many of us have read novels about a lonely, brooding hero who is
emotionally unable or physically unwilling to engage with others in the
story? The ranch hand who prefers his horse to people, or a business
tycoon who rarely comes down from his penthouse to interact with the
I’ve read tons of them. The most
popular motivation behind the lone wolf’s preference for solitude is
some crime committed or action taken in his past and that he now
regrets and just wants to live solitarily to try to forget it ever
Nod your head if this rings a
(You’re nodding, aren’t you?)
I will break this stereotype yet
stay true to the loner mentality. After all, we read books with loner
heroes just so we can cheer them on when they come out of their
self-imposed boundaries, usually to hook up with the heroine. (I hope
you’re still nodding.)
There are two different types of
lone wolfs, the imposed loner and the preferred
loner. The first type doesn’t wish to be alone, but because
he is rejected by society, he is alone. The second type prefers
solitude and derives contentment, even pleasure, from it.
Below are nine reasons (read: motivations)
why a person might seek solitude as a preferred loner or why solitude
might seek a person as an imposed loner. You’ll notice that a history
of breaking the law is refreshingly absent.
At the risk of offending
extroverts, introverts find being around other people tiring. They
absolutely have to recharge from social interactions by getting away
and being alone. This restores their minds much as eating and sleep
restores their bodies. They are not antisocial, but may just have a low
need for affiliation.
Some introverts mask their
introversion with extroversion—if the motivation is high enough or the
cause worthy enough to do so. For example, Guy Kawasaki, the “Godfather
of Silicon Valley,” tweeted, “You may find this hard to believe, but I
am an introvert. I have a ‘role’ to play, but I am fundamentally a
When a person is unsure about
how she will be received, or she is overly critical about herself, this
insecurity can definitely manifest in a preference for solitude. The
fear of being negatively judged for her perceived imperfections both
personally and professionally can cripple this type of lone wolf. She’d
rather not go to a social mixer than risk amusement or derision due to
her inferiority complexes.
3) Pathologically Shy
These poor souls are most
definitely imposed loners. They might (and likely do) crave interaction
from the bottom of their hearts, but because of overwhelming anxiety or
fear, this outcome is impossible. As a side note, shyness begins in
childhood for many.
Don’t Want Distractions
Some lone wolves need solitude
with their thoughts. Other people are often tiresome or troublesome in
that they interfere with this process. Many lone wolves find
socializing tedious, and prefer to hunker down in their basements or
workshops to put their noses to the grindstone and develop the latest
and greatest technology or theorems. They may also feel that they can
focus better, mature faster, avoid peer pressure, and be more
reflective and introspective alone.
Perhaps a close second to the
lone wolf stereotype of the ex-CIA who is trying to move on from his
sordid past is the movie star who just wants to get away from
paparazzi. Valuing privacy, for whatever reason, is a valid motive for
wanting to live a life of solitude. Famous leading lady Greta Garbo
said, “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be
left alone.’ There is all the difference.”
John Krakauer wrote a national
best seller, Into the Wild, about a young man,
Chris McCandless, who shunned society in favor of living in the woods.
But you don’t have to go to the Alaskan wilderness to want to be this
way. I’ve encountered many homeless youth and adults who just want to
“travel” and “live off the land” (i.e., steal or trade a day’s labor
for food) in the alleyways of major cities. The reasons behind this
chosen lifestyle are many: activism, anarchism, environmentalism, or
separatism...the list goes on.
7) Religious Convictions
Some people want to live the
reclusive life of a hermit for spiritual reasons. Different faiths
espouse withdrawing from society to focus on God or enlightenment or
various equivalents. Removal for religious contemplation might be
spurred on by a bad choice or regret over committing a crime. These
loners might feel unworthy to be around others in civil society.
There seems to be a correlation
between creativity/originality and solitariness. Artistic types enjoy
their time immersed in paints, pastels, oils, clays, and canvasses.
According to research by San Francisco psychologist Elaine Aron,
withdrawn people have a high sensory keenness and are good at noticing
subtleties that other people miss. What better way to channel this
creativity than through the arts?
9) Mental Disorder
Many disorders could play into a
person’s desire to live a life of solitude. For example, a person with
body dysmorphic disorder may so dislike one or several physical
attributes that he wants to squirrel away and hide from others.
Schizoid Personality Disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in
social relationships, and people who suffer from Avoidant Personality
Disorder show a pervasive pattern of social inhibition/avoidance of
social interaction and extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation.
People can also have social phobia, where they are fearful of social
There you have it. Nine
out-of-the-stereotypical-box motivations for your lone wolf characters.