Character Quirks

This blog is part two of six in a series designed to hone character development of protagonists in your fiction.

When on its own and free to be itself, my hair curves into waves that the Atlantic Ocean would envy. Prodigious effort must be made to tame it. That prodigious effort originates in the form of a professional blowout.

When trying to preserve a blowout, I have found that the perfect room temperature in which to slumber is 66 degrees. If I can sleep in this brisk temperature, all is well; and my hair stays presentable. Because my husband prefers my hair tamed, rather than wild, he’s willing to snuggle under a blanket or two to help me maintain a sleek style.

Not everyone is willing to sleep in a room this cold. But it works for me. Could I be a character in your book? Maybe.


Your turn

Does your main character have a quirk?

What is the reason for the quirk?

How does the quirk help the character live a better life or accomplish a goal?

Does the quirk keep the character from living a better life or accomplishing a goal?


Character Development Series:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

31 Responses to Character Quirks

  1. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 25, 2018 at 6:33 am #

    Didja hear the one about the farmer who got bitten by a rabbit? he had a real Bad Hare Day…sorry, Tamela, couldn’t resist.

    I guess my main character now is me, in my blog; I don’t have the energy to continue writing fiction. And I do have a quirk, one that the people close to me find annoying…and that is cheerfulness.

    In the face of a really nasty and worsening prognosis, I remain upbeat, happy, and I joke about it, often with variations on “Well, it could be worse, I could be…” using increasingly improbable comparisons.

    And, “If you can’t laugh at death, what’s the point in dying?”

    The final nail in the coffin, hahaha, is a propensity to sing Petula Clark standards while I’m feeding the dogs.

    For me, this is as natural as breathing, as all quirks should be, but for others, like the long-suffering Barbara, it’s really irritating, because it has the function of taking away some of the foundation for her grieving process…it comes across, to her, as almost belittling, certainly of myself, and by implication, or her.

    So I guess it’s both a help and a hindrance; it makes my days easier, but distances relationship.

  2. Avatar
    Sharee Stover October 25, 2018 at 7:15 am #

    Tamela, I love this! And I too prefer artic sleeping temperatures. My character is quirky so I love the questions you’re asking about WHY she’s quirky!

  3. Avatar
    Katie Powner October 25, 2018 at 7:33 am #

    Tamela, I had to laugh at your “brisk 66 degrees,” since up here in Montana we are hard-pressed to maintain 60 degrees overnight during the winter months!

  4. Avatar
    Cheryl V Abstance October 25, 2018 at 8:39 am #

    Please re-send of tell me where I can find Part One in the Character Development series.
    Thanks, Vicki (Cheryl V)

  5. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca October 25, 2018 at 8:44 am #

    I love this series — very thought-provoking.

    My main character would appear to be completely normal. She’s young, intelligent, and successful. However, she does have a mild obsession with puzzles. Crosswords, math puzzles, word games — anything that requires her to use clues to find a solution. She developed this fascination as a child when her father, an engineering professor, had encouraged her problem-solving skills.

    After her parents die in an automobile accident, she receives some information that there may have been foul play involved. She follows one cryptic clue after another to get to the truth.

    So the father’s love for his daughter enabled her to develop the skills to solve the mystery of his own demise.

  6. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield October 25, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    Young women like both my daughters, –one with short and one with long hair, resort to all kinds of tricks and tribulations to GET the big waves you describe! You might find some tips on YouTube for how to modify instead of flatten those waves and continue to be stylish, but allow you two to sleep a little warmer.😀

    My main character’s quirk is that although she is a married woman in her own home, she still constantly mentally checks too many of her decisions against what she thinks her mother would approve. (It’s really easy for me to write that quirk into a character. 😉)

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2018 at 9:49 am #

      Who doesn’t love beauty tips! Thanks!

      Interesting character quirk, too. I think all of us want to please our parents!

  7. Avatar
    Joey Rudder October 25, 2018 at 11:12 am #

    Tamela, you work very hard for your hair…and it’s beautiful! (I won’t even begin to tell you the fun my daughter and I are having with our hair since our water heater died a few days ago…brrr!)

    Hmm. I think my main character’s quirks involve her crazy curly hair (she fights with it and forces it into a messy bun most of the time) and her inability to cook; she burns everything. If you ask my husband, he will tell you he knows where THAT quirk came from. But I’ll just shrug and pretend like I don’t know what he’s talking about. 😉 (Unless he brings up the brats I grilled that were so charred they were inedible. I can’t keep a straight face on that one!)

    But you’ve got me thinking (thank you!). Hoping to make this a series, I want to delve deeper into my characters’ quirks. They (quirks) change as we grow, don’t they? So she could either be an overcomer who becomes a famous chef, or she could embrace it and rely on takeout. And new quirks are a must to keep her fresh and real, right?

    Another layer of the “onion” is being peeled back today. Thanks again! Blessings to you!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the fun! I enjoyed reading your comments! And yes, quirks can definitely change. Glad my posts can give you inspiration!

  8. Avatar
    clarie o'sullivan October 25, 2018 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Tamela and all,

    Great post and learning to make my characters ‘quirky’ took some time, reading, learning, rewriting… etc.

    My fMC is a thief. Kinda flawed there, I suspect. She is a bit of a klutz. Snarky. *However she is a great cook* — perhaps her one endearing qualities. She has the hair of a rabid angora rabbit when it’s wet or when she sleeps. This character slowly warms to being a Christian but backslides into old habits, easily going off on her own without thinking leading her almost all the time into danger. And she hates exercise (can anyone relate?).

    My mMC is a computer ditz. He kills/destroys almost every computer he comes across, including deleting the digital feed of the thief (ransacking the police records station). He is easily riled by one man. And… he nearly hyperventilates around the thief (since obviously, he is in love with her).

    All in all, flaws make the story. A good plot is DOA without quirky characters. I remember some books, rarely remember characters or their names until I see the flaws pop up, and not simply disappear once he/she becomes a Christian.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

      Haha! Your characters sound like fun!

      • Avatar
        Claire O'Sullivan October 25, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

        Thanks, Tamela! Though I am not sure the Christian market does well with comedy/drama/tears even in a HEA.

        oh… and like (exactly like) me, my fMC cannot tolerate caffeine or alcohol– or high amounts of sugar. If you know what a 9-1-1 is (Dutch Bros coffee, 6 shots of espresson) you can only imagine the outcome.

        • Avatar
          Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

          I used to drink two cups of tea with two teabags each at meals when I was in college. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I have mended my ways by sleeping enough and drinking medium roast coffee, one cup at a time, over the course of the day.

          But never, ever six shots of coffee in one drink! Oh. My.

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Mugrage October 25, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

      Claire, I love it!!! There are SO MANY computer ditzes in real life, who are all the more dangerous because of the knowledge we have. But how often do you see one in a book?

      It reminds me of an apocryphal story about some scientist whose very presence seemed to cause equipment to malfunction. I can’t remember the name of the novel I heard this story in.

  9. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan October 25, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

    ha, ha… Earl Grey? That’s super high in caffeine. That is quite a bit of energy to get those last minute papers done.

    Yes, someone pulled a ‘joke’ on me with a 9-1-1. The outcome was not good. I had been drinking decaf at the time. My heart raced. I stood, sat, sweat profusely and was a total idiot. Since everyone got a good laugh out of my misery, I figured giving her the same quality might be entertaining. I’m the same with alcohol, ie a few sips and someone needs to carry me down the stairs, pour me into a car and drive me home. So when my son on occasion gives me a ‘cherry soda,’ I now look at the back and hand it right back. Tsk.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 26, 2018 at 6:39 am #

      Hmm, Claire, not sure what kind. Whatever swill they had at the college cafeteria!

  10. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage October 25, 2018 at 8:21 pm #

    Oh, you ask about my characters’ quirks, do you? Do you realize how dangerous that is?
    I could go on for hours about my ensemble cast, but I’ll confine myself to:

    My leading man … Arrogant, demanding, doesn’t speak the same language as everyone else. A gifted musician. And he’s paraplegic, but I don’t think it’s very sensitive to regard that as a “quirk.” Though it is important in his character development. Long, curly beard and hair (ahem). Oh, and he’s 130 years old.

    My leading lady … Calm, dignified, practical, a caretaker by inclination and principle. Not at all musical. 60 years old. So you see, it’s a December-May relationship.

    As for your attempts to tame your hair, I can only say (with a twinkle of course) that you are a traitor to all us naturally curlies! I always wanted Pocahontas hair. What I got is Shirley Temple.

    • Avatar
      Claire O'Sullivan October 25, 2018 at 9:22 pm #

      Ha, ha! I love your quirky ensemble.

      I used to have Pocahontas hair which my mother kept short… now I have hair that just makes up its mind every five minutes or so, and not one strand looks vaguely humanoid.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 26, 2018 at 6:39 am #

      Ha ha! I have natural waves today as I read this!

  11. Avatar
    Sharon Kay Connell October 27, 2018 at 6:03 am #

    Loved this article, Tamela. I try to give at least one, if not more, a special quirk in my stories. It helps to identify the character to the reader right away. Makes the character memorable, in my opinion.

    The book I’m about to republish (after learning so much about writing over the years) is one of my favorite stories. The sidekick to the hero is a doctor who uses (now don’t anyone faint on me here) “cliches” at every opportunity. No, the book is not filled with them. And no, he doesn’t give a chiche every time he opens his mouth, but enough that the reader remembers him. The doctor even admits to the heroine of the story that he does it for attention. My critiquers loved his character.

    The sidekick to my heroine is equally memorable in that she’s a tease. “Irrepressible” is how the hero describes this character.

    My heroine has a habit of biting her bottom lip when she thinks or is stressed. I think little things like this help the reader picture the characters better.

    My main goal in giving these characters quirks to identify them is to make the stories fun and also to help the reader keep track of who’s who. Names don’t always do that.

    By the way, I love keeping the temp cold at night. Help you breathe better, and it’s easier to sleep that way. 🙂

    I even gave one of my villains a quirk (sort of) in another story. He had a fetish for knives. He seemed almost in love with the feel and look of them.

  12. Avatar
    Sharon Kay Connell October 27, 2018 at 6:04 am #

    P.S. Don’t be surprise if a character that resembles the wavy-headed Tamela shows up in one of my future books. LOL

  13. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D October 27, 2018 at 10:48 am #

    Hi Tamela:
    Nope. My characters are quirkless. I better get to work on that, I guess! Thanks for suggesting it.

  14. Avatar
    Lorraine October 27, 2018 at 8:04 pm #

    Such a cute post, Tamela, and a great point for showing something different in a character!


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