Monday, October 15, 2012

Breathing Life With Character Quirks

She never uses a public restroom unless she buys something. He always sets the minutes in his alarm to 42 because he believes it's the answer to the universe. She says names in a weird voice so that she remembers them.

Quirks are what breathe life into our characters. It makes them real, relatable, and often makes us root for a character. During my 4 hour drive back from Arizona last week I started thinking about what draws me in to a novel and, more importantly, what makes me stay. Character quirks. I like knowing that my characters are as strange as I am. The examples I gave above are ones that I have encountered in my personal life. I am the girl who won't use public bathrooms - weird, I know - I feel like the employees stare at me if I don't pay for something. A guy I dated was obsessed with the number 42. He claimed it was because of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe but it was prevalent in all parts of his life, even down to setting his alarm. And if any of you have seen The House Bunny then you'll know what the last one is from. I challenge you this week to examine yourself and the people around you. What makes them who they are? Why are they unique and what about them makes you want them in your life? What you find may surprise you.

Thoughts? Opinions? I'd love to hear them!


  1. I think this is great, though sometimes abused at the expense of actual substance. I've always believed characters have to have external desires, impulses, interests and fears that don't pertain to the story directly, though it may come up.
    How much better would Twilight have been if Bella thought laser beams were cool and always rounded off the change in the tip to the next dollar... OK, perhaps not.

  2. This makes me think of Paper Towns by John Green. One of his friends (I don't recall his name, but definately his character quirk) called any and all girls--including his mother--honeybunnies.

  3. Mark, in all honesty, if Bella had rounded the change in a tip to a dollar it would have at least made me feel something towards her. That example in itself made me cringe at how cheap she is. Kelly, that's a great example. I haven't read Paper Towns...yet, but I like that just on that quirk alone I feel like he could be a chauvinist pig or a gentle southern spirit. Either way, I'm interested :)

  4. Lovely post and great examples. The same can be done with dialogue, certain words characters use which make us feel their voice.