Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quintessential Quirks

Quirk
[kwurk]  Show IPA


noun
1.
a peculiarity of action, behavior, or personality; mannerism:He is full of strange quirks.

People are quirky, so it makes sense that characters in novels should have their own set of quirks too. Quirks can make characters easier to relate to and are essential to setting characters apart from each other so the reader never gets confused about who is saying/doing what when the character's name isn't used. 

That doesn't mean a character with a habit of winking should do so several times a scene though. Even if quirks are described sparingly, readers will pick up on them and those mannerisms will find their way into the reader's imagination of the scenes without the writer having to constantly specify them. And quirks shouldn't be shared between characters. If three characters have a habit of winking, they will start to blur and the reader may confuse them. In my own writing, I try to give each character a maximum of two to three unique quirks which I keep track of using character worksheets in Scrivener (just to make sure none overlap).

Writers can get carried away with quirks too. If giving a character a couple of quirks increases relatability, too many quirks quickly decreases it. Not many people can relate to a character who has enough quirks to make them sound more crazy than quirky. Then again, some stories are completely based on a particular character's quirks - ones which may be so strong that the character has a difficult time functioning in society. If that's the case, then any quirks in the other characters should be limited and should not be emphasized.

Here are some helpful blog posts on making effective use of quirks in writing:

What do you think? Have you read any novels/watched any TV shows or movies where overdone character quirks stole the show? How many quirks do your characters have and do you keep track of them?

15 comments:

  1. I had to laugh when I saw this this AM. I've been working on a post on a very similar topic that hopefully I'll get up this weekend! Perfect timing! And now I'll have to check out those links...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you ever noticed that quirks starts to sound really silly after the first three times? :) This is a great post - something I need to keep in mind while I'm writing character sketches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha, ya that's totally true - what a strange word

      Delete
  3. I adore quirky characters! The quirkiest character I ever created wrote horrible plays that were so bad, she got a cult. Since she had a cult, she struck it big.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That does sound like a very interesting character :)

      Delete
  4. Thanks for this! I'll definitively bookmark those links. creating characters that jump out of the page is my major worry and this will help a lot. =)

    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love the drawing w/ this post!
    I have noticed how people confuse habits with quirks. To me a habit, like sucking your teeth if you're thinking hard, is something you've chosen to do at some point and now do without thinking. Quirks are generally preferences, ways of behaving or feeling that aren't shared by the majority of people. But it IS a tricky line...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The way I see it, any mannerism can become a quirk, depending on what triggers the mannerism but you're right, not every quirk is a mannerism.

      Delete
  6. What a great post... hmmm there is a fine line between just enough quirks and quite too many. How many? I don't know, I think it depends on the character and the person viewing the character- It's case by case. For example I love Abby on NCIS, just enough quirks for me, however she annoys my hubby! Stopping by the A to Z Challenge http://takingbackmylifemakingitmyown.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Abby is the perfect example! I love her quirks too, but I can also sympathize with them sometimes being a little too much.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

      Delete
  7. Ooh, thanks for those links. Am bookmarking those now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks so much for the visit! I had no idea we had such similar Q posts! It was right up your alley to check out the writercize. :)

    Heading over to peruse your side bar now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! I guess there aren't that many writing-related words which start with Q, haha. Thanks for visiting :)

      Delete