Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment: Quirky Characters

A few weeks ago my daughter brought home a writing exercise from school. She had drawn a picture of her little brother, JD, laughing in bed.

Underneath she wrote, "My brother is weird because he laughs in his sleep."

I giggled when I saw it, because my youngest son really does laugh in his sleep (it's adorable!). I asked Little Missy what the teacher asked the class to write about. Apparently the teacher told the students to write about a family member and what is weird about them. An interesting class discussion followed I am sure.

My daughter then piped in, "And I told the class that Dad swears in his sleep!"

Being a former teacher, students told me all kinds of things I'm sure their parents would be embarrassed about, and now it was our family's turn to be embarrassed. My husband really does occasionally swear in his sleep. Sometimes it's annoying;sometimes it's funny. My daughter witnessed it firsthand once while we were in a hotel. My husband yelled an expletive in the night, and my daughter turned to me and we both startled giggling.

Weird isn't a bad thing. My kids tell me I'm weird all the time, and I take it as a compliment. Normal is boring.

Take a look at your family, your friends. Is anybody truly normal? Aunt Betty doodles zombies and graveyards when she talks on the phone. Grandpa Teddy doesn't bother to put pants on when guests come over. Cousin Suzy hums while every time she texts. Your brother sniffs each bite of food before putting it in his mouth. What's my quirk? What makes me, me? I slouch. I sing loudly along with my rock music in my car. I look forward to tweezing my eyebrows every day. What is your quirk?

How about your characters? Is he a twitcher? Does she have a nasty ear picking habit? Does he hide Country Living magazines under his bed? Does he save tater tots in his pockets for later?

Make your characters odd, bizarre, peculiar, mysterious, outlandish, awe-inspiring. Because normal is boring and forgettable. To make your characters compelling, you need them to be multifaceted. Uniqueness is just one facet of your character that makes readers relate to her or care about him.

Now hop on over to Elana Johnson's blog to find out what over 170 others have to say about How to Write Compelling Characters in The Great Blogging Experiment!