it’s a trip . . .

tips, quotes, insights, and lessons about writing and publishing learned the hard way

Quirks, anyone?

I like quirks in characters. In my favorite cozy mystery series written by the late Lawrence Sanders, Archie McNally has many of them–from unusual clothes items such as colorful berets to telling you what he eats at every meal to pet sayings such as, “One never knows, do one?”

Archie McNally is beloved for his quirks and not just by me.

Archie McNally is beloved for his quirks and not just by me.

I think quirks can elevate characters above stereotypes, too. Though I’ve met some unusual people, I can’t say most of the people I know are quirky. (But then I wouldn’t want to read about them either.) Whenever I’ve met someone in real life with a quirk, it’s always stuck with me, and some of my family members and friends have found themselves in my stories. For instance, my older brother is very anal retentive about his pepper. He has seven kinds of pepper, each in its own mill, clearly labeled, and arranged on his stove top from mild to hot. Well, I couldn’t let that juicy little item go by. Of course I gave my FBI agent some anal retentive qualities and used those pepper mills in his kitchen, causing the protagonist to say, “Seven mills? Sounds like a tax rate.”

Anyhoo, so if you don’t know particularly quirky folks whose habits you can infuse into your characters or if you suffering from brain drain and can’t think of any qualities particular different or downright strange with which to imbue your characters, then you need to  hit some sites that role players use. Role players have identified tons of quirks on their websites and forums, more than you could ever think of if you sat down to come up with quirks and had an endless supply of paper, two free hours, and a Red Bull.

For example, I spent less than a minute on a Dungeons & Dragons  forum called 1001 Character Quirks and found lists of tasty quirks such as:

  • keeps a bag filled with little jars of dirt from each nation he’s been to
  • insomniac
  • contradicts everyone about absolutely anything even the pointless things
  • constantly catches bugs and keeps them as pets in containers, isn’t aware of their need for sustenance and is deeply upset when they die
  • always steals people’s stories and doesn’t keep track of which story came from who hence occasionally tells a stolen story to the person he stole it from.
  • has an obsession with peoples ears or other body part

Then of course there’s a blog post called 100 Character Quirks You Can Steal From Me.

And many, many other rich sources you can find within minutes on the Web.

Now, of course, you can’t stuff all these quirks into your book characters. But if you carefully choose one or two, you may end up with a much more novel novel than you ever imagined.

By the way, pardon my infrequent posting. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year and am going to try my very best to hit that 50,000 word count and be a winner this year.

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4 Comments»

  Ian wrote @

I’m a long-time gamer and that background has been invaluable in creating both three-dimensional characters and the complex plots which I love.

Honestly, I think most writers and would-be writers would benefit greatly from getting involved with a gaming group. And I don’t mean Magic: The Gathering. I mean GURPs, or Truncheons & Flagons (*ahem* Dungeons & Dragons), or any number of them. Most cities and towns have several groups of nerds like me who get together regularly. As much as we writers must create worlds of our own, gaming is a natural outgrowth of that creativity.

  Dr. Tom Bibey wrote @

I’m a Doc who plays semi-pro bluegrass mandolin. In my travels I have run into many a quirky character.

Heck my entire genre, physician bluegrass fiction, is quirky. The folks I write about are real, but they are so odd people think I made them up.

drtombibey.wordpress.com

  Gale Martin wrote @

Ian,

You know. I didn’t know you were a gamer, but it certainly makes sense that you would have been/are a gamer. I just don’t know how you have the time to do everything you do.

Tom,
Thanks for stopping in. Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of physician bluegrass fiction. With any luck you may have a breakout genre there.

  mrtaurus wrote @

I love this! I jut started blogging about Quirks. I’ve called the tag ‘The Quirk Files’ .
I’m writing a book and I think they enrich my characters too! http://mrtaurus.wordpress.com/

Hope you get a chance to see!

GREAT POST!


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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.
    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.
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