up from a very intense dream. Would it make sense for my protagonist, who doesn't know how to treat people besides her grandmother and cousin, to ask the new character right away where she is, who the other character is, if her grandmother and cousin are also here, etc.? If not, how can I show that my main character is awkward in front of unfamiliar people while asking these questions? Or should I use a different method to reveal those facts? (e.g. make the other character just tell those to my protagonist) The information is necessary for the plot to proceed.

3 Answers 3


Social awkwardness, in my opinion, is not best demonstrated at the moment your character first wakes up. Almost anyone, in that situation, is going to be alarmed and disoriented, and if you really want the audience to believe that your character is more awkward than the typical person, it's going to take a lot of work to sell it to them just in that one interaction. Unless it's done very well, it will probably come off as unnatural or at least overemphasized. However, you can transition to a more "normal" mode of interaction once you get the basic "who are you, where am I, etc.?" questions out of the way.

Under more relaxed conditions, the sort of character you describe (i.e. not introverted, timid, or otherwise shy, but just unsocialized) might engage in the following behaviors:

  • Asking inappropriate (too personal, irrelevant, etc.) questions.
  • Going into unnecessary or inappropriate detail about their personal life. Alternatively, refusing to answer even the most basic questions (such as "where did you grow up?").
  • Failing to read social cues (such as another character subtly hinting that they want to end the conversation).
  • Excessive or inadequate use of "please," "thank you," etc., as well as titles or honorifics such as Mr./Ms., Dr., Sir/Ma'am, and so forth. More generally, use of the wrong register for a given context.
  • Speaking too quickly, too loudly, or in another way that makes them "annoying" to the other characters.
  • Interrupting people for no reason.
  • Changing the subject too frequently or inartfully.
  • Not knowing how to respond, and dropping the thread of conversation.

I cannot tell you which of these behaviors, or other behaviors, your character will engage in, because I do not know your character. Hopefully, some of these will resonate with your understanding of your character, but if not, you may need to think more carefully about your character's voice and the social dynamics which you want to portray.


Your character should be perfectly fine with asking for basic information, even from people they don't know. She probably won't ask about their family, but would definitely want to know where/when she is and who the other people are.

As for showing how they are awkward, it should be easy. In the dialogue, add a few pauses or maybe switch out a word so it still has the same meaning but just sounds a bit off. Maybe repeat a few words every now and then. Eg- 'Where am I?' becomes 'Where...Where be I?'. You can also make her talk slightly differently than normal, I think speaking slowly(quickly might also work) and quietly would be best.

If you want to find a good example of this, find somebody who's been homeschooled for a while and talk to them a bit and note their behavior. It's probably very similar to what you're going for.


From a writing standpoint, she should work for the answers, not be given them (Show don't tell)... even if "work" is merely asking the questions. These should be the first question anyone waking up in an unknown dark room would want to ask (Who are you?! Where am I?! How did I get here?! Why am I here?! When did this happen?! WTF?!)

It's okay to have Shadow start the dialog, but it should be something calming. He should only give the info dump when prompted by her (Starting with "Oh, good, you're awake.").

If she's too timid to talk, maybe draw the scene out. Have Shadow discuss his experience. Has he been there a while? Is there an unusual but predictable occurrence like once a day, for one hour, they turn on the purple lights... then after that happens 8 times, the light is Orange? Have him approach her slowly and build up to where she's talking a mile a minute when she's ready for exposition on what the place is. Also have him ask about her dream... maybe she talks in her sleep? Maybe she dropped a clue about the nature of the dream that he's interested in.

Don't leave it up to someone else to move your protagonist's story along... your protagonist should be doing that on her own.

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