Jeannie Campbell

Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit and enjoys working mainly with children and couples. She has a Masters of Divinity in Psychology and Counseling and bachelors degrees in both psychology and journalism. Jeannie started doing character therapy in March of 2009. Her Treatment Tuesdays feature assessments of fictional characters and plot feasibility while her Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts take a psychological topic and make it relevant to writers. She can be found at her blog, The Character Therapist, at

Character Stereotypes: The Geek

The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue,
but that they are incomplete.

—Chimamanda Adichie

In most cinema examples of geeks, the guy wears glasses and a pocket protector, dabbles in all things electronic, and repels women like water off the back of a duck. A girl geek likely has mousy hair, braces, and enough social awkwardness to make you squirm in your seat as you watch.

Thanks to psychology and personality testing, we’ll look at a few character trait generalities that you might want to include in your book.

1) Reason Trumps Emotion

Most geeks are systematic thinkers. They analyze all problems logically, looking for previous rules or guidelines. Usually, they are intellectually gifted but socially lacking. The social arena is emotional and nonrational, therefore uncomfortable and more likely to be avoided. Since that’s the case, their social skills won’t be honed for lack of use, making them awkward and stunted emotionally.

2) Penchant for Gadgetry

The latest technology is a must-have. These are the people who wait in line for the newest iPhone. You call them for technological help because nine times out of ten, they will know the answer to get you out of your pinch. Their office space might be cluttered with gadgets and the wires that come with them, but they know where everything is because it’s organized chaos.

3) Competitive for Recognition

Being smarter than others is important for geeks. This intelligence doesn’t necessarily have to be technology based, either. For example, an architect geek might try drafting the most complex plans. A marketing geek might trump everyone else’s strategy with a stellar campaign idea. You get the picture. They want to be smarter, because with increased smarts comes increased recognition, which is the ultimate aim.

These stereotypical descriptions only scratch the surface, however. There’s always room to spice things up, because geeks aren’t as cut-and-dried as you might think. No one is, which is why I like Adichie’s quote above so much.

Romancing the Geek

Romance can’t happen in a vacuum. There has to be social interaction—even if it is awkward—for romance to bloom. The following suggestions will help alter a geek’s social arena to such that romance is feasible.

Have Your Geek Undergo Social Training

Keene State College psychologist Lawrence Welkowitz found that geeks could overcome their social awkwardness with concentration and repetition. He knows this because he runs a peer-mentoring program where cool kids take their nerdier classmates under their tutelage to give them tips on how to be popular. If geeks approach social interactions in the same way they would binary code, they can succeed in overcoming this deficit. Conversational templates exist for everything from dating to job interviews. If they study these templates, the rules of socialization are quick to follow.

Have Your Geek Join a Community.

Geeks tend to stay in their own world most of the time, which is what makes romance hard. Perhaps you don’t want to “mainstream” your fictional geek, so you can offer him or her a subculture built around his or her particular geek hobby or interest. For a really great example, Star Trek fans—Trekkies—go to conventions where they have social interactions with others from their world. And yes, they can meet people of the opposite sex, fall in love, and have Trekkie weddings. It happens.

Make Your Savvy Socialite a Covert Geek

Turn the stereotype on its head and create a highly capable, socially apt character a covert geek, perhaps with nerdy interests he or she keeps on the down low, or unusual interests that take all his or her free time. The challenge with romance in a scenario with a geek like this would likely be a battle of intellects (see #3 above).


The Character Thrapist