Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Character Quirks: Making good character quirks

Character quirks are what make a character interesting. We don't want characters like Bella from Twilight who are plain and boring (no offense to Twilight fans!). So in order to make them more interesting, it's always nice to throw in a few quirks.

Here are a few simple guidelines for making character quirks:
  1. Try to make quirks that are both fun and memorable. You want the reader to enjoy the quirks and you want it to be fun for you, too. Also, quirks are better when they are memorable. There is a certain sense of joy and even anticipation that readers can get when that quirk applies.
  2. Consider how often your quirks might affect that character. You could make quirks like a stutter that only affect speech, or you could make quirks like a fear of water. Both of these quirks will happen quite often and might get in the way of the story progressing. On the other hand, you can create quirks that only happen every so often. A good example of this is from the anime Ranma 1/2 where he had a fear of cats. It didn't apply to every episode, but it would come up every now and then and made him more interesting.
  3. Consider if your character will get over his quirks or not. This can be huge. Perhaps a character has a thing where when she's nervous, she plays with her hair a lot and another character points it out to her. Is it someone she likes? Is it a friend? Is it her family? And more importantly, what is she gonna do when she realizes she does this? Will she try and get over it, will she embrace it? Who knows? It's up to you to decide.
  4. Pick quirks that will make your character unique. A dwarf with a drinking problem isn't really too creative. If something happens when he's drunk, however, well... that could get more interesting. Quirks are what sets your character apart. Make sure to be creative.
  5. Don't be TOO creative. As opposed to number 4, if you get too creative, it might get absurd. If you're a good writer, you might be able to make it work, but if you get too intricate and too creative with your character quirks, you might end up with a lot of problems later down the road.
  6. Your character quirks are not the story! I mean, you could write a story about a guy who gets over his bed-wetting problem, but quirks are mainly intended to supplement an already interesting plot. So don't focus too much time on them. If you're writing a novel, you don't want half the book to be about his quirk and how much trouble it gives him. Try and limit yourself to how often the quirk comes up or readers will get bored of it. If it's a short story, I'd actually say you can put more focus on it because it's shorter readers are less likely to grow bored of your characters strange quirks. However, try to be mindful of how much time you spend on quirks.
  7. Lastly, not every character needs interesting quirks. Some characters can just be normal people, or vampires, or whatever you're writing about. However, I think for a novel-length book, I'd suggest having at least 4 or 5 characters with minor quirks, and perhaps even 1 or 2 with some major quirks.
That's all the tips for now. Next time, I'll actually continue the quirk list. I think I'm on like 27 or something. it should be fun!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons Character Quirks

Some quirks I was considering for my bard in today's new campaign:

  1. Womanizer / Loves women way too much
  2. Alcoholic
  3. Routinely quotes books even when it's irrelevant
  4. Believes he's a hero from a prophecy or the reincarnate of another hero
  5. Doesn't understand names. He refers to everyone as their title only and when someone introduces them selves (i.e. "Bob"), he assumes that is what they are. "Today, I met a bob."
  6. Believes he's color blind.
  7. Compulsive liar, especially in regards to insignificant things.
  8. Absolutely no sense of direction (can get lost in an inn)
  9. Personality changes after dark
  10. Makes elaborate plans and then discards them because he believes they're too easy to see through
  11. Fear of bardmaids picks fights with bartenders (would be interesting for an alcoholic bard)
  12. Pyro
  13. Overly confident to a fault
  14. Afraid of 20-sided objects and counts the sides of oddly shaped objects like jems (believes they will bring about pain, misery, bad luck, misfortune, death, or even the end of the world)
  15. Compulsive gamblar
  16. Believes he's a werewolf but just has a sleepwalking problem
  17. Crossdresser
  18. Thinks all jokes are serious statements / no sense of humor
  19. Racist / Sexist / et cetera

    And finally, here are the ones I actually chose (excluded from the list above):

    1. Has a song perpetually stuck in his head that he cant ever seem to play.
    2. Talks to / Seeks advice from a hand-puppet.
    3. Is a master of disguises and has quirky personalities for each of his disguises.

    Not sure how I'm going to intermingle those things, but it should definitely make an interesting character. Next time, I'll begin the list at item #23 and add quirks for every day story characters.