In a previous post, I talked about character arcs. This week, I’d like to delve into the characters themselves. I like to give mine little quirks. Why? Because I think quirks are what make people real, and I want my readers to think my characters are like real people.
Here’s an example: I’ve written four novels with the same protagonist, Waverly Bryson, and once in a while she tells corny jokes. She thinks they’re funny, but the truth is they’re pretty stupid. (I get most of them from my sister, who gets them from her son.) The jokes are admittedly silly, but I’ve received many emails from readers telling me how much they love that my protagonist continues to tell them. Some readers have even sent me suggestions for corny jokes to use in future books.
Quirks can come in all shapes and sizes. Does your character have a pet phrase? (Think Vince Vaughn in Swingers and “Vegas, Baby”) A phobia? (Think Indiana Jones and snakes) A favorite drink? (Think James Bond and “shaken, not stirred”) A mild obsession? (Think Monica from Friends and cleanliness). These idiosyncrasies help the characters jump off the screen (or leap off the pages) into the real world. They bring the characters to life, which is exactly what you want. Cardboard people are boring, and cardboard characters are just as uninteresting.
One of my favorite characters in my novels is a witty guy who likes to wear T-shirts with equally witty slogans on them. Every time I wrote him into a scene I was excited to find out what his T-shirt was going to say. I wish I could be friends with this guy in real life, I found myself thinking. And I made him up!
As you work on developing your characters, think of how you can make them unique. In real life, no two people are exactly alike, but in the pages of your book it’s up to you to show the reader why your characters are different. It can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but once you let your imagination get to work, it’s not as hard as you might think. Just go with it, and have fun.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2014 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.