We all love the characters who stand out. There are the ones we chuckle about, want to invite to dinner, wish they wouldn’t go away when we turn the last page. Many times these special people speak to us because they somehow pull off what we never thought we could do ourselves- the overachiever, the against-all-odds, the believer. Sometimes they are rotten to the core but find redemption. Sometimes they are so much like us that there is no separating their feelings and actions from our own.
Then there are the quirky ones. They make you giggle. You shake your head but keep reading. At times you really don’t believe what they are doing or saying, but you keep loving every minute that they are on the page. I never have liked slap-stick humor. I hated The Three Stooges. Yet, when Stephanie Plum wrecks yet another car I do smile. Why is this? What appeals to us?
I’m working on a new character right now and have started my list of what is going to make her special. What are the qualities that will make you cheer for her, cry with her, and think she is just a little quirky?
Examples of some of my dear characters’ interests have been or might yet to be are :
- Working through Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and sprinkling odd references throughout her dialogue;
- Collecting pin cushions (this became a helpful red herring);
- Clipping obituary notices of people with odd names;
- Using sticky notes all over the house to remind her of what to do. Often she needs a note to remind her to read the notes;
- Planning elaborate trips with maps, restaurant notes, train schedules and more for adventures she’ll never take;
- Learning a new foreign language every year. She’s on number four but not very good in any of them;
- Watching old movies that have very sad endings;
- Raising tropical fish in a salt water tank, that always has some malfunction, and;
- Inventing new gizmos that will somehow make your life better, or more interesting.
The list goes on. As you can tell, I like quirky. When you are reading, what makes a character come to life for you? If you are a writer, how do you decide the components that turn your new friends from drag and ordinary to bold and imaginative? Do share.