Is it hard to write social awkwardness well?

I read a Wattpad book called “Conan the Dandelion”, where the main character is socially awkward. I don’t think it was written well, Conan fails to understand the most basic of phrases, like “broken heart” and acts shy. Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that he was clearly written this way primarily to be endearing to the audience.

Social Awkwardness is frustrating to have, and hard for a lot of people to write. Why is that?

2 Likes

So true! I guess it’s because we all hate social awkwardness so much that we despise any character who suffers from it…? I dunno, but I suspect that no matter how well you write it, those characters will be hated anyway.

My first book was about an awkward, timid cop who finds himself pursuing a serial killer, and he, the cop, is actually frightened of criminals. I loved the story so I’m leaving it up, but readers complained that they hated the wimpy mc. People just hate wimps, and they’re entitled to. ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯

2 Likes

They hate wimps, but they like soft boys. Wrap your head around that one.

2 Likes

“Soft boy” is the keyword I used on Amazon! For just that very reason. Yeah, I can’t figure that out, either. ☜(ˆ▿ˆc)

1 Like

Part of it is that most people are most people because the majority is most…so the banality of that impedes getting it right.

Everyone is awkward in their life, but they are “plain vanilla” awkward, so they’re writing a story where they are putting something that they can relate to in epic proportions without a real inkling of what epic proportions looks like.

I was abnormally socially awkward. That’s not a lack of understanding phrases (I was a major smartass, Quips weren’t a problem), but catching onto what people mean (motivations) about 3 steps behind where I should, being distracted by the conversation in my head and 3 tables over when I should deal with whatever is in front of me, being embarrassed by things that other people are not, having a high level of arrogance towards people struggling where I don’t…I mean, this is a major screw up.

Look, this guy asks me out to an early dance, I look at him like he’s grown an extra head and go “…No!!” Here I am, starting to slide towards overblown (I was in a DD cup), the guy is in sports, charismatic, cheerful…and so he asks another girl who is not as weird, but definitely just as chubby, and they go to this dance just fine.

But it meant that I walked into a class with him, later, and he’s teasing me about trying to come sit in his lap. I know he’s picking. I understand the words. I didn’t get his motive. By that time, I figured he had been serious about the dance, but he never asked again, and I wasn’t going to have “the talk” at that point. I must have turned beet red, when I told him, “I’d rather arm-wrestle you.”

He thought that was awesome, agreed to it, and I’m shaking my head, saying, “dude, you’re going to win…”

And so I arm-wresteld my highschool quarterback because I couldn’t fathom sitting on his lap publicly. I’m going with?! even 23 years later.

And it’s an iconic part of my graduating class: a pic of us arm wrestling made it into our slideshow, and everyone busts out laughing about it because everyone knew something was up with us, but that it was going nowhere.

All because I couldn’t understand him and he didn’t find my my confusion worth fighting.

And we both made it well, out of that. My husband has more hair than he does, and his wife is smoking hot. Lmao

2 Likes

But it sticks with me. I’m 40, and there’s still a part of me that wants to ask why, what the hell did he see in me to even bother?

I certainly don’t want to have that confused with interest?

I do wish we got along better, so I’d be on friendly terms with him, but he’s a stranger. I don’t know this guy. There’s a lot of guys who were great that are just a blip on the radar, like that.

2 Likes

There’s a difference between socially awkward and stupid, and people who are not socially awkward, who write characters who are supposed to be, usually do it completely wrong and just make the character look stupid.

Everyone has stupid moments occasionally, and people who aren’t always socially awkward think that those dumb mistakes are socially awkward so they use them as examples of it. But a genuinely, consistently socially awkward person isn’t awkward because they had a quick brain fart moment that just lasted forever. They are awkward because social rules, behaviors, and etiquette don’t make sense, never have, and never will.

It’s one of those things in life that can’t be learned like math or science where there is always a right answer. Every individual person reacts differently and needs different things for any given social interaction. Socially challenged individuals simply can’t pick up on the nuances and indicators most other people subconsciously learn easily to tell what is socially acceptable to a person. We have to guess, and are often times wrong.

I’m not going to say that people can’t find socially awkward people endearing because of their struggle, because it is something that can and should be empathized with and people should love us for our faults and struggles as well as for our strengths and successes. But it isn’t something that should be uwu-ified either, because that is just condescending to us and infantizes us. Being socially awkward and a “soft boy” are not mutually exlusive. Socially awkward people come in all sorts of varieties of personality. And just because someone is soft does not mean they can’t be charismatic either.

I think most writers have a sever misunderstanding about what it means to be socially awkward and that is why, when they try to write a character as such, they fail horribly and their character is disliked.

2 Likes

Yeah, I’ve seen that a lot. The person who doesn’t know what “broken heart” means and is over the age of 3 has greater problems than simple social awkwardness.

1 Like

(Agreement) It depends on the spectrum. Yeah, for some, they never get it. Others get it later than everyone else. Believe me, you embarrass me enough, I will learn why things are the way they are…but I don’t naturally see it, immediately, and then eventually I crawl out the other side where I’m like “How stupid is mankind that he is caught up in this?!”

That’s one thing I enjoy about being 40 and starting to shift into Granny mode. The lack becomes an asset, as I don’t HAVE to conform. Hell, getting married, half the intimidation of having to deal with guys is out the window. I don’t have to worry about who he is now or who he will be because they’re all piffle. The whole anxiety that drives a romance is plain gone.

It’s fun acting like an insane nut with my spouse. No expectations of social conformity for either of us.

2 Likes

I think @KurokageJS does it really well in her book series Eliona’s War.

As someone who is social awkward at times - mostly in academic situations, though I’ve been improving a lot - I related to the MC a TON and I was able to laugh at myself a lot while reading it. However, she did get some complaints that while it was cute at first, it got really old when the MC didn’t improve. I think people want the social awkwardness to be the character’s flaw, and they want it to be something that the MC acknowledges and fixes about themself rather quickly.

Instead, Kuro uses this awkwardness as a tool for humor, sympathy, and, later on, as a strength of the MC because it allows him to connect with some really cool characters throughout the series. And I personally think that’s the best way an author could use it. There’s nothing wrong with being awkward. Some people just are. But I think it is really difficult to write social awkwardness, because unless it’s a charming or charismatic form of awkward, the MC can come off as just stupid and unlikeable. And charming, charismatic characters usually aren’t socially awkward. So it’s a weird balance, imo. I definitely can’t pull it off unless I’m writing a side character, in which case I feel like readers have more patience with it because they’re not constantly in that character’s head.

2 Likes

That’s the thing. Few writers truly treat flaws as assets and assets as flaws. They are tools and traits. How they are used determines their use.

For example: “socially awkward” covers far more than just inept. It covers those who find it all bs, which is Samuel Vimes in the Discworld series. There’s a passing scene where the Patrician sends Vimes as the Duke of Ankmorepork to be it’s ambassador a few times. Negotiations to prevent war tended to go better when the man who is going to tell the opposition that he’s going to knick his knadgers and beat his face in with them quite personally is the one who is facing facing “issues of state”. It shifts the noble from thinking about how his men can die in a battle and still win a war with a neighboring kingdom and forces him to think about how short his life will be if he crosses the descendent of the Regicide.

Honestly, “socially inept from ignorance” is Isekai. Half the time they are inept, the other half they are running circles around everyone because they refuse to conform. It’s the same exact trait, played out in varying extremes.

If you’re very concisely expressing how this isn’t a change in the person’s quirk, but learning how to weild their quirk, you’re writing a better character. And I wish more people would write like that because they are stuck in a “morally rigid framework” in an era that denies a lot of morals.

3 Likes

Nevr really thought about it, but you’re right.

I think it’s because, why everyone has been in a socially awkward situation, being socially awkward is way different.

Maybe they’re focusing heavily on the word ‘awkward’? Because, imo, why someone being socially awkward (or perhaps socially anxious is more appropriate to attribute?) is sometimes obvious/endearing to a lot of people–being socially awkward in general is less about how you present to others but how you present to yourself.

Like, to give a quick example, I suffer from social anxiety. Before I was managing it properly, a socially awkward situation for me could be as simple as laughing a little too loud, or maybe smiling “strangely” at a cash register. More than likey, no one noticed or cared that I laughed too weird or smiled. To me, though, these incidents were the fucking end of the world. My brain would scream, I would sweat, and I would have a hard time breathing.

A time where it was obvious was another time when we got a new Co-Worker and I went to shake her hand. I had just been cutting cake so I washed my hands before shaking hers, and my hand was way too wet because I was nervous. I then laughed and tried to make a joke of it, and another co-worker pointed out how awkward I was being. (Sounds harsh, but she was not being mean.)

Maybe people focus too much on how socially awkward people present to others, like my latter example, and less like how it feels to the person, like the former example

2 Likes

This too, lmaooo

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.