Friday, January 31, 2014


So one of the things we as writers can do to make our characters real is to give them quirks, right?

It's also, unfortunately, one of the things we can do to make people throw our books as they run screaming because our hero/heroine drove them so crazy. I don't remember the details anymore, but I know I've read some books where the characters had some irritating quirks.

Here are some of my thoughts on what makes a quirk good versus irritating.

Irritating quirks aren't well thought out. There's no reason for them. We wanted our character to be memorable, so we made her chew on her lip when she was nervous. Or tap his foot when he was waiting for something. These are "easy" quirks. But they don't make the character come alive unless you have a good reason for them.

And sometimes writers do have good reasons for them. In one book I read, I think it was Katie Ganshert's Wishing on Willows, the main character bites her lip, but there's a good reason for it. It tells you a lot about her personality, about her childhood, and about how she sees herself. So it's a good quirk.

In some of the horrific stories I've found buried in my desk drawers, it's not the best quirk. It was just an insert-quirk-here kind of thing. Make sense?

Good quirks are complicated. They're a little more in depth, a little crazier. One of my absolute, all-time favorite quirks is from Tamara Lee's Splitting Harriet. Harriet eats jelly-beans kind of compulsively. Especially when she's anxious about something. And if she's had a hard day or something, she really wants her jellybeans. What an awesome quirk! It tells us something about her personality, but there's a backstory to it, as for why it's jellybeans she craves. It also makes her unique. How many people do you know with this quirk, seriously?

So. Those are the main two examples I can think of tonight. But I'm curious what y'all can come up with. What are some "easy" quirks that are easy to add into our characters without a good reason? (Note: These CAN be useful in our stories! We just have to have a good reason for them, not just make the character do it because it's easy. Right?) What are some complex quirks you've noticed in literary characters or real people? Are some quirks more annoying than others? Curious on your thoughts about quirks in general.


  1. I am working on this now with an accent in one of my characters. I want it to be memorable, yet not overwhelming. It's a difficult task. Readers seemed to enjoy my medieval dialogue in my trilogy, but this Irish accent is a bit more difficult to hammer out. We'll see how it works! :)

  2. Sometimes my quirks are just there, and sometimes they have a real reason. I'm trying to make it so they're all useful if they must be there. Like one of my main characters bites his lip when he get's nervous, but he's been doing that ever since he was a little kid and he was trying not to cry and make noise when his abusive dad was looking for him. So he still does that.
    My other character smirks about everything. Everything. But that also ties into his personality and this fake identity he puts out to everyone. I do have characters that just shrug all the time for no good reason though....
    I do love quirks though. They're fun to write.