Thursday, 3 March 2011

Character quirks

Yes, it's great to give your characters quirks, but don't go too far. Sometimes the quirks are so obvious and strange that it's clear the author's putting the quirk in for the sake of giving a character a quirk, and it's painful to read. Really.

I read this book once where the protagonist's shoes always squeaked. Always. It didn't matter what shoes he was wearing, or what floor he was walking across. They squeaked. Okay, hands up, who can make sense of that? Yes, it's mildly amusing. But it annoyed me, because it was ridiculous! It wasn't quirky. It was against the laws of physics, and I got annoyed, because the author had tried too hard to follow some good advice and it was obvious that's what he was doing.
Quirks can be great. Just don't defy the laws of physics for them.


  1. YAY! I love your writing posts and am very glad you are putting them together here in another blog.

    I think if the shoes squeaking actually carried a purpose, such as at an intensely quiet climatic moment where the antagonist is hunting the protagonist down, and the squeak gives him away, that would be much more interesting. Or if the squeaky shoes signalled something ABOUT the character, like his homelessness or down-to-earth-ness or whatever the heck makes him 'distinct' as a character.

  2. Yes, absolutely, and it did give him away at a time. But every pair of shoes? On every surface? It didn't exactly suspend my disbelief, you know?

  3. Isla stomps everywhere? Is that bad? I was hoping to show arrogance/self-confidence!

    And I'm going to give Gabe something, but I don't know what (but no character gets something as constant as Isla). And Erin needs something, but she won't know about it until E3 or 4 where Gabe mentions it. Maybe twirling her hair when she's concentrating really hard? Erk. Any suggestions?

  4. No, no, it's definitely okay to have Isla stomp. It's something she does to reveal character, not something that happens to her. Do you see the difference?

  5. So as long as a character does something, it's okay, but if it's something given, it's too much?

  6. Well, can you see why I had a problem with every pair of shoe magically squeaking on every surface?

    Whereas if it's a character trait, something that they do instead of something that's done to them, it's different. It reveals the depth of the character - their psychology, their attitude, their history. Those quirks are great!