Characters Are Just Quirky People

By on March 24, 2014 . Category Column

Conceivable storybook characters are fully flushed out.  They have likes and dislikes; wants and needs.  They have a voice, a look, a family, a home, a history.  Most importantly, they have a quirk…or several.

Now, some may argue that focusing on character quirks could be construed as amateurish, but only if the quirks are forced.  They are not crutches meant to be leaned on; more so they are trampolines to jump from.  I personally think in both the real world and the literary world quirks are what make us interesting and unique.  It makes me me and you you.  For example, there’s a woman I know who likes to match her coffee mugs to her outfits.  Every morning, she stands in front of the kitchen cabinet agonizing over which mug will go with her purple blouse or her royal blue skinny jeans.  Her neurosis amuses me, especially when she forgets to run the dishwasher and has fewer mugs to choose from.

If she were a character in a book, you could infer many things about her through this one tiny quirk.  You would probably guess that she’s attractive, fashionable and into aesthetics.  She thrives on order and tidiness.  She needs a sense of control to offset some of her hidden insecurities.

This simple idiosyncrasy adds immediate Ds: dimension, depth and description.  It offers insight into her psyche without giving the reader a long laundry list of traits.  Most importantly, it makes her believable.

It also gives the author an optional catapult to additional storylines or subplots.  Perhaps, this quirk adds reoccurring humor in an otherwise frightening situation.  Is your book a thriller where she’s being chased and momentarily pauses by the cabinet with an urge to reorganize the shelves?  Maybe in that pivotal moment she realizes a mug can be used as a weapon and chooses a matching mug to hit the head of her attacker.  Or, is it a flat out comedy where she has an over-the-top meltdown in a corporate meeting after all the red mugs are in use, which sets off a chain of events that leaves her unemployed and forced to move in with her brother, Bob the Slob?  Perhaps, your book isn’t funny at all.  It’s a romance and this is a secret quirk that only Prince Charming notices, creating a platform for flirtation.

No matter what type of book you choose to write, rest assured it will contain characters.  Characters are written humans.  Humans are flawed.  Flaws are quirks.  Therefore, characters are quirks.  To write convincing characters, you need to write their quirks.  So get quirky and Write On…


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