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Friday, November 9, 2012

Themed Character Quirks

Yesterday, I learned that the gum graft I had done a couple weeks ago isn’t taking. When I originally had the procedure, my dentist offered me two choices: get a piece of tissue from a tissue bank or cut out a sliver of my palate out and use it to fill in where I’ve made part of my gums recede through too aggressive tooth brushing and teeth clenching in my sleep. To avoid getting cut twice, I elected for the tissue bank. I might have known better.

Apparently, in almost all cases, a person will incorporate tissue from a tissue bank without problems. Naturally, I had to be the exception. But, since I stop watches, quickly react to environmental irritants like car exhaust and cigarette smoke, and am one of those who flinch when a TV is left on while muted, I really shouldn’t be surprised my body didn’t like a piece of tissue it didn’t create. Taking all this into account and having a mind that cannot fully extract itself from the pursuit of fiction, it gave me an idea to deepen and give more substance to character quirks.

All characters in a book, especially the main characters, should have quirks. It’s what makes them more human and, if done carefully, helps separate them from cliches. But what if we gave a hero a series of quirks that were related or traced to a specific aspect of his personality? If we drew a character based off of what I described of myself in these first two paragraphs, we might give a more engaging image.

For example, if we give our hero the quirk that he stops watches, it’s a bit odd, and we might only think about it if the hero inherits his dad’s watch and we know he should not wear it because he’ll kill it. But if that same hero stops watches, gives computers bugs whenever he’s near them, and cannot concentrate on anything but the pain in his head when someone mutes the TV, we then have a lot more to work with when he goes to solve the mystery in the Apple Store. At this point, he doesn’t just have an odd quirk, he has a series of related quirks that bloom into a whole new layer of his character and personality.

1 comment:

  1. You know, the watch thing really grabs me. It's so unusual. I would SO use that in a story if I were you.

    I've given characters small traits of mine that crept into the story without planning. A tiny quirk here and there. For intance, I can't stand ketchup and eat French fries with mustard. I made that a minor quirk for one of my characters in an ms I did years ago. When I shared the story with a few critique partners, it was surprising how many of them commented on it! It's so odd what stands out and makes a character memorable.