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The Loner

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 13, 2021
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Silent types can be very alluring. They don't really engage with other people, they are content to be on their own, they have developed their own special, unique manner of wading through life independently, which makes them interesting. They are their own kind of strong, even if they are avoiding people due to phobias or other situations that may mark them as weak by others or themselves.

As alluring and cool as they are, such characters are hell to write- because they are loners. Because they don't really engage with other people. Because they are content to be on their own.

It's very hard to have them show who they are, rather than force the writer to just tell the audience about them, which of course is not the best course of action if the audience is to care about them.

There are different ways to work around that issue. Depending on the style and genre of the story, they all can work well to maintain the feel of a character being a loner, while writing him/her into situations where his/her behavior can reflect his/her personality, philosophy, morals, goals, etc.

One way is the “voiceover”: the loner doesn't really interact with many people at all, but we are in his/her head, listen to his/her thoughts as they consider situations, problems, and dilemmas. This works well in noir stories, coupled with atmospheric angles and imagery from panel to panel.

Another way is to force the loner to interact with people that just won't stay away, for one reason or another. They may find a helpless character in their path- like a baby or toddler- that they begrudgingly take care of. They may be followed by a particularly persistent dog or cat. They may be hounded by another character that needs them to do something, for one reason or other: help them find something/someone, help them solve a problem, and so on.

On the flip side, they may be forced to seek out interaction themselves even though they don't want it, for one reason or other: something they deeply care about is at stake, and they need other peoples' help to do it. Someone has contractually obligated them to stick around a set of other characters, or to mentor someone even if they don't feel up to doing it. (or they decide to do it even if it goes against their personality, because they believe it's more important than their personal comfort)

Often, the loner character's arc revolves around them being a loner, and getting coaxed into developing a social net of sorts, that will protect them emotionally and/or physically despite their original stance/belief that they don't need it or they don't deserve to have it. That doesn't mean they become the ‘soul of the party’, but rather that they learn the value of team work and being part of a group as much as the value of being alone.

Other times, they have a different arc, where they learn something to better themselves that has little to do with their being loners, and they drift from group of characters to group of characters, amassing experiences without ever ‘settling down’ to be perpetually with any single one group. Often in such cases, they never meet the same people again in new stories or new chapters of the story after they say goodbye.

And still others, especially in strictly episodic stories, the character isn't the one that changes, but rather the environment he/she visits as he/she drifts from one place to the next. It's the characters he/she interacts with that change through interaction with him/her, rather than vice versa. When the change has been achieved (i.e. the character arc for the episodic characters has been completed) the loner simply moves on, never to return again.

Have you got loners in your webcomic casts? How do you handle them?

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comment

anonymous?

artofzinn at 4:11PM, Feb. 14, 2021

Im a loner , but I don't think it stems from any phobia or feeling of inadequacy. I see a lot of people who need other people , need approval or whatever , and to me it just seems odd . I am close to my wife and kids , but everyone else , not so much . I am polite in public situations , but I wouldn't call anyone a friend really , they're more acquaintances, and given the choice I perfer doing my own thing as opposed to interacting socially ...

Banes at 3:45PM, Feb. 14, 2021

One favorite of mine was McReady (Kurt Russell in 'The Thing'), who would pilot scientists out to the barren North Pole, and then sequester himself in his private shack once they got there.

Banes at 3:40PM, Feb. 14, 2021

Very interesting! Surrounding the loner with other people can show, by contrasting the loner's stoicism with a chattery, demonstrative type is a good way to highlight the loner's character. The show Dexter was surrounded by coworkers who mostly liked him, and even a family that loved him, but had no idea of his double life. His outsider/loner-ness was shown with scenes of his alone-time and secret activities, as well as voiceovers.

Gunwallace at 1:21AM, Feb. 14, 2021

Recently (re)watched the movie Amélie with my kids. She's a loner, but it's her interactions with others, and her secret desires not to be a loner, that are the core of that movie. Maybe Batman is the same in some ways? The loner who wants to team up. The loner who is made whole only when with/teaching/fighting others. Who is the loner talking to in the 'voiceover'? Isn't that alone a clue they don't want to be alone?

Tantz_Aerine at 4:40PM, Feb. 13, 2021

Eh... maybe it's my psychology background, but I would be extremely frugal and hesitant in making that kind of super broad statements about how batman is used by writers and as what kind of 'extension' or 'vessel' or 'projection', and whether he is a vehicle for any person's or sexuality's insecurities. It makes me very uncomfortable, Hushicho, to jump to conclusions with such ease, about so many different people, without anything else to go by than a character with a very strict framework dictated by the company that owns the rights to him. Other than that, I'd say it's very hard to write a loner MC but not impossible, and I agree on the rest.

hushicho at 3:49PM, Feb. 13, 2021

Batman isn't a loner, as a few have pointed out. He's boring by himself, but many writers use him as an extension of their insecure libido, which has led to him becoming a character who, much like Wolverine, has become little more than a vehicle for straight boy insecurities. You also really can't write a loner as the main focus in part of a lengthy ongoing story. You eventually will need other characters to exist, and the loner will need to interact with them. Loners can add spice and variety, but they are rarely able to carry a narrative by themselves. Even if it's tempting to forget all the supporting cast and all the people who make it work, you really can't.

Jason Moon at 10:48AM, Feb. 13, 2021

Batman has the mentality and workings of a lone wolf but if you think about all the episodes you've seen him in he surrounds himself with good people and bad. Bruce came across to me as someone who enjoys teaching or mentoring the younger generation whether it's Robin or Terry from Batman Beyond. He really makes a good teacher, even though he is strict. He has also had many flings with questionable dark women. He gets around.

bravo1102 at 7:48AM, Feb. 13, 2021

And of course folks make fun of it or belittle it and the loner isolates even more because that proves to them that no one can understand and that it isn't worth it to reach out. As Sarte said Hell is other people and many go out of their way to inflict it on others and often the loner isolates because they want no part of it because they think that only they see it for the empty hell that it all is.

bravo1102 at 7:43AM, Feb. 13, 2021

True loners often "play the game" of social interaction because it's what is expected of them. But again they are alone and even lonely when surrounded by people. They go through the motions but never connect because they're always alone. That's one version of the Batman. He plays the game and does what is expected but never connects but very rarely with Robin and Alfred. All others it's a facade and he remains alone. You'd be surprised how well one can do this and remain alone. Whether its fear or depression or just a deep dark hole inside that is what it can be.

Tantz_Aerine at 7:02AM, Feb. 13, 2021

Batman is a prime example of how a loner is always flanked by a ton of people ;)

KAM at 6:31AM, Feb. 13, 2021

Batman as loner... years ago some blogger mocked that. "I work alone... except for Robin... and Superman... and the Justice League of America... and those people I team up with in the Brave and the Bold..." Let's face it, Batman is a fake loner. Not to mention his secret identity being a social butterfly going to parties and clubs, etc. Batman #fakeloner ;-)

KAM at 6:26AM, Feb. 13, 2021

I've tried writing loners, but my sense of humor works best with, at least, two people.

bravo1102 at 2:55AM, Feb. 13, 2021

Considering I am one, it's hard to resist working them in. Many loners engage professionally and manage to be all alone even in a room full of people.


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