Susan Cain – “Quiet”

Quiet CoverThere are plenty of other reviews out there (1,500-plus on Amazon) that should be enough to convince you to read Quiet.

If you have found this review and if you are contemplating the investment of reading time, don’t hesitate any longer.

Quiet is thought-provoking and rich. I hope it  promotes a shift back from our current culture of personality to a culture of character.  I know it’s doubtful, but one can hope. The media infatuation with personality seems like a deep love affair. In some ways, the media are the personalities who in turn grab attention and enter the great maw of celebrity worship.  A vicious cycle.

Quiet encourages us, from schools to the workplace to our everyday interactions, to reconsider our thinking about introverts. Essentially, it’s an argument that the world would be a better place if we celebrated all aspects of humanity and understood that we need all types of brainpower and all types of character traits in order to move ahead. Quiet is one of those non-fiction reads that provides a new prism in which to view the world and I highly recommend it.

This review is being posted to suggest another audience for Quiet: fiction writers. (We know lots about being alone, anyway, so it’s interesting on that basis anyway.)

If you read Quiet and if you write fiction, you might never again think about any characters you develop without thinking about where and how they fall within the world of introverts, extroverts and ambiverts (individuals who don’t lean one way or the other).

From Susan Cain’s “Note on the Words Introvert and Extrovert” from the end of Quiet:

The book “focuses on the person who recognizes him- or herself somewhere in the following constellation of attributes: reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin-skinned. Quiet is also about this person’s opposite number: the ‘man of action’ who is ebullient, expansive, sociable, gregarious, excitable, dominant, assertive, active, risk-taking, thick-skinned, outer-directed, lighthearted, bold, and comfortable in the spotlight.”

Cain uses “introvert” and “extrovert” in broad terms but I’m recommending this book to any writer who is trying to think through a character under development—where does your antagonist or protagonist or other minor character fall within the options available?  Quiet is a handbook, based on science and lots of research, about personality types and how they function.

And, as with a lot of great fictional characters, it comes down to the inner life versus the outer life.  A solid contrast between the two always makes for a juicy character.  “Whoever you are,” Cain writes, “bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the efforts costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she mind be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.”

It’s a fascinating read—and an excellent breakdown of how to think about characters and you might cast them in your story.  Just a thought.

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One response to “Susan Cain – “Quiet”

  1. “culture of personality to a culture of character”… I like that..

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