Character Quirks

So, what makes a great character?
It's an extremely interesting question, and books upon books could be written on the subject. Of course, I'm not going to try to answer it completely in one little blog post. But, I am going to discuss one of the many things which I think can make a character interesting.
The thing is character quirks. I say "quirks" for lack of a better word; by it, I mean any little thing which makes a character stick out from anyone else in literature, or at least in their book. Maybe it's something they carry around with them at all times. Maybe it's a certain interest. Maybe it's a distinctive flaw. Or maybe it's how they dress, or a phrase they use continually, or part of their appearance that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Here are some examples of popular book characters and a list of quirks that makes them memorable.

Anne Shirley, Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables

1. She hates her red hair (as well as her freckled nose, her green eyes, and her skinny figure).
2. She gets into "scrapes."
3. She is hopelessly romantic.
4. She insists her name is spelled "with an e."
5. She has a temper.
6. She talks non-stop, for paragraphs at a time.
7. She demands "scope for the imagination."
8. She loves puffed sleeves.
9. She uses big words.
10. She is on a continual quest for "kindred spirits."
11. She names (or renames) everything she meets.
12. She wishes her name was Cordelia.

Sam Gamgee, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

1. He loves stories of the old heroes.
2. He wants to see the elves.
3. He can read, recite, and compose poetry (unusual for a poor hobbit).
4. He addresses Frodo as "Mr. Frodo."
5. He has a knack with rope.
6. Like most hobbits, he has a fear of water (in the Shire this wouldn't be considered a quirk, but in the Company he's really the only normal hobbit of the group).
7. His devotion to Frodo is unwavering.
8. He loves gardening (understandably).
9. He is suspicious and distrustful of foreigners (i.e. Faramir) and bitterly dislikes Sméagol (not to mention Ted Sandyman).
10. He is emotional (no other character in the book bursts into tears as many times as Sam).
11. He has a soft spot for "Bill," the pony.
12. He has a becoming affection for "his old Gaffer," the Shire, and all simple beautiful things.

Jo March, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

1. She writes.
2. She has a temper.
3. She has but one beauty - her long thick hair.
4. She whistles, runs, talks slang, and is a general tomboy.
5. She acts - playing "male parts to her heart's content", usually in a certain pair of hand-me-down boots.
6. She loves to read...especially in a garret, in the company of rats and apples.
7. She despises her work at Aunt March's.
8. She can't cook.
9. She's clumsy, always ruining gloves, dresses, coral bracelets, and the like.
10. Although she loves all her family, she has an especially close bond with gentle Beth.
11. She feuds constantly with her little sister Amy.
12. She scowls at any young man who gives a hint of making Meg fall in love with him.

Maybe those weren't all exactly quirks, and some of them were repetitive; but hopefully I got the idea across. Now that I've gone through three of my favorite characters in literature this way, I'll try it on one of my own....oh dear. Let's go with Timandra. I feel like she's rather thoroughly developed. We'll see if she is or not....

Timandra Clemmons, Lucy Agnes' The Prince's Pendant

1. She spouts Shakespeare left and right.
2. She wears her long black hair loose around her face.
3. She carries around a purse. (At least, she did at one point. I don't know if I've made a point of that in later drafts.)
4. She makes as many biting remarks to Dar as she possibly can.
5. She always has time to listen to Ada.
6. She addresses family members as "brother mine"/"mother mine" quite frequently.
7. Her facial expression can change from one extreme to the other with a rapidity akin to magic.
8. She talks almost as much as Anne of Green Gables, only she's never really serious. As she puts it, "My tongue has been my best friend and constant source of amusement ever since I can remember."
9. She can tease without being flippant.
10. She sometimes bursts into song without an obvious reason.
11. It takes quite a bit to dampen her spirits, and even more for her to show discouragement.
12. Her most firmly-held conviction is that everyone is called to be a hero.

Huh, I was really getting desperate at the end there. But it works for my purposes. :)

How about you? Have you noticed any quirks in your favorite characters? Can you list a few unique traits any of your characters have?


  1. Ooh, I like it.
    In my opinion, quirks are really what makes a character stand out. At least, usually. Something that makes them different from other characters you've read about, but also makes you love them more.

    Like my character, Alex. She's extremely clumsy, which is very bad because she can't control her fire-wielding abilities. It makes it dangerous to be around her, but she's also so likable that her friend Keira still hangs out wit her.

  2. Sounds good!
    I also think quirks can make a rather minor character really stand out. Like Flewddur Flam in the Prydain Chronicles. His magic harp with strings that break every time he exaggerates the truth (which is quite often), coupled with his continual, "A Flam never hesitates!" "A Flam is always prepared!" make him about the most delightful personality in the book.

    1. Oh yeah! I'd forgotten about that guy. It's been forever since I read those books.


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