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November 13, 2012
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Quirks and Oddities

:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I am looking to comprise a list of quirks, hopefully a long one, specifically (mainly, though not necessarily limited to them) of things that seem strange, but not enough to make a character a beacon of speculation. I'm primarily looking for subtle things that wouldn't say "this character is x" but after seeing/reading the whole thing, you would be able to recognize them as possible hints.

Examples are looking over one's shoulder, used sparingly enough that one would think it was situational, not actual paranoia. (Examples don't necessarily need a situation that they could be seen as, so much as simple quirks like clicking one's tongue or something)

Some may work better with cinematography, as I could see this being used for scriptwriting as well.

Other things I've considered: Always setting the table with steak knives even if there's nothing to cut

Never using the word "love" in dialogue (even if it would seem appropriate, such as always calling one's spouse their "Favorite person," and specifically being the only individual in a series NOT to use said word.)

Have any suggestions? Feel free to use any of these, I hope everyone is okay with these being fair game for any writer who wants to use them. In turn, I would hope that no one would object if the same was seen in more than one story.

SO: Anyone have any ideas for extremely subtle quirks that are more of a hint after knowing the plot than it ever would be, before?
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Devious Comments

:iconschris91:
schris91 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012  Student Filmographer
Don't just generate a list of quirks. Create the character, fully map out personality, hopes, dreams, desires, true intentions, hates, pet peeves, etc. and then generate a list of things someone with those traits would do. What would an egotistical person do? What would a self conscious person do? What would an anxious person do?
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:iconbluewyrm:
Bluewyrm Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012
For paranoia:
- little arguments over who gets which seat. The paranoid one always wants the one facing the whole room
- won't go into dark places alone, or tends to make a lot of noise if they have to do so

For making better characters:
- If all your characters are coming out depressive or paranoid, go grab yourself a nubbly blanket and a warm drink :)
- Go out and meet interesting people to base your characters off of
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:iconschris91:
schris91 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012  Student Filmographer
^this. no one wants to see a ton of characters that are the exact same. it's the mary sue complex that 95% of dA seems to have.
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:icontiganusi:
tiganusi Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012  Professional
He owns an RV with Mexican magic realism, wherein it is always raining.
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:iconsweetsandcharades:
SweetsAndCharades Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012
Interesting forum :) But I am not sure I can contribute with much... Hmm... How about a person who always stands really close to people he talks to because he won't admit that his eye-sight is beginning to worsen. Only it makes people think he is creepy.

I actually have one trait which one of my friends think is quite irritating and that is when I read signs or shop names or such I say it aloud. I am not quite sure why I do it and it is not every sign I see but if it is something you want to use for a character, feel free to do it :)
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012
If I find the character development needs a nudge, I pop open my copy of Please Understand Me by Keirsey & Bates. You need not subscribe to their Jungian temperament sorting system to find it convenient for adding perspective. Is your character introverted? Extroverted? In between? Do they tend to be in the moment or outside, observing? And so on. The book suggests a raft of traits that supposedly go together, and while you need not slavishly follow this model, you can use it to help you concoct a thorough profile of the character, not overlooking the composite elements of their nature.
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:iconellerochelle:
ElleRochelle Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012   Writer
One quirk my main character has is that whenever she's upset, her go-to comfort position is pulling her knees up to her chest and burying her face. She also has a sort of childish nature that is often obvious in the way she confronts things

My other main character has these "piercing blue eyes" that the first main character refers to frequently and his hair always flops in his eyes. He also has a very protective nature and often takes things personally. He has a big heart like that :)
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:iconikkapikkabooh:
IkkaPikkaBooh Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012
So these 'quirks' will be like foreshadowing or something? I love stuff like that, but never use them ~ It's fun thou when you read things and in the end you go "I should have known" as you remember the details ;3

Always setting the table with steak knives could work well with a need to always have the back against the wall while talking to someone, or allways get a seat next to the exit in the restaurant/cinema/bar/bus ;3
Not nowing what you're trying to hint at makes it hard to come up with anything else right now ;P
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:iconapocalypticangel4792:
ApocalypticAngel4792 Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012  Student Writer
The only thing I can think of is something I used in one of my favorite works:

As a family rule, you always say goodbye to one another, unless you're mad at them.

For instance, after the leading character's uncle discovers she's refusing to give her mother the bone marrow she needs to save her life, he refuses to say goodbye to her when she leaves. She's deeply hurt by this, and she knows that she must explain why she's doing this (her mother did some unforgivable things to her).

Another language-based quirk from the same piece:

The leading female never says "Ma'am", only "Madam."

I don't really know why she does this, but the best explanation would be that her family's servants raised her, so she picked up more of their language than the language of the area, where "Ma'am" is the common term. The butler, her main caregiver, says "Madam," so maybe she got it from him.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012   Digital Artist
Sorry, I really need to know: what's up with the steak knives? :B
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Dunno, it just seemed like something peculiar.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012   Digital Artist
Bugger. I was trying to work out what the reason was... :grump:
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, the reason that came to mind was that they were a murderer. In this case, when further trying to explain it, they were a murderer who enjoyed "a challenge" so their victim was in range of a weapon, as well.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012   Digital Artist
Ah interesting. I eventually came up with that they used to be rich, but now they are poor and can't afford steak, but they don't like to admit it because of their pride and so they continue to set the table properly to keep up appearances. (It was driving me mad, so i had to come up with an explanation =P)
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
See, that's why I like them, they can lead to varying conclusions, but possibly cue an "OHHHHH" when there's a reveal.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You know, I've read your responses to other answers, and I still don't get the point of this. You may be thinking of what is more commonly called a "character tag". These don't have to be quirks, just some device that makes the character identifiable.

[link]
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Professional General Artist
Ah, that makes a lot more sense. Good article too.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012   Digital Artist
THANKYOU. I had no idea what those were called. I've been calling them mannerisms, but that doesn't really cover it.
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:iconcatluvr2:
catluvr2 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Having one's speech be overly verbose and employ grandiose words while conversing with others when it is not necessarily required to do so.

Want an example? Look at my sentence. ;P
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
'beacon of speculation'? Please explain.
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Things that seem just out of the ordinary enough to make one question why, but only if they remember/notice it enough.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Professional General Artist
Michael Jackson vs. some guy who collects bowties.
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012   Writer
for what purpose? if you mentioned it, i missed it.

if it (whatever it is, in this issue, the quirk) doesn't move the plot along, it doesn't belong. having a character have a quirk for the sake of having a quirk is not interesting to me. if there's a legit reason that is germane to the plot, well, alright. i'm not a fan of quirky characters to begin with. i come across a quirky character in a book or movie or something and they just strike me as phony and insecure. i don't want to read that.

"always setting the table with steak knives even if there's nothing to cut" --> for what purpose? what's the story? why would a character do this?

and here's my short, honest/bitchy answer: make your own list. you can do it, you don't need to mooch off the community.
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It would be to move the plot, but only subtly enough to have a contextual sense for whatever may be revealed later. It should be something that when the reveal happens would cue a response of "oh, that explains why [x] did [y] so much." or whatever.

It's not really to mooch, because I don't even necessarily know what direction I'm taking my characters, but bouncing ideas back and forth seems to help, and I figured this was a place to do that.
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:iconmerrak:
merrak Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist
As has already been said, there seems to be infinitely many possible quirks. But this sounds like a great opportunity to procrastinate, so here are some more.

- A rising star in the 2032 Republican primaries falls flat on his face because he always has to get the last word in a debate. Later it is revealed he spent all his time during his youth on the deviantART politics forum.

- A homeless man down the street spends his days shouting at people to beware the dinosaur apocalypse. Later it is revealed during his childhood he was an extra on Barney, but failed to recapture the spotlight and couldn't cope with the expiration of his 15 minutes of fame.

- All of the people some character befriends have something in common, that relate to his or her back-story. They're hand puppets from Mars. (Martians have live hand puppets).

- A deviant posts only semi-serious replies to a thread on a forum. Later it is revealed he's just an idiot.
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:iconkyteglory:
KyteGlory Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012
A deviant posts...on a forum. Later it is revealed he's just an idiot.

Never before has a reveal revealed so little.
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:iconkyteglory:
KyteGlory Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012
Whatever Artaud said about compiling a list. I simply cannot imagine that helping you in any way.
There are an infinite number of possible quirks. Just about everything can become a quirk in the proper context. Each individual person could have hundreds, thousands, even millions of quirks, the vast, vast majority of which only show themselves in very specific situations. Even if you were to take the time to list out all of a character's quirks, you'd have an unmanageably long list and no way of recalling which ones are relevant to your story.

Probably the better thing to do is just to take your story one action at a time. Just put your characters in a situation, and tell us what they do. If you're in tune with your character, and write what they would really do--not just what you assume they'd do without much consideration--then the character's 'quirks' will happen naturally.
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:iconytcyberpunk:
YTcyberpunk Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
- Lighting a cigarette up whenever a certain subject is mentioned, and then later it's revealed that he/she has issues with that subject.
- All of the people some character befriends have something in common, that relate to his or her back-story (they're all social underdogs, for example).
- A curious, bubbly little adventurer who's always asking questions about everything turns out to be a spy.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Professional General Artist
I'm not sure if compiling a list is the best way to be approaching this issue. Unless I'm missing something about your intentions.

Personally, I just approach this kinda thing organically and throw in whatever I find interesting or right for the character. I apply a lot of what I've learned from experience and reading. I tend to write quirky or eccentric characters, and those are usually the ones that stick with me best when reading. It's honestly not a self-conscious thing, just what I naturally do to maintain my own interest. Having a list of quirks to draw from wouldn't really aid in my process. Unless, say, I had a character with a particular pathology.
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Problem is, I write mainly emo characters, mainly depressives. I have a lot of curious characters and clingy characters, too, but they're all kind of risking becoming the same.

That said, I'm more or less trying to figure out some ideas that could be useful at hinting to an idea, but are only more obvious way later down the line.
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012   Writer
learn how to craft characters (google search will bring up a wealth of info, as well as my character building workshop i ran this summer). giving a one-dimensional character a "quirk" is not enough. say your character wears her clothes inside out. does that help the plot? no? then no one will care. say she speaks in haiku when she meets someone she's attracted to. does it help the plot? no? then no one will care. see what i'm saying? if not, get back to me. i'll keep going with you.
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I would be interested in the workshop if another one happens.

The quirk isn't just a thing, it's supposed to be something that seems like a hint to something that is plot-relevant, but isn't so obvious that someone is going to, say, in chapter one, go "oh, that person is paranoid" or whatever (where paranoia would actually be significant.)
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012   Writer
you can go do my workshop any time you want at your pace. they're in my journals.

i'm afraid i am incapable of understanding this thing you're trying to accomplish with the quirk thing.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Professional General Artist
I'm not really sure what "emo" means. I assume over-emotional, not some kid in tight jeans with a bad haircut. ;P

Anyway, I don't think throwing in random quirks is going to fix the problem. The best approach would be to write a well developed character whose behavior is nuanced and multi-dimensional. Quirks can be part of that, but they need to make sense for the character and add real interest to the story. If you're looking at the characters as just clingy or depressive, you're not seeing the full scope of their personality.

I do think you can start with particular character tropes or types, but if they're starting to become same-y, maybe take a risk and write another type. Like, if you tend to write characters who are very needy, try a character who's very self-reliant. If it's a challenge, think of someone you know with those qualities or do some research.
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:icontails-155:
Tails-155 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, it's not that they're _just_ clingy or depressive, it's that they are _consistently_ so, across my stories and works.

Research is a place I definitely intend to focus, but I am just kind of looking for seeds, and I thought having some quirk of one sort or another, or thinking about various quirks, etc, could make for an interesting start place, such as having a quirk and then trying to come up with an explanation for why, and figuring out how to write a story around it, but not specifically centering _on_ it (if that makes sense)
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012  Professional General Artist
You'll have to forgive me and the others for being uncertain about your intentions. Your OP read like a lot of the posts we tend to get here, asking folks how to add character flaws, or doing the hard work for them. I can see that you've actually thought a bit more deeply about this and actually concerned with telling an interesting story from those quirks, which is good.

Still not sure I can give you a list of quirks, because it's just not a way I've ever approached the problem. Maybe you could start from quirks you've seen in your friends or family, or random people you've observed. When I used to ride the bus regularly and live/work more in the inner city, I saw all sorts of weird things that have probably found their way into my work. There are also weird/eccentric things about my family and people I've known in my work. If you just listen and observe you can come up with all sorts of interesting quirks to work from.

Oh, and I do think it would be good to consider changing up your character types a bit. I do think a good writer can get away with using a particular type repeatedly, but just for your own sanity it's good to play around a bit. Clingy and depressive types can be particularly problematic--too much insecurity can be annoying, and you usually need more external force to propel plot since they're not exactly going to leap into action. I also notice such characters can also be an excuse for navel-gazing and blathering on about feelings, rather than getting on with the story.
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