Sunday, February 23, 2014

Writing Real Characters


If we are honest, we all have them. For instance, I have this thing where I like silverware to be separated. You know, knives with knives, forks with forks, spoons with spoons. It’s not a huge deal. For instance, if they are mixed up, I don’t lose my mind, but it’s something that I do when putting my dishes away.

When I was in high school, several of my friends didn’t separate their silverware. Instead, they just threw all if into a drawer, even if they had the silverware separator. If we were hanging in the kitchen at those homes, I would often rearrange their silverware drawer as we hung out. Sometimes my friends would good naturedly tease me, but they all just got that’s how I rolled.

A quirk.

One of a million things that I do that makes me…well…me.

So here’s my question to you: what are your characters’ quirks? What are those things that separate them from the rest of the people in your story?

Sometimes I hear people say, “We’ll, he has brown hair and he has blond hair.”

Okay, they look different, but are the characters actually real, different human beings?

I’m not suggesting that you go off and give every character some sort of weird trait and that they all look like they are a step away from a group therapy session, but I am suggesting that you think of things that will make them come alive on the page.

For instance:
In Pushing the Limits, Echo’s knees bounce when she’s nervous.

In Dare You To, Ryan often wears a baseball hat and would turn it around on his head before he went to kiss Beth.

In Crash Into You, Abby gives Rachel a quick either/or test to see if they are compatible for friendship (Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Disney World or Disneyland?)

These aren’t things that are pointed out on every page, but they are small items that are thrown in to show how your character’s tick—how they are separate from other everyone else on the page.


.Michelle Dennis Evans said...

Great reminder... Thank you !

Mia Hayson said...

You're so right -- it's not the overt but what's written between the lines that makes a character real. It's the little things some see as odd that I fall in love with. <3

Kristin Lenz said...

Funny, the silverware thing just reminded me of my college roommates and how we always argued over whether the silverware should point up or down in the dishwasher. It goes down, of course. It's the little things...

Ann Finkelstein said...

An excellent reminder. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Thanks for the reminder ;)

Shari Becker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shari Becker said...

A great post. Perfect for me this week as I brainstorm what makes my newest character unique. It's all about the little details.

Lisa Tapp said...

Thanks for the reminder. My two main characters have their quirks, but a strong secondary character needs hers, too.

Stephanie Faris said...

Quirks make us more human, for sure! Although I wouldn't think the silverware separation thing is a quirk. That just makes SENSE! I can't imagine just throwing it all in a drawer.