Tags:
  1. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672

    Character quirk

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by GuardianWynn, Aug 23, 2015.

    Hello everyone. I am bored. You know what that means. Some lame post from your friendly nairb.... and local bad speller guardian!

    So what do you guys thinkn of character quirks- by which I mean a concept to a character that doesn't seem to have a rhyme or rhythem to it beyond it is a part of them?

    I hear different schools of thought. Such as;
    1. Horrible! A lazy attempt to make a bad character seem interesting!
    2. Wonderful. An unpredictable element that turns good characters to great characters.
    3. Only acceptable as part of a plot concept.
    4. Only accetable when completely random and without context.

    How do you do them? If you do. What do you think is the right way and or wrong way?

    Me personally. I think like any tool it can be used well or poorly but recently I have taken to liking it. As when I se a character doing something in my head I can't 100% explain it adds a bit of mystery which in turn makes me curious.

    Oh and if you want share an example! :D

    I got one that has been taking up a good deal of mental energy. A little ninja/assassin. Her name is Lisa is she is a bit of a troll or prankster. Her quirk is she likes stealing peoples ID cards. She is borderline compulsed. If she has spare time and energy she will actively seek people with the goal of stealing there ID. She won't take anything else either. She keeps her treasures in a safe at home and has hundreds of them. She also won't keep an ID if you catch her attempting to steal it. As in if you see her trying to steal. She won't take yours or will even return yours if she had already taken it. She also discards them after they expire. She doesn't like in that case.
    @Aaron DC Again Just think you will find this interesting
     
  2. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    There's a fundamental aspect in any question like this: does it distract from the story? Whether it's the use of said vs intoned, omnipotent powers or limited, 100k words or 350k words: does the story take precedence in the reader's mind?

    If it does, then I think you can do anything -- literally -- you like.
     
  3. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I don't think I understood anything about what you just said. lol
     
  4. mad_hatter
    Offline

    mad_hatter Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    England
    Personally, I wouldn't add any quirks to characters that don't have any effect on the story. What's the point? If your card stealing ninja steals a card from somebody who desperately wants it back, which sets off the events of the story, then great. Otherwise, I'd find it unnecessary.

    I read something once where a character had a stammer. Unfortunately, it was never given any purpose. If the stammer had offered some sort of emotional connection for the the characters or the reader, it would've been fine. But it didn't. It just ended up feeling like a lazy way to give a character some depth.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  5. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I sort of find myself in the middle here. lol

    I mean on one side yeah. To say "character has X quirk" once and never bring it up again is a fail. I freely admitted though that any tool can be used in a way that fails. I personally don't thinkt that is the tools fault though.

    I also don't think a quirk demands a serious plot issue to be valid. I mean like you just said. A quirk can be there to give you a deeper sense of the character.

    Like in my ninja's case. I think her stealing ID is a symbol of self worth. Or she is saying to herself. "If I can steal your ID than I am a good ninja." I don't think she would ever admit that though. Which is why I think she dislikes them when they expire. Because it is an old glory. One she doesn't want to cling too. I think she would get horrible depressed if the number of ID cards she had decressed by a lot. Because I think her mind would think. "If having a lot of ID means I am a good ninja. Then not having a lot means I am a bad ninja!"

    Would you agree using a quirk as a way of expressing these facets of her character would be neat?
     
  6. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    In my opinion it depends on what character has the quirk.

    For a main character, I think your readers will feel cheated if her quirk doesn't affect the plot in some way. Stealing an ID card should set off a chain of events that she has to deal with. Main characters shouldn't do things for no reason.

    For side characters, quirks like this bring them to life and don't need to affect the plot.
     
    rainy_summerday and GuardianWynn like this.
  7. Stacy C
    Offline

    Stacy C Banned

    Joined:
    May 3, 2015
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    Not exactly the same thing, but similar: I just finished a police/suspense novel in which, every time any character's cell phone rang, the author felt the need to tell us what song the ring tone played. Phones rang a lot, and it became very annoying. Needless to say, most of the tunes were obscure songs from more-obscure musicians that music hipsters cite to impress each other, and no one else has ever heard of.

    My point is to tread carefully with that kind of thing.
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  8. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    I'll try to explain.

     
  9. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Damn! Now I have the urge to write a short story with that being the basic plot line!!!!! lol

    By that I mean her stealing an ID card and someone hunting her to get it back. lol
     
  10. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    There's no reason why that can't be a sub plot and help reveal more of her character.
     
  11. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    She doesn't have a story currently that would work in.

    Actually currently she is only in one story and she is I think technically still a minor character in there. To the point mentioning her quirk in more than someone walking in on her as she is putting new ID cards away would be awkward.

    She is a new character. She will get a chance to shine more. Actually funny enough. She was created on a whim. Originally, a girl needed to go home for plot reasons. So I was thinking. "Okay..." tapping pencil. "A phone call would probably be the most reasonable way to get her to go home but that is boring. AH What if her crazy ninja like sister broke into her place and was waiting for her to come home! BETTER :D"

    Funny enough the scene of them, the love/hate/family relationship scene between them has been everyones favorite part of the book. lol
     
  12. Sifunkle
    Offline

    Sifunkle Dis Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2014
    Messages:
    481
    Likes Received:
    571
    In general, I like quirks. They make characters more interesting and more believable (if in moderation), as everyone has something weird about them.

    The quirk doesn't have to solely characterise its possessor either. I had a mildly eccentric minor character, and a more important character that needed further characterisation (supposed to be mysterious, so direct characterisation not an option). So I gave the minor character a particular interest/obsession (believable given her eccentricity) that draws the audience's attention to related aspects of the major character. It's doubled the use I can milk from the minor character.

    A particular way I use quirks is as 'character tags' (that might just be my term, not sure), which are used to identify a character without having to directly mention them (simply to avoid narrative tedium, or to suggest connections to the audience that the POV character might not be intended to get). E.g. in the HP & the Goblet of Fire movie, they set up Crouch Jr with a creepy lip-licking mannerism - later on, 'Moody' did the same, suggesting his true identity to the audience. (Whether that was a worthwhile use of 'tagging' is debatable.) Tags don't have to be quirks though, just any distinctive feature.

    You could use your ninja's ID-stealing as a tag, e.g. have a scene where other characters are discussing important secrets, and at the end one of them goes, 'Oh dammit, where's my ID? I must've lost it,' from which the audience infers that the ninja was eavesdropping. Obviously for that to work, you need to set the quirk up in advance.

    The quirks I tend to use are more subtle/reactionary than your ninja's. The ID theft is something she is deliberately going out of her way to do, so will definitely stand out. I'm inclined to agree with the others that the audience might feel ripped off if nothing important comes of it. So my advice would be to keep the quirk on a troubleshooting shortlist, and when you have plot problems come up, you can think, 'Is there some way I can solve this problem via this character's quirk?'

    Edit: accidentally posted early, so finished writing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  13. semicolon
    Offline

    semicolon Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2015
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Northern Illinois
    I feel like quirks are good in a way that they could be a plot twist to the main plotline. They could be used as a different obligation or reason to come to a certain decision over another one.
     
  14. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    lol. Yeah the ID thing is a bit overt it is true. There can be much more subtle ones indeed.

    Damn again. Now I want to write a short story about her getting in trouble by stealing an ID card. lol.

    Yeah if the quirk is established that can be a nice wink to the audience.

    In my head I imaine someone visiting her and her putting them away and someone seeiing the pile of them. Just that ... "What the f...." lol

    Then again. Does light quirks still count as a quirk? Like one girl likes Opera music. Like if you search her apartment all you would find of a personal touch is C/D or what ever music form she keeps them in of Opera music. And well I guess her newspapers. She likes newspapers too. lol Does that count as a quirk to you?
     
  15. Shandeh
    Offline

    Shandeh Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Australia
    Quirks are fun. Every person has a quirk, so they can add depth to the character - but there HAS to be a reason for the quirk. I have a character who is a military cop, and one of her quirks (the most noticeable) is that she will randomly speak a word or two of Spanish. Usually when she's cursing. The reason for that is that she is Mexican, and English is her second (but VERY fluent) language. She's been using English as her primary language for over a decade but still defaults to her native tongue to swear, because a lot of people don't understand what she's saying so she can be as vulgar as she likes without seeming unladylike.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  16. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Oh yeah that is true. Cursing in a native tongue is pretty common.

    Yeah too things need a reason. Though funny enough I would reason sometimes lacking a reason is a reason.

    Such as a person loving someone without awareness of why. In that sense hiding a reason can be nice. Even not having a reason if they have good chemisty can be neat if it never becomes a plot point.

    I had an idea in my girls case of the ID stealing. Which is that her grandfather stole ID cards as proof of the kill. He was an assassin and taught her. So she does the same thing yet with her it turned into an obsession. Something she does off of work too as a way of validating her own self worth. As if she can still you ID than she believes she could have killed you and thus she is better than you. She is kind of.... sick when you think of it like that isn't she? lol
     
  17. semicolon
    Offline

    semicolon Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2015
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Northern Illinois
    That reminds me of when I was younger. If I did something that I knew I wasn't supposed to do and I got caught, my dad would ask why I did it. My reply was "I don't know." "You have to know, you can't just not know why you did something!" Yes, that is actually a thing that happens. I don't care about reasoning, I live in the moment, so get "rekt," Dad.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  18. I Am Vague
    Offline

    I Am Vague Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Altoona Pennsylvania
    If it helps your writing become less bland or more real OR help you understand/empathize/enjoy the character, then why not add these things? I add these little things for the sole purpose of making characters seem interesting and put a more human unpredictability to them. In my opinion, it helps people seem more real.

    As for Lisa... the example you used reminds me of a certain John Mulaney story. He's a comedian, and if you feel like you need a laugh in your day, there you go :)

     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  19. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I kept thinking. Why does this remind you of Lisa and then the last ten seconds happened. LOL
     
  20. theoriginalmonsterman
    Online

    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2014
    Messages:
    528
    Likes Received:
    252
    Location:
    [REDACTED]
    Quirks are usually only necessary if the character is lacking in unique character traits. If you don't have trouble developing character personalities then you're better off without having quirks unless they provide something to the plot.
     
  21. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    I suppose it could come to what you consider a quirk, and how that's different from a character trait. I have a hacker with a fondness for Gothic Lolita fashion. Does it affect the plot? Not really (until someone deliberately steps on her hat; then she goes honey badger on the guy) but it's a part of who she is.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  22. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Isn't a quirk a character trait? lol
     
  23. C. W. Evon
    Offline

    C. W. Evon Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    29
    I like to give my characters quirks. They don't all make it into the story, but they do help me understand that character better.

    I don't think the characters in my WIP have any outstanding quirks so far, because I can't think of any. My second main character coughs a lot, so I guess you could consider that a quirk. Not only does it help with the pacing, (like breaking up dialogue a little, e.g.: "On a train, silly!" She laughed, then coughed. Wiped her sleeve across her mouth. "My, but aren't you a funny thing?") but it also ends up being important to the plot. Eventually it will be revealed that she's dying of TB. Since we don't get this information outright because she neither tells anyone nor really admits it to herself, it would seem kind of random for her to die if there wasn't ever a clue, so that's why she coughs, and also starts having severe chest pains a little later on.

    As a reader, I have to admit that, while I love quirky characters, sometimes really bizarre quirks that don't really add anything begin to annoy me. Especially when the author has felt the need to give one to every single character. I can just see them filling out a character sketch worksheet and dutifully giving each character a quirk; like paint-by-numbers.
     
  24. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Oh I agree with the last part. It indeed isn't a "EVERYONE GETS A UNIQUE ONE! MEW HA HA" because everyone isn't unique. lol. A bunch of characters don't really have them or if they do they don't come up very often.

    I mean because in real life, we sometimes have to face facts. We can be boring lol. Or if we have quirks they can go unnoticed by even are closest of friends. So if adding quirks is about addined real life flavor. Then we have to realize that real life flavors aren't always seen and sometimes aren't always even there.

    This reminds me of another girl. The idea is she knows morse code. When she was a kid she would tap it with her fingers when she was stressed. Its a habit she doesn't do often as an adult. But she wasn't weird or a lover of outdated tech. She was raised away from home and the only means her parents had to talk with her was morse code. They died when she was a teenager though. So she no longer had a reason to use it. Yet she still knows it. lol

    Edited to add:
    It is neat how quirks can help. In the end. I think explaining them helps us shape our characters. Like in your case. Coughing is forshadowing. Which makes it so silent yet so powerful when revealed. I would see how we might find it annoying if someone said. "She does X because.... she needed to be more unique! :D" lol
     
  25. C. W. Evon
    Offline

    C. W. Evon Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    29
    I like that point; there are boring people in real life and sometimes characters are boring too. Especially really minor characters. Walk-on characters probably should be boring. I mean, if one makes the grocery store clerk too interesting, readers are going to be disappointed when they never see him again, right?

    Also I forgot to mention that your ninja character sounds really intriguing! I like the connection between her self-worth and her ability to steal ID's. I don't know any more about her than what you've said here, but even so, I can't help but think she deserves her own story someday!
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.

Share This Page