Writing tips: On character quirks

Hey guys! So, I haven’t covered any writing tips in a while, and this is one I’ve been wanting to discuss for some time now.

Now, what are character… “quirks”? And, more importantly, why should you use them?

Character quirks, in my definition, are those little things that make a character unique. And, not just unique, like, really, very unique. They’re things that make your character fun, realistic, and (the big point) interesting.

Here’s an example to make this (maybe) a bit clearer.

Let’s compare two characters.

Character #1 is a strong business woman in her late 30s that downs a shot of whiskey every morning at precisely 5 am before going to work for, often, twelve to fourteen hours straight, Monday through Friday. However, she follows the same routine on weekends and adds in a workout regimen followed by intense baking sessions (to provide excess desserts to the local soup kitchen) in place of her regular work hours.

Character #2 is also a business woman in her late 30s, though she does not have a strict schedule to stick to. She often wakes up with a cup of coffee, and goes to bed with a cup of tea. She doesn’t like working out, and she she doesn’t hate her job, but she doesn’t love it, either.

Now… maybe, which of these two characters sounds more interesting to read about? Which do you wish you knew more about?

I guess you could make arguments for both, but my point in this situation was to make a decision based on each character’s quirks. Focusing on that, I personally think character #1 sounds more interesting, or, at least, she’s much more interesting to read about. She’s also much more fun for me to write about. And, remember that old rule– if you’re bored while writing, then your readers will probably be bored while reading.

Now, what is it that makes character #1 so much more interesting? Her quirks, of course, but we’ve already established that. What is it, then, that makes her quirks so intriguing?

I mentioned things about her that were a little out of the ordinary- the shot of whiskey at 5 am every single morning. I also got specific about her routine- twelve to fourteen hours straight- and I gave those little details that kind of make you go “ahhh”- intense baking sessions to provide desserts to the local soup kitchen. In creating character #2, I kept a lot of these extra little things out (even though it was hard not to).

We all hear the round vs. flat character spiels, and at least I feel like we’ve all been there, done that. We all get that we need interesting characters with a lot of depth, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out exactly how to get there. Well, this theory of “character quirks” is just something I’ve come up with to fill in that void.

So, to answer my own questions from earlier, character quirks are… the little specifics and out of the ordinary details… and we should use them because… they make the characters so much more interesting for readers to read about.

Now, need some inspo to get started on brainstorming some new quirks for your own characters? I got you covered; here’s a list of little, unique quirks you may feel free to take from.

My quirky character…

  • Physically vomits every time he even gets a slight smell of Mexican food.
  • Spells the word ‘orangutan’ wrong every time, no matter how many times she is corrected.
  • Posts to a WordPress blog about deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics every Thursday afternoon.
  • Refuses to buy a new sofa even after spilling orange sofa all over his current one.
  • Does not understand what Twitter is.
  • Despises absolutely all talent shows.
  • Makes her own hand soaps.
  • Rides a motorcycle, but only to the hair dresser.
  • Lost weight for a friend who vowed to donate a dollar for every pound shed to a charity… that sends extra food to the poor.

Some of these were a little extreme, but I made them that way for the sake of bigger inspiration, I guess. Remember, though, that even tiny little quirks can make a difference in your character’s interest overall.

Be sure to add some quirks to your characters ASAP!

And… let me know what you thought/think of my quirky theory!



2 thoughts on “Writing tips: On character quirks

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