A quirk is a strange behaviour that someone does, that is typically unique to that person. For example, I always get the hiccups when I eat carrots. The funny thing is I looked it up and there are actually quite a few people who get this, enough that one woman even made a support group for people who get the hiccups from eating carrots so that they would not feel so alone (the page has since been taken down unfortunately). So a quirk doesn’t have to be 100% unique, but at least unique enough that it is strange to most people.
Quirks are what make us unique, but they are also what make us normal because everybody has their own quirks. To translate this into writing, means that giving your character a quirk will make them seem more realistic to your reader and will make them stand out from the overwhelming crowd of fictional characters in today’s world.
Now all of this advice I actually read somewhere else, but the problem was that finding a quirk was easier said than done. How was I supposed to just come up with a strange habit that makes someone totally unique? So I’ve come up with some ways that will help you discover what your character’s quirk is.
1) Find the slowest parts of your story. Every story has a few, whether its walking somewhere, doing a monotonous chore, waiting around for someone, etc. Now think of possible things that could occur in these monotonous moments. Maybe on the walk to work your character picks up every single piece of trash he sees because he hates littering that much, and then he walks into the office with a pile full of garbage clutched to his chest and everybody nicknamed him “stinky” because his shirt smells like garbage all day, every day.
2) Think of something that your character is passionate about and make them so passionate that it is weird. Lets say we have someone who really likes sushi, and they like it so much that they style every single one of their meals sushi-style. They cut up bananas for the rice parts, and put slices of apples on top for their breakfast. Some people might even find that kind of cool. (I’m even thinking of adding a sprinkle of granola now for the decoration haha mmm…)
3) Give your character a passion that they keep a secret. This can be something that they would be embarrassed about if anybody found out. Maybe they LOVE Care Bears and they have an extravagant Care Bear collection in their home with every toy, movie, t-shirt, etc. ever made.
4) Think of your character’s past-times, and then tweak one to make it unique. Lets say they like reading (perfectly normal), but whenever they read they put on a recording of whale noises in the background because it helps them relax and focus.
5) Change something about your character’s everyday chores (brushing their teeth, making the bed, doing the dishes, etc.) to make it different. For example, your character could always brush their teeth with their non-dominant hand because they are trying to make the other side of their brain smarter.
6) Give your character a strange physical habit. To do this it is easiest to pick a body part first. Let’s pick teeth. Now pick any emotion, let’s say nervous. So our character clicks his front teeth together slowly when he is nervous. Once this habit is established, it can also help you convey your character’s emotions to your reader without having to use the typical words for that emotion. (It’s funny that as I got to the end of this one I started thinking really hard and noticed that I was playing with my belly button ring…)
7) Make your character enjoy a non-mainstream activity. Whether its playing Wii Fit every morning, bird watching, or preserving fruit. There are many activities out there that make people unique! If you need help thinking of something try browsing the magazines at your local news stand. There is a magazine for nearly every type of interest so it may help to give you some ideas (and if you really want to know the details of the activity you choose, you can just buy the magazine!).
I hope these ideas have got your creative gears turning. Feel free to add any thoughts in the comments section.
As always, Happy Writing!