How To Write a Socially Awkward Character [17 Awkward Tips]

Imagine navigating a party with the grace of a giraffe on roller skates – that’s our starting point for writing socially awkward characters

Here is how to write a socially awkward character:

Write a socially awkward character by emphasizing traits like hesitancy in speech, difficulty in understanding social cues, and awkward responses in conversations. Portray their unique perspectives and challenges through realistic dialogue, distinct mannerisms, and their interactions with others.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to write a socially awkward character.

What Is a Socially Awkward Character?

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A socially awkward character typically struggles with social norms and interactions.

These individuals often find themselves out of sync with the people around them.

Their awkwardness can stem from various sources, such as personal insecurities, lack of social experience, or even underlying psychological issues.

What makes these characters so compelling is their genuine nature and the unique perspectives they bring to everyday situations.

They’re not your typical protagonists or sidekicks; they’re complex individuals with layers of personality that unfold in interesting ways throughout a story.

Types of Socially Awkward Characters

Socially awkward characters come in various forms, each with their unique quirks and challenges.

Here’s a list of ten types you might consider for your story:

  • The Shy Introvert: Prefers solitude, struggles with large groups.
  • The Misunderstood Genius: Highly intelligent but socially inept.
  • The Social Novice: New to social norms due to isolated upbringing.
  • The Overthinker: Analyzes social situations too much, leading to awkwardness.
  • The Blunt Speaker: Unaware of the impact of their words, often seems rude.
  • The Anxious Worrier: Overly concerned about what others think, leading to awkwardness.
  • The Eccentric Oddball: Unique interests or habits that set them apart.
  • The Insecure Self-Doubter: Lacks confidence, often second-guesses themselves.
  • The Unintentional Comedian: Unaware of the humor they bring to situations.
  • The Empathic Listener: Great at listening but struggles to contribute to conversations.

11 Traits of a Socially Awkward Character

When crafting a socially awkward character, it’s essential to consider the specific traits that make them stand out.

Each trait should be unique and add depth to the character’s personality.

Here are eleven traits to consider, each with a detailed explanation and examples.

The Misplaced Commentator

The Misplaced Commentator often makes comments that seem out of context or inappropriate for the situation.

This trait stems from their inability to read the room or to understand the emotional tone of a conversation.

For example, in a story, this character might make a humorous remark at a funeral, not out of disrespect but because they genuinely don’t grasp the solemnity of the occasion.

Their comments can lead to uncomfortable situations, but also reveal their unique perspective on life.

The Unaware Intruder

This character type inadvertently invades personal space or oversteps social boundaries.

They might stand too close to others or ask overly personal questions without realizing it’s inappropriate.

In a story, you could illustrate this by having the character join a private conversation uninvited, not recognizing the need for privacy.

This trait highlights their struggle to understand social norms, often leading to awkward situations.

The Rigid Ritualist

The Rigid Ritualist relies heavily on routine and specific patterns in social interactions.

They struggle when routines are disrupted or when they’re faced with unpredictable social situations.

In a narrative, this could be shown by the character becoming visibly uncomfortable or anxious when their usual coffee shop seat is taken, disrupting their daily routine.

This trait underscores their need for predictability and the challenges they face in a world that is anything but predictable.

The Silent Observer

This character is often found on the fringes of social gatherings, observing but rarely participating.

They struggle with initiating conversations or joining in, often due to fear of saying the wrong thing.

In a story, you could show this character attending a party but spending the evening quietly observing from a corner.

Their silence is not a lack of interest but a protective mechanism against their social fears.

The Literal Thinker

The Literal Thinker has trouble understanding sarcasm, idioms, or figurative language, taking things at face value.

In your writing, this could be depicted by the character misinterpreting a sarcastic comment as a

serious statement, leading to confusion or unintended actions.

For instance, if someone says “break a leg” before a performance, the Literal Thinker might genuinely be concerned for the person’s physical well-being.

This trait not only creates humorous misunderstandings.

But it also highlights the character’s unique way of processing language and social cues.

The Over-Enthusiast

The Over-Enthusiast shows excessive excitement or interest in social interactions, often overwhelming others.

In a narrative, this could manifest as the character laughing too loudly at jokes, or being overly eager in conversations, which might intimidate or push others away.

This trait stems from their desire to connect with others, but their intensity can inadvertently create social barriers.

The Awkward Empath

This character is highly sensitive to others’ emotions but struggles to respond appropriately.

They might sense someone’s discomfort but respond in a way that seems odd or unrelated.

For example, they might offer a scientific fact as a way to comfort someone who’s sad.

Their empathy is genuine, but their execution is often off the mark, showing their struggle to navigate emotional landscapes.

The Unintentional Offender

The Unintentional Offender often says things that come off as rude or insensitive without meaning to start an argument.

They might not understand the emotional weight of their words or the cultural sensitivities surrounding certain topics.

In a story, this character could make a blunt observation that offends others, not realizing the impact of their words.

This trait can lead to conflict but also growth as they learn the nuances of social interaction.

The Nervous Reactor

The Nervous Reactor displays visible signs of discomfort in social situations, like fidgeting or avoiding eye contact.

In your story, this character might play with their hair or tap their foot incessantly during a conversation.

These physical manifestations of their nervousness can make social interactions even more challenging, as they struggle to appear calm and collected.

The Misguided Peacemaker

This character tries to resolve conflicts but often ends up making things worse due to their lack of social finesse.

For instance, they might interrupt a heated argument to offer a solution that is completely off-topic or irrelevant.

Their intentions are good, but their lack of understanding of the social dynamics at play can lead to more tension rather than resolution.

The Socially Oblivious

The Socially Oblivious character is often unaware of social cues and norms.

They might laugh at the wrong time, not pick up on sarcasm, or fail to recognize when they’re being excluded.

In a story, this could be someone who doesn’t realize they’re not invited to a social gathering and shows up anyway.

This trait highlights the character’s innocent unawareness of the complexities of social interactions.

How to Describe the Voice and Dialogue of a Socially Awkward Character

When writing a socially awkward character, their voice and dialogue are crucial elements that can convey their personality and social discomfort.

These characters often have distinctive speech patterns and ways of expressing themselves.

Here are some tips to effectively describe their voice and dialogue:

  • Hesitant Speech: Use pauses and ellipses to show hesitation, e.g., “I was just… wondering if… maybe…”
  • Low Volume: Describe their voice as soft, whispery, or barely audible, indicating shyness or uncertainty.
  • Stammering or Stuttering: Incorporate stammering or stuttering to reflect nervousness, e.g., “I-I don’t really know how to-to explain it.”
  • Monotone Delivery: Portray their speech as lacking inflection, which can signal discomfort or social inexperience.
  • Formal Language: Use formal or overly precise language, showing a disconnect from casual conversation.
  • Rapid Speech: Describe their dialogue as fast-paced, often a sign of nervous energy or eagerness to get their words out.
  • Avoidance of Eye Contact: Mention that they avoid eye contact while speaking, a common trait in socially awkward individuals.
  • Literal Interpretation: Show their tendency to interpret things literally in conversation.
  • Rarely Initiating Conversation: Point out that they seldom start a conversation or change the subject, often reacting to others’ cues.
  • Awkward Humor: Include attempts at humor that might come off as odd or mistimed.
  • Self-Interrupting: Describe them as frequently starting a sentence and then stopping midway, second-guessing what they’re about to say.
  • Apologizing Often: Have them apologize frequently within dialogue, even when it’s not necessary.
  • Mismatched Responses: Illustrate situations where their responses don’t quite match the conversational context, highlighting their struggle to keep up with social cues.

How to Describe a Socially Awkward Character in a Story (3 Full Examples)

Describing a socially awkward character in a story involves more than just stating their awkwardness.

It’s about showing their traits through their actions, dialogue, and the reactions of others.

Let’s look at three examples set in different genres, showcasing how to effectively bring a socially awkward character to life.

The Misfit in High School Drama

Eleanor walked through the crowded hallways of Lincoln High, her gaze fixed firmly on the floor.

Her oversized sweater was a shield against the sea of judgmental eyes. Every time someone brushed past her, she flinched, as if their very presence was an electric shock. In class, she sat at the back, her voice a mere whisper when called upon. Her answers, though always correct, seemed to vanish into the air, unheard over the snickers of her classmates.

Eleanor’s brilliance was hidden beneath layers of shyness, her sharp wit and keen observations reserved for the pages of her ever-present notebook.

The Awkward Detective in Mystery

Detective John Harper was brilliant at piecing together clues but hopelessly lost in the puzzle of human interaction.

His introductions were always a beat too long, a handshake lingering until it became uncomfortable. In interrogations, his bluntness often bordered on rudeness, yet there was an unintentional charm in his lack of guile.

John’s eyes, always squinting as if trying to decipher the world itself, missed the subtle twitches and shifts that spoke volumes to others.

His colleagues found his methods unorthodox, but behind the awkward exterior lay a mind that saw patterns where others saw chaos.

The Quirky Scientist in Science Fiction

Dr. Lydia Braun was a genius in her lab, surrounded by test tubes and equations, but a fish out of water in social situations.

Her conversations were littered with scientific jargon, incomprehensible to her peers.

At conferences, she would ramble on about quantum theories, oblivious to her audience’s glazed expressions. Lydia’s attire was always a step out of sync with current fashion, her hair perpetually tousled as if she’d just experienced a minor lab explosion.

Yet, in her eyes shone a fierce passion for knowledge, a spark that burned brightly in her isolated world.

50 Ideas for a Character Feeling Awkward

Here are 50 ideas for how to write a character feeling awkward:

  1. Forgetting someone’s name right after being introduced.
  2. Laughing at a joke they didn’t understand.
  3. Accidentally making eye contact with a stranger and holding it too long.
  4. Tripping over nothing while walking.
  5. Waving back at someone who wasn’t waving at them.
  6. Misinterpreting a friendly gesture as romantic interest.
  7. Overdressing or underdressing for an event.
  8. Trying to join a conversation and being ignored.
  9. Forgetting important details in a conversation.
  10. Having food stuck in their teeth and not realizing it.
  11. Mispronouncing a common word in public.
  12. Being unable to find a topic of conversation on a date.
  13. Walking in the wrong direction, then awkwardly turning around.
  14. Accidentally interrupting someone.
  15. Spilling a drink on themselves or someone else.
  16. Telling a story and realizing no one is listening.
  17. Being the first to arrive at a meeting or party.
  18. Mishearing someone and responding inappropriately.
  19. Awkwardly standing in a group photo.
  20. Not getting a pop culture reference in a conversation.
  21. Laughing nervously in a serious situation.
  22. Sending a text to the wrong person.
  23. Not knowing how to end a conversation.
  24. Accidentally liking an old photo on someone’s social media.
  25. Calling a teacher or boss by their first name mistakenly.
  26. Overthinking a handshake or hug.
  27. Being unable to operate simple technology in front of others.
  28. Accidentally eavesdropping on a conversation.
  29. Getting lost in a familiar place.
  30. Misjudging someone’s sense of humor.
  31. Forgetting where they parked their car.
  32. Being too shy to ask for directions.
  33. Overexplaining themselves when not needed.
  34. Saying “you too” when a waiter says “enjoy your meal.”
  35. Walking into a glass door or window.
  36. Not knowing how to react to a compliment.
  37. Having a voice crack during a speech.
  38. Wearing an outfit similar to someone else at an event.
  39. Struggling to open packaging in public.
  40. Accidentally making a loud noise in a quiet room.
  41. Forgetting to mute themselves in a virtual meeting.
  42. Repeating a joke because they thought no one heard it the first time.
  43. Misreading the dress code for a job interview.
  44. Awkwardly standing in an elevator with strangers.
  45. Being scared by something benign, like a balloon popping.
  46. Having their card declined at a checkout.
  47. Accidentally calling someone by the wrong name.
  48. Getting caught talking to themselves.
  49. Having a sneezing fit in a quiet room.
  50. Laughing at an inappropriate time during a movie.

Here is a video that will help you write about the link between socially awkward characters and trauma:

YouTube Video by Crappy Childhood Fairy – How to write a socially awkward character

Final Thoughts: How To Write a Socially Awkward Character

Embrace the quirky charm of your socially awkward characters; they remind us that it’s okay to stumble in the social dance of life.

For more insights on how to write characters, explore other articles on our website.

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National Institutes of Health (NIH) – Research on Social Awkwardness