Which Television, film or novel characters stand out in your mind? We will never forget the Kramer of sitcom; The Dr. House of Drama, Phillip Marlowe of film and the Sherlock Holmes of novels. Why? Because they are unique and memorable. What distinguishes the unforgettable characters from the ones who do not leave much of a lasting impression.
It is vital that you attribute specific and unique gestures, ticks, quirks and other mannerisms to your fictional characters that will leave a lasting impression on your readers. Give your characters certain movements, gestures, habits or manners of speech that are unique and not common among other characters
How do you come up with unique and quirky character traits and mannerisms for your fictional characters? This is the easy and fun part. You already know that as writers we have to be observant of others. Much like a police officer is trained in the art of observing others and being able to recall what they observe, we writers must also perfect this skill. Use every opportunity you get to people watch. Master the art of eavesdropping. You can pick up distinct and believable character quirks and manners of speech by doing this.
The mall, airport, bus stops, train stations, and coffee shops are excellent places to try out your detective skills. Just like police officers it is important for writers to have an opportunity to observe, a clear unobstructed view and to make sure that nothing hinders your ability to observe and perceive.
Staking out your perpetrator can be fun. It requires patience and a lot of observing, but you can do it almost anywhere. Try sharpening your observation skills while waiting in line at the grocery store, at the bank, picking your children up from school or dining out. Make a list of unique ticks, quirks and mannerisms. Try to figure out why your target is acting nervous or pompous. This is another creative way to add ideas to your plot bank.
The unique idiosyncrasies that we give our characters add to their charm and give them depth and believability. They make our characters human and multifaceted. They are also neat little ways to foreshadow an upcoming plot twist or to give your reader a clue toward unveiling a mystery.
Here is a list of ten of my favorite character quirks
- Sucks on her teeth when nervous
- Extends her leg and sways her knee back an forth until it pops each time she sits down
- Greets everyone with a hug
- Twitches her nose like Samantha from “Bewitched” when worried or nervous
- Always has a chilled iced coffee in her hand with a straw
- Clears his throat excessively
- Will not go anywhere without several rolls of mentos fruit candy
- Eats the toppings off of the pizza, then the cheese and saves the crust for last.
- Cannot go to bed without a full glass of water, a glass of orange juice and a diet soda next to her bed but seldom drinks any of it
- Has to sleep with both the television and radio on
What unique quirks have you given your fictional characters that distinguishes them from every one else?