Friday, August 7, 2015

Best of the Archives: Quirky People Make Quirky Characters

This post first appeared in May 2009. Seekerville is closed to comments today. See you tomorrow for the Weekend Edition.

You want your characters to be quirky, but not too quirky, right? You want them to have real flaws and believable habits, but not come across as a basket case of nervous energy, or just plain loopy. And you want people to identify with them, right.

So, how quirky is too quirky?

How about this: A housewife counts the plates as she puts them into the dishwasher, the spoons as she puts them in the drawer. She counts the towels as she folds them. A grandmother cannot bring herself to throw away a note of encouragement or anything of sentimental value.

A man who rubs his feet together to fall asleep. His wife has to be wearing socks to snooze.

What about a dirty napkin phobia? One woman said that she never crumples her used napkin. She folds it. If someone else crumples theirs, she can't keep from looking at it. And don’t expect her to touch someone else's crumpled up napkins when cleaning up. Now that’s a phobia.

One of my own pet peeves: I can’t stand a crooked drives me insane. I will straighten them whenever I see them.

I can’t stand for a stack of stapled papers, or file folders, to be haphazard. I will undo them and re-staple them to keep them straight. I did this once with the guy standing there who’d stapled them together in the first place. It was kinda embarrassing when I realized what I’d done.

I’ve heard of someone saying it was impossible for them to fall asleep lying down. That one has me scratching my head, and I’d like to ask that person how they do fall asleep. Maybe they sleep in a recliner or something!

I'm a hand washer. I wash my hands all the time. The first thing I used to do when I got to work was to wash my hands.

I love this one… One woman reported that she has a thing with even and odd. She doesn't like odd numbers so she only deals with things that are even. She can't just have one piece of cookie, she has to have two, and if she gets three, she’ll need another piece to make it even.

So, how about three Krispy Kreme donuts, please? Using her phobia, I’d have to have four!

I’ve got pages and pages of these quirks I’ve saved over the years, and I imagine your particular quirk is on the list. Dollars to those donuts, your quirk is also somebody else’s quirk, and even more importantly, can become one of your character’s quirks.

Three more, because I can’t resist….

M&M’s are a popular quirk, from eating them before a flight, to before a doctor’s appointment, to sorting them into piles and eating certain colors. One man said that the more blue M&M’s, the better his flight. A former co-worker of mine sorts her M&M’s before she eats them. Any of you have an M&M quirk? Dip into the bowl of M&M’s on the side table there. Just don’t eat all the blue ones, and save some for the rest of us.

Another plane quirk: One woman said she has to tap the outside of the plane ten times. Someone else said he sleeps with a window open—even in the dead of winter, and will not sleep with his head pointed toward a door. Now, this I can understand. I wouldn’t want my head pointed toward a door while sleeping. Makes perfect sense to me!

Since Seekerville is closed to comments today, it’s a perfect time for us to all look at our characters and see what kind of interesting quirks we can give them.

Have a great writing day.


STEALING JAKE by Pam Hillman. When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-Fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy―literally while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town―as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off―Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.