I love quirky characters. Their offbeat personality traits can be endearing, making a character memorable and unique. Done right, character quirks can leave a lasting impression and be far more rewarding than vanilla, Boy Scout manikins with perfect hair and white teeth. Quirks can add depth that dialog and prose alone can’t reach. In fact, those peculiar little idiosyncrasies should make readers FEEL a deeper understanding of that character.
However, it’s critical that a quirky trait compliments the character’s established personality. It should reveal the character’s inner-workings, hinting at lingering shadows of childhood trauma or alluding to generations of odd behavior hardwired in his DNA. When an author simply tacks on a personality quirk in an attempt to add color to an otherwise stale, lifeless character, it tends to be distracting and cheapen the writing.
I’m always writing down ideas for quirky character traits in hopes that one day they’ll jump off the page and attach perfectly to a future character. Here are a few of my ideas that might inspire you and a few you may recognize in some of my current characters.
- Constantly smacks gum and has a habit of putting the entire pack of gum in her mouth — all five pieces at once.
- Chews on a cigar — never lights it, just chews on it.
- Uses really big words incorrectly
- Claims to be psychic but all the predictions are either very obvious or very wrong
- Talks to his house plants and worries that they might be resentful
- Has an inappropriate sense of humor,
- Is brutally honest,
- Uncomfortably hugs everyone, even those just recently met
- Uses napkins to turn the faucet on and off as well as open doors or cabinets,
- Constantly photographs all the mundane activities of life and brags about her scrapbook with the most boring photos ever
- Has a fear of riding in cars — won’t drive, won’t ride in the passenger seat — and walks everywhere
- Turns all photographs hanging on the wall, dolls or teddy bears on beds, or anything with eyes around, because “they’re always watching”
- In love with a fictional character from a TV show; talks about the character as if he is real
- Believes that unrelated events relate to him in some important way.
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