Loners and Gatherers

Anyone who knows me knows I’m organized. I also love to label things (that’s part of organization, after all!).  And labels that allow me to lump something unequivocally into one pile or the other?  Score!!

I used this theory on my clothes closet and office to great effect last weekend.  I labeled things as “keeper” or as “get-rid-of.”  I then went back through the “get-rid-of” and labeled as “recycle” or “destroy.”  I’m happy to say that both office and closet are in much better shape.

And so I turned my focus to my wip. (Please, no jokes about “recycle” or “destroy.”) Now, I’m sure many of you have encountered The Loner character—generally a hero, but sometimes a heroine or secondary character—in books you read.  The Loner, like that black and white movie screen image gunslinger, is a character who doesn’t communicate verbally that much.  He has a small cadre of people he confides in and trusts.  He forms his opinions of things and acts upon them.  Often, he has some wound that makes him mistrust Society at large.

Those of us who read and write romance in its many forms know the old adage of “opposites attract.”  The opposite of The Loner is what I call The Gatherer.  Don’t bother to look it up anywhere.  I’m pretty sure I just coined the phrase today.  The Gatherer is someone who effortlessly gathers people around him or her.  Gregarious by nature, The Gatherer communicates with everyone and often trusts where s/he shouldn’t.

The epiphany, for me, came when I thought about my parents.  My dad is classic Loner material.  A leader at work, he was always like a fish out of water with family and us kids. He’d rather stay home and watch TV than go to a party. He earned the money to put the food on the table, but he preferred not to have any of us talk at that table (as I recall, whistling and humming were ruled out, too).

My mom was The Gatherer who balanced him.  She talked to everybody—and as often as possible. She led volunteer activities, managed the ebb and flow of kids (most of whom weren’t family) from our house, and could throw a party for 50 in a heartbeat.

This difference in basic communication styles led to certain conflicts in our household.  Dad forever telling Mom to quit talking to strangers, Mom forever bemoaning the fact that Dad never wanted to get out and do things.  I’m not sure they ever successfully figured out how to play off each other’s strengths.

Little surprise that my sister is a Gatherer like Mom, while I’m much more of a Loner.  Oh, I can be a Gatherer, but my natural tendency is toward Loner.  The writer in me, I guess. I love to sit back and watch others play out the scenes of life.

What about you and your spouse or significant other?  Is one a Loner and the other a Gatherer?  Have you learned to use differences to your joint advantage?

And for anyone who may not want to delve so deeply into their own life, tell me this: is it cliche to use a Loner hero and a Gatherer heroine in a story?  Has anyone encountered a great story with a Loner heroine and a Gatherer hero?

About Amy Atwell

Amy Atwell is a storyteller at heart. After fifteen years in professional theater, she turned from the stage to the page to write contemporary capers and historical tales that combine romance and adventure. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, she runs the online author communities WritingGIAM and Author E.M.S.
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24 Responses to Loners and Gatherers

  1. Carrie Lofty says:

    I’ve known too many couples that were both gatherers or both loners to believe exclusively in opposites attracting. I think some people are so overwhelming in their need for a social life that they require a partner with at least a healthy interest in going out into the world. Conversely, my parents are both loners who have very little interaction outside of their immediate family. I like to examine these sorts of arrangements and why they work for particular couples, how they function–primarily because they’re often structured is such a different way from my own marriage. That fascination with difference and the many forms of love is what has drawn me to romance for so long!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    I’m kind of shocked! When you first gave your definition of a gatherer, I thought it was classic Amy. Especially with all of your GIAM groups.

    My husband is definitely a loner. On the Briggs-Myer test, I’m an introvert but near the middle. I do need friends and family. (Though my husband needs family, too.)

    My father died when I was five, but I think he was a gatherer while my mom was the loner. My son is a gatherer, and I’m glad for him. I think gatherers have more fun.

  3. Berinn says:

    Cool post! I love the idea of Loner and Gatherer. As for me, I’m a definite Loner while my husband is a Gatherer. We balance each other, even though sometimes we bump against each other’s differences.

  4. Amy Atwell says:

    Morning, gang! Carrie, you’re so right. While opposites may attract, like-minded can also achieve rewarding partnerships. I suspect they surround themselves with friends who may balance them.

    And yes, Edie, there are elements of my personality that are very outgoing and communicative. I learned the skills from my mom (even though I was mortified as a teen when she’d dive into personal conversations with strangers). But I now do a lot of my Gathering on the Internet, which gives me a buffer. I can turn the computer off whenever the Loner in me takes over.

    Berinn, good to see you this morning. Yay, someone to verify that Loners and Gatherers do join in real life, not just books. Glad you found each other!

  5. I think my husband and I are both Loners, but we also both camouflage well as Gatherers when we need to. (Me more than him, but that’s the salesgal in my blood.) If I could be one of those hermit writers who sold lots from deep inside her cave and never saw another crowd, I’d be perfectly happy. But that only works in my imagination, so I’m ready and willing to be a Gatherer for my career. =o)

    • Amy Atwell says:

      B.E., you make a good point. I’m not sure anyone lives every hour of their existence as either a loner or a gatherer. Loners need to cut loose with friends, and Gatherers sometimes need a little privacy. Like you, I’m an outgoing Gatherer at work when I need to be, but I’m grateful for my Loner time writing.

  6. Liz Kreger says:

    I love stories with the Loner and the Gatherer as the main characters. The Loner is always so perplexed and has no idea how to handle a Gatherer. 😆

    I tend to lean toward the Gatherer while my husband is definitely the Loner with moments of Gatherer. If he’s forced into a social situation, he enjoys himself. But he generally won’t go out of his way to seek one out.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      LOL, Liz–you’re right! Gatherers absolutely perplex Loners. Watching the two personalities overcome their opposite views of the world can be golden.

  7. Cynthia Eden says:

    My husband is a total loner, but I’m a gatherer. 🙂

  8. Amy Atwell says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that you describe yourself as a Gatherer, Cynthia. I saw you in action at a regional writers’ conference last year. People followed you as if you WERE the party! So, does time with your husband give you that quiet you occasionally crave?

  9. I’m a gatherer who needs alone time (especially when writing). I guess that is why I also joined 3 writing chapters and GIAMx4 and love to Facebook/Twitter/email. Social media feeds my gathering soul. My hubby is a gatherer but likes his alone time. We’re both very social. He’s more social than I am. And he’s a scientist!

    Great post! Love it.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Christine, see above–like you, I like my Gathering via the Internet more than live these days. Easier to control. Well, except for the Russian Blues. And I had no idea your husband was a scientist. I learn the coolest things about people I thought I knew on blog comments!

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  11. My parents are classic Loner/Dad plus Gatherer/Mom and — like you, Amy — I learned how to do the social thing from my mom, even though I’m much closer to being a natural loner. (What is it with the allure of the grocery store for some of these Gatherer Moms, btw?! Mine would talk to *everybody* in the freakin’ produce section. 🙂 I’d be saying, “Mom, can just get the broccoli, please?!” but noooooo.)

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Oh, Marilyn, you always strike a chord with me! I swear, we were separated at birth. Yes, the grocery store was definitely where Gatherers congregated during the 70’s and 80’s. And heaven help the Loners in there, because they were going to get Gathered whether they wanted to or not. My mother would strike up the most unnerving conversations in the feminine products aisle… Oy, I may be scarred for life.

      • LOL, Amy!!! We need a support group! Seriously, we’ll have to talk sometime… 😉 And don’t you love the stories these Gatherer Moms tell later? My mom calls me up and it’s this endless stream of people and their connections to each other: “Well, you’ll never guess who we ran into near the grapefruit. (dramatic pause) Sandra Smith! She’s the one who was married to that Tom Spaulding guy your uncle used to work with — he’s a lawyer in Minnesota now — but then then they got divorced and Sandra remarried. She looks great! I think she had highlights put in. Her new husband Paul was in the deli department, but then he came over to us and…” 😛

  12. Jess says:

    I love loner heroines. They seem more complex, tough and vulnerable than gatherer heroines. As I recall, the heroine in your book, Lying Eyes was a bit of a loner who had no idea what to do with her younger, gatherer sister.

    Everyone expects a loner hero, but there’s something about a loner heroine who meets a hero either is a loner too or better yet, a gatherer, and seeing the sparks fly.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Wow, Jess, you just made my day! I hadn’t thought about it, but Iris (the heroine from Lying Eyes) IS a Loner–mostly from necessity. The hero is a Gatherer by nature, but he’s suffering a recent loss in his family, so he’s hiding as a Loner. I swear, I wasn’t really even thinking of them when I wrote the blog! Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Jill James says:

    I’m a loner, my husband thinks he is a loner but he is a gatherer. He can get a group together, organized, and all talking to each other in no time. He loves to throw a party even though he is stressed the whole time he is planning it.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Jill, how funny that your husband thinks he’s a loner when you see him so clearly as a gatherer. I love that he’s the party planner in the household!

  14. LaDonna says:

    Amy, LOVED this blog, girl! 😎 And it really got me thinking too. Hubby and I were much more gatherers in the first part of our lives. Funny how relocation in your late 40’s can give you an opportunity to experience the otherside of the coin. lol. We’ve both worked with the public in various jobs over the years and enjoy people, but after our relocation I focused on my writing while he has his finger on the town’s pulse via work. I love the loner aspect side of me now, and while I do get out and about it’s most always connected to my family…grandkid activities and family fun. I couldn’t be happier. And staying connected to friends via internet is the best of both worlds.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      LaDonna, how fascinating that you see yourself evolving from gatherer to loner as you go through life. You attribute it to a move, but I wonder if it’s a natural course. In our youth we’re gathered in schools and then we often are gathered at our jobs/careers. We gather our children around us. But as we evolve into empty-nesters, maybe it’s just natural to relax into some well-deserved loner time. Thanks!

  15. I’m definitely a loner. My husband acts like a loner, but when he’s in a social situation, you can’t stop him talking, and people everywhere he goes confide in him. I love parties, but not for long – I much prefer having close friends around for dinner.

    In my debut novel, ILLUMINATIONS, my hero and my heroine are both loners.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Wow–Michelle, meet Jill. LOL You two aren’t married to the same guy, right? And now you’ve made me even more curious to read your upcoming book so I can see two loners in action. Can’t wait!

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