Recently Jeanette Levellie had us sharing our pet peeves and Jessica Patch talked about our quirks. They were referring to those things that either annoy us or seem peculiar. The thing is, neither is unusual. Don’t we all have them?
I admit to some idiosyncrasies (only the unkind would say they border on OCD). When doors and drawers are meant to be shut, I like them closed all the way. Sliding closet doors that are left slightly ajar force me into corrective action, even when I’m already in bed. Honestly, do you expect me to sleep with that gaping void staring at me all night? Bifold doors and open drawers that snag me as I walk by, beg to be slammed shut. Cushions askew on the couch, and towels crooked on the rod? Need I say more?
If normal people have quirks (hey! I’m normal… at least in most areas), isn’t it logical that our characters not only might, but should, too?
There is a danger in creating stereotypes – for instance, looking at physical features and bronzing the hero’s brawny chest while scarring the antagonist’s cheek. A lot is written about using character flaws to make our protagonists real, but to accomplish realism takes more than simply portraying random weaknesses and strengths.
Personalities are complex – just ask anyone who has examined the results of a Myers-Briggs test. If we are to develop credible characters we need them to display the kind of strengths and weaknesses that we would find in real people but also have a few quirks to make them memorable. Not too many. Just a few, such as we all have. (I hear you objecting, but I’m almost positive I’m not alone with mine.)
The Myers-Briggs test divides us into four main personality types that can be combined in multiple ways to create sixteen:
- Extrovert (E) versus introvert (I),
- Sensitive (S) versus intuitive (N),
- Thinking (T) versus feeling (F), and
- Judgmental (J) versus perceptive (P).
We can’t just pull quirks out of the proverbial hat and assign them to our characters. The quirks or idiosyncrasies need to be reasonably in line with the characters’ personalities.
Who’d have guessed that making our characters appear real could be so much of a challenge?
In your current w.i.p., what quirks does your main character have? Do they fit his/her personality? Are they ones you possess or have you borrowed them from people you know?