Character questionnaires are something I like filling out, but the one that always trips me up is the “Quirks” segment. I always end up waffling around it and putting something that doesn’t fit or else just a bunch of question marks and moving on. Part of that comes from how vague “quirks” can be in a character. Part of it is other things.
What is a quirk, anyway? I know, there’s a definition online, but in this case it’s something I’m trying to isolate so I can figure it out. Find the explanation that makes sense, right? In this case, I tend to think of quirks as the little preferences and tics that make a character more vivid.
All characters have quirks, possibly dozens of them. The important thing is not to overdo what actually shows up on the page. Real people are weird, but book people can’t be too weird or readers won’t find them believable.
There are lots of places to collect quirks. They can be invented, of course, but somehow when they come from real people it makes the characters themselves feel more real. Like, for example, I’m afraid of worms, I can’t stand mushrooms, and I steep my tea extra strong then have it with milk. And my friends and family have all in small ways contributed little pieces of themselves to various characters. Even movie characters have donated a few small traits.
(I also feel I should include a disclaimer: don’t pick on one person too much. Even if they’re a complete weirdo, be choosy about which quirks are gleaned for characters. This forces you to only choose the best ones, and it also means that they’re less likely to be offended when they someday pick up your book.)
Knowing when to apply quirks has always been something I find tricky. Can’t have too many, after all! And also have to make sure that the quirks show up again and again when they’re needed for the correct character. Consistency!
Thank goodness most character quirks develop out of the story itself. They appear as needed, and come out naturally from well-structured characters.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
(I recognize that this post is something of a fail, but I completely flaked, lost interest in the topic, and then proceeded to read a book that explained how to choose topics that will make a blog more appealing. This post does not fit that model at all, so I kind of lost hope. But I’ll figure it out!)