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January 9, 2013
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Writing Character Quirks (Discussion)

:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
Well that's what is says. Character quirk, ticks, oddities; all the little things.
We can all make and write up great, epic characters and personalities. Now how about all those littler details, such as an odd fascination with cheese (I'm not kidding I've read it.) or a small tick whenever they hear running water.

It is these little bits and add-ons that make our characters so much more to love. It creates a character with depth, someone that the audience feels like they are really getting to know over time.

How do you write your character's quirks in? What types do you use and how do you make the matter to not only the character but the story. What do you feel works the best to add to your character and story?

As for me, I tend to use strange queues, words that set off an idea in my character's head that could have consequences later on.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013   Digital Artist
Apart from simply being fun to write, I reckon if everyone in the book talked the same and used the same body language, it would feel very flat. If the 'quirks' fit with with the character's personality and background, I find it can help them to feel like distinct people. As *LadyAnder said, I don't usually plan them. They just kind of come up.
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
Hmm, I can understand that. Well I like knowing my own characters more than just having their quirks just emerge. I know some might have it work well for some but I like knowing my characters a bit more before I start.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
"Quirks" seem like a cheap way of achieving the illusion of depth, and I don't see how they make a character more "lovable", particularly when they have an air of artificiality. A quirk added for the sake of quirkiness is not interesting. A somewhat odd behavior that's merely one aspect of a complex, well-rounded, realistic character is another matter.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes!
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
I agree, quirks shouldn't be added in for the sake of making someone more interesting.
They should emerge from the character's attitude or something with a reason behind it.
Most people have a way of doing things that is different than anyone else.
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:iconpepperseeds:
PepperSeeds Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
i take things ive seen from my own life, or things ive done myself. I grew up on the south east asian countryside, beside a strange little farming community, and i have many fond memories of my crazy family and neighbours... this kid i used to know once went to the city with his dad and was SUPER scared of elevators, like, it left him traumatized. So i used that as a quirk in one of my OC's
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:iconamayaells:
AmayaElls Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I don't tend to think up quirks beforehand, I tend to work out basic personality and find quirks during the writing, if the characters have them. For me that seems to make them more natural, as they seem to develop from personality, history and environment, rather than from a desire to add a quirk.
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
I should add, in addition to my last post, that quirks are by no means but but they are not the great secret to good character that some writers think they are. As Saintartaud has said, this topic has come up before and people have glorified quirks and their quirky characters - going so far to assume that obnoxious behaviour is going to be fun to read about.

It depends a lot on the story you're writing and the tone of your work. More exaggerated, flamboyant quirks are appropriate in a comedy, for example. In noir? Not so much. But as a general rule, a unique and unusual mannerism should have a reason and say something more profound about the character other than "He is different".

And don't go on and on about it like you're trying to say "Look, reader, look! I made my character interesting!" Also, don't make it their every other action because then you just look like you're being lazy, too.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Professional General Artist
This subject has come up in forum before, and I agree with what's already been said.  Quirks can add to the richness of a character and story, but a quirk alone doesn't add more depth to a characterization.  The only way it could is if the quirk connected to something very deep in the character that changed our understanding or ignites a change in the character.  A quirk is also pointless if it adds nothing to the story.  Like, a character being obsessed with cheese might be quite funny, but it would only deeply matter if that obsession compelled the story or motivated the character.  This isn't to say little quirky details about a character can't add texture and interest, it's just that the whole picture is often more important.

To throw out an example from my own work, I have a character who writes letters in purple ink and likes to wear the color a lot when he can.  Specifically, he has a purple opera coat that he wears around town.  It's a fairly minor affectation that really has no impact on the story, but it does reflect something of who he is, i.e. someone who goes for aesthetic affectations because he lives his life as art.
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
See it is pieces like you mention that I feel are the best to make a character just more than a face or some cliche' personality. Though a single color that permeates a characters life could be misunderstood as something else. The odd obsession with cheese, well there was quite a lot of story and history behind that from what I understood about the character.

There can also be degrees of quirks, like the one you referenced or smaller ones. Like how they shakes hands, might give evidence of their manners or upbringing. I'm not saying quirks without reason are good or should even be used just that various quarks can add to a character and better explain them without shoving those explanations in the readers face.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013  Professional General Artist
I think we agree, thought I wouldn't call all those things "quirks," just traits that are distinct and particular to a character. Part and parcel to what's called "significant detail."
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Student Writer
Well I suppose, though there is nothing to say that quirks could be important even though they seem insignificant to others characters in the story.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Professional General Artist
A significant detail is that which is significant in context of the story.
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:iconladyander:
LadyAnder Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Quirk aren't something one can just go assign to a character. You can't really devise this list of them to pick from. Quirks for a character is dependent on the story because they are part Character. These two aren't separate. I mean just assigning a character a quirk just for the character to have one will make the quirk forced. I don't plan for them. Most of the time, they come out just from the character responding from the plot. Quirks are nice to have but they are an added touch to what makes a character a character but hardly makes a character a character.
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
Well I can understand that.
Quirks can lead on to something from a characters history or a clue to more on their personality.
Most of the time I know they can seem inconsequential but they allow an audience to feel like they are getting know the character more or even better than even some of the other characters in the story.
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:iconslightlywinged:
SlightlyWinged Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have to agree. While writing, I didn't even think about a quirk, I just wrote what I imagined the character doing and saying. When I read through the story again though, I realized I had given him a quirk: he runs his hand through his hair when nervous or stressed.
I think this is another fun thing I'm discovering about writing. You can discover things about your characters writing them down, that you can't by just imagining them in situations. Writing down all the little reactions and nuances really makes you notice them.
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:iconavenvia:
Avenvia Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
I don't really pick out a list of quirks because I worry that it comes off as a trite way of making somebody individual. For example, I have a way of shifting my fringe when I get fidgety, but I wouldn't write that into a character unless it's relevant because it's really not important to my personality and doesn't make me very interesting.

I add quirks if they make sense in context; if they fit in with the character's history and experiences they will help readers to better understand the character. In my hair example, I do it because I'm vain and like my fringe cover my forehead right (*ponce*); that trait can be shown with many things I do, the hair being one of them.
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:icontristancody:
TristanCody Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
I write them in subtly, kind of nonchalant so that way I am not throwing it at the reader as a staccato. I use many different tones, mainly with an activity or partial emotive response, but they always kind of aid the story and are not just there for kicks and giggles (but when they are there for that, I try to use them best I can).
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
Subtly, I like it.
What I like doing with characters is trying to have the regular everyday things they do done in a way that might be unique to them.
Though I'm sure I'm only barely getting the hang of that aspect.
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:icontristancody:
TristanCody Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013  Student Writer
It definitely takes time to get decent at the art. I wish you luck! :)
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for the encouragement.
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:icontristancody:
TristanCody Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013  Student Writer
:handshake: Think nothing of it.
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
While quirks and oddities can be a nice touch, they alone don't make an interesting character. Random quirks, chosen just to have them, don't add anything to a character and won't make them more in-depth. Like everything else, they should be believeable and make sense in the context. Why did the character develop this odd behavior/obsession/speech pattern? Does it add anything to the story or show us more about the character's true personality? Does it make the reader curious to learn more about this character?
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
It is these little bits and add-ons that make our characters so much more to love. It creates a character with depth, someone that the audience feels like they are really getting to know over time. I disagree. I love characters because they are interesting and realistic representations of people who have opinions and thoughts that I feel I can relate to or that I am challenged by. Character depth is created by having deep characters with history, motivation, a worthy story and a by developing along side the narrative built around them.

Gatsby wasn't interesting because he constantly called Nick "Old Sport". Gatsby was interesting because he lived a luxurious life that wasn't enough, because he was surrounded by rumour and myth and because what he appeared to be and what he was contradicted each other. And the interesting part about Gatsby's manner isn't what he does but why he does it. There's a reason he uses "Old Sport" but he could use the term "My most shiny moon princess" and it would still be interesting.

The best kind of quirks are the ones that can almost go unnoticed and the worst are the ones that look like a substitute for distinct personality. Not everybody in the world has an eccentric or interesting mannerism and neither should everybody in a book.
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:iconepiclevelsorcerer:
EpicLevelSorcerer Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
I would agree with your points about quirks being a replacement for depth. Though no character is perfectly put together. Quirks or oddities give the reader more to ask of a character. It doesn't even have to be eccentric but I've never known a person that doesn't have some kind of odd manner to them.
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:iconragnaice:
ragnaice Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
What?! Gatsby would have been far more interesting if he had said "My most shiny moon princess." Darn, now I wish I had a time traveling machine and an invisibility cloak so I could go and whisper that suggestion to Fitzgerald...
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Me again, googled him. Anyway, I agree that why a character does something often is more important/interesting than what they actually do.
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
You googled it? Good. Now go forth and read. It'll only take a few hours and it's worth twice as much of your time.
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Should have googled from the beginning ...

I have to get the book first. But once I have finished the books I am reading right now ... the story sounds interesting (I read a summary at wikipedia).
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The name Gatsby sounds familiar, but I fear I missed something important. :ashamed: From which book is he? Because with that he is not what he appears to be, surrounded by rumour and a luxurious life not being enough you got me hooked.
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
In the meantime I googled so that I know by now, but thank you.
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013
sigh.
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Should have googled from the beginning. :stupidme:
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