Thursday, October 27, 2022

Quirky People Make Quirky Characters

by Pam Hillman

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: A crooked picture drives me insane. I will straighten them whenever I see them.

I can’t stand for a stack of stapled papers to be haphazard. I will take out the staple and re-staple them together all nice and neat. Completely oblivious to my little habit, I did this once while the guy who’d stapled them together was standing next to my desk chatting. It was kinda embarrassing when he pointed out what I’d done. Oops!

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. Of course this was a good habit to have to keep germs away.

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 cookie, she has to have two, and if she gets three, she’ll need another one 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 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 sorted her M&M’s before she ate them. She ate all of one color, then the next color, and so on. Any of you have a M&M quirk?

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!

Anybody feel up to sharing their quirks, or even better quirks you've given your characters? Or quirks you've discovered while reading other's books that you found interesting, funny, or really odd? Quirks in movies? I can think of a few. :)

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.


  1. Pam, I love your mention of quirks. I have one that I realized a few years ago. I want all dining room/kitchen chairs to be pushed neatly into their spot around and under the table. If someone gets up and leaves his or her chair pushed back away from the table, I'm troubled and have to return said chair to it's rightful place. Strange, huh?

    Another quirk that I recently mentioned to one of my children. I always need a covering to sleep. Even when it's extremely hot, I have to have a sheet covering at least my legs. It started with I was a child and easily frightened. Evidently, I heard a spooky story and feared the Boogie Man would get me in my sleep unless I had a sheet, blanket or spread draped over me. That need for a covering to sleep remains to this day.

    1. Debby, maybe that's why I want a sheet over me as well! I kick it off if I get warm, but within minutes I'm pulling it right back up! lol

    2. That's what happens to me when it's really hot, Pam. Now I turn up the fan! :)

  2. I love reading about quirks! And you're right. We all have them.
    One of mine - probably after years of following after my children - is to straighten towels on a towel bar. And I'm always a bit bothered when some bathrooms have hooks instead of bars. How do you straighten those?
    I love to give my characters interesting quirks, too. One in my newest release just can't remember how to set her watch when she's traveling between time zones. Is it two hours ahead or two hours back? Are they late for breakfast, or early for lunch?
    I had a lot of fun with that one!

    1. Too funny about your character's watch. I'm reading between the lines, but since she's travelling between time zones, this must be a contemp, and she must wear an old-fashioned watch that has to be manually reset, which is a real pain! lol

      I have an Apple Watch and it's just as frustrating that you need to find the time to charge the thing, but you want it to track your sleep patterns as well as all your movements, and exercise. That could be a whole new level of quirkiness!

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    1. Terri, how interesting about your shoulders! We're all unique, right?

    2. Terri, you must be my long-lost twin! I don't like for people/things to get in my space, especially my face. I'm mostly okay with the grands, and I can deal with the dentist (esp. since they mostly wear masks... and that has nothing to do with the big C), but eye doctors... Yes, they weird me out.

      With the dentist, I can close my eyes and deal with it. Kinda hard to close your eyes at an eye appointment. lol

  4. You mentioned the man who rubbed his feet together to fall asleep. I don't do it for that reason, but I rub my feet together. It doesn't seem like a weird thing to me, but I have always done it, especially at night. It's funny because after I was married, my sister asked my husband if I still did that. She remembered it well from when we were young and shared a room together. My husband also says I need to say stealing covers is a quirk. I don't really think so. I don't intend to do that--it just happens.

    1. Sandy, he probably stole them in the first place! You're just reclaiming them. lol


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