Ode to the Shrinking Violet

I've only watched one episode of MLP.
For some reason, one of the character personality types I'm fond of the shrinking violets.

Shrinking Violets. These are the characters defined by their shyness. Shyness is the character's fatal flaw. So is lack of self-confidence, and the inability to stand up for oneself, and the social clumsiness they endure with every conversation.

Done right, they're one of the most sympathetic characters in a story. You can't help but feel sorry for what they're going through.

Done wrong, their passivity makes them annoying, and you want them to really develop some guts or get out of the game.

Done really right, they can overcome their problems and shine brighter than everyone else.

Shrinking violets. Love them.


First of all, look at the page image. That's Fluttershy, from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She's so shy, the word is even in her name. However, don't ask me about her. Ask one of my brony friends.

Another example that I'm more familiar with is Violet Carr from The Incredibles. Besides the name, her personality is established from her first full scene, with her using her invisibility powers while peeking at the boy she's crushing on. Her character was crafted with this concept in mind.

Yet another example, but in a darker work, is Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He's sometimes hated for being a wimp, but he's also a good example of someone who starts improving step by step--only to be broken when the rest of the series go downhill. He's also a male example, which I personally like better.

Oh, one more example for literary purposes: Harrison from This is Not a Test. He's the crybaby freshmen nobody else in the cast knew about before zombies arrived. Although it's not as prominent, it's clear that he's supposed to be this kind of person. I wished he had a slightly larger role compared with Rhys...

(If you want to know what my issue with Rhys is, read my Amazon review.)

The question is...why do these characters work?

Hidden Depths

One of the more powerful techniques I've witnessed with characterization is to associate a character with only one kind of emotion--and then push that expectation out of the window.

That nice, calm girl-next-door that everyone loves? She's a murderous madwoman.

The leader that everyone jokes about him having no emotions? He's breaking down every mission when no one's looking?

The shy little guy that no one thinks have any balls? Well...when he's angry and ready to swing fists, you better listen.

Really, I think the shrinking violet is one of the types most conductive to reversals. Purple is one of the darkest colors, after all, as opposed to its brightest opposite, yellow...with yellow being the Energetic Extrovert.

Something about the sharp contrast is powerful. Both the audience and everyone in-story don't expect the shrinking violet to be bold. So when he or she dares to be bold, it's an action that deserves to be noted.

How I'm Using Shrinking Violets

Well, "using", as in present tense, is a little of a stretch. Currently, Manifestation Files is on hold for NaNoWriMo and any short stories I'll be working on before or after November.

In the meantime, I'll be using it as an example.

The co-protagonist (which is the non-narrator protagonist) is Finn. From the moment he meets Bryan, his timidness shines, along with his awkwardness and clumsiness. Clearly, he never had any true friends, presenting quite a few challenges as Finn avoids insulting anybody--or causing Bryan to facepalm.

Bryan embarks to remedy that.

Of course, since nothing can be simple, Finn isn't what he seems.

Let's say that I overuse the word "facade" throughout the story, but with good reason.

But for now, I'll indulge in Finn's awkwardness--in my own imagination. I need to tend to Niv. He's a more cold variation of the shrinking violet, considering his muteness makes his social inactivity a choice.

Okay, end article now.

YOUR TURN: What's your opinion of shrinking violets? Love them? Hate them? Any favorites, or disfavorites?

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