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!

34 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Does he hide Country Living magazines under his bed?

WHAT A HOOT! Love this.

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

The key word here is "multifaceted" Great post and I agree totally. :o)

ElegantSnobbery said...

Does he hide Country Living magazines under his bed? Does he save tater tots in his pockets for later?

----

Hahaha, that absolutely cracked me up. How CUTE that he laughs in his sleep! And how funny that your hubs swears in his sleep!! Yes, quirky is way more interesting than boring!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great post, Kelly! Your family is so much fun...I'm guessing you are the one who hides Country Living under your bed???

Shallee said...

What a great story! I laughed out loud. :) And characters who have quirks like that are always so much more interesting than ones who don't. Thanks for sharing!

Anita said...

OK...THIS is weird. I love plucking my eyebrows! It's very meditative. I do it almost every night before bed. I also slouch, but I wish I didn't. Boy laughs--really, really laughs--in his sleep. He's woken us all before when we've been camping. Sometimes I wake myself up laughing too. Husband doesn't swear in his sleep, but he fights people.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, this is a perfect way to address compelling characters. I can totally see a sleep-swearing dad in a book! :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the idea of quirky traits!

Meika said...

Haha that is SO cute that your son laughs in his sleep! Quirks are a must for compelling characters. Nothing humanizes them more, I think. GREAT post!

Btw, I was reading your top ten tv shows list and no, I don't think Chandler could BE any funnier. I also love Barney and True Blood is like my crack.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Your family is hilarious!

My son sleepwalks sometimes and my daughter will yell at her brother in her sleep every once in a whil. My night time quirk? I can't lay on a hot pillow and I don't like anyone else's head on my pillow. They'll make it hot.

Great reminder to look for those things that make each of us unique.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hilarious examples and a good reminder to not only be quirky but don't forget a sense of humor.

Elana Johnson said...

I so want to be a twitcher. That sounds like a lot of fun! I agree that quirks are essential. Great post!

DEZMOND said...

strange usually means unique and unique is always good as long as it doesn't cross the boundaries of freakish or crazy :)

Patricia A. Timms said...

You're so funny! Seriously, you make me laugh. I like that.

I just asked my husband what he thinks is weird about me and he said, "That's like asking if your fat. I plead the fifth on that one."

So, I guess asking my husband wasn't the brightest one of my ideas. I sleep with my eyes wide open. Freaks people out and I handed that one down to my middle child. Used to work great in school for lectures.

Laura Pauling said...

It's so true. In fiction, sometimes we have to go over the top to make a character seem real. And my son laughs in his sleep too, it is a little weird!

Kelly said...

Thanks, Bish and Jessica!
Marisa- Our house is very quirky and rarely boring!
Sharon- The character quirks I just made up, but the sleeping quirks are true!
Thank you, Shallee!
Anita- That is something! We are living parallel lives!
Shannon- Thanks!!

Kelly said...

Alex- Quirky is good.
Meika- So great that you share my taste in TV!
Sherrie- My daughter is the same way about her pillow. She has to turn it over a few times at night.
Tricia- Sense of humor is good, too!
Elana- Hee. I'm not sure I'd love to be a twitcher...
Dezz- Crazy is well, crazy! Though sometimes a crazy person needs to be in certain kinds of books!
Patricia- Sleeping with your eyes open is definitely an interesting trait!
Laura- Funny! I'm just so happy that he has happy dreams!

RaShelle said...

Awesome - Can I call it a quirk if I swear when I'm awake? LOL This is great. I love it!! Thanks Kelly

Stephen Tremp said...

My characters have all kinds of annoying habits that bother those around them. But they also have commonalities. I use food to contrast characters. The protagonist is a health food but, his girl friend a junk food junkie. Lots of ways they can annoy each other just sitting down together for linch.

Stephen Tremp

Melissa said...

Your daughter sounds adorable! This post is great and I was smiling the whole time... I also have a strong urge to go visit my nieces and nephews because they are young and say/do cute things like this.

Kelly H-Y said...

Loved this, Kelly! Great way to teach about the importance of making your character unique too!

Kelly H-Y said...

Loved this, Kelly! Great way to teach about the importance of making your character unique too!

Talei said...

LOL. Enjoyed this. And totally agree - bizarre, peculiar, quirky!! Works for me when I'm reading I want to hear more about characters with these special traits. ;)

Kittie Howard said...

Hi, I'm dropping in from the blog fest. Nice to meet you! I loved this post, how you spiced fact with humor. I'm happy to follow you. (And I see you're approaching 200--hope you make it this weekend!)

Tina Laurel Lee said...

This is a great approach to the character posts and I love hearing about you family. You got character development down perfect where blogging is concerned!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Normal is boring! I love reading about characters that are different and quirky. Wonderful post! Thank you!
P.S. How ADORABLE that your son laughs in his sleep!!!

Christina Lee said...

This is GREAT! you're right--normal IS boring!

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

My first boyfriend told me: "If the world were normal it would be a boring place."

Words to live by.

stickynotestories said...

Hehe, I like this post and the little story about your family. It certainly does make you compelling as characters! I love the little quirks in characters, and it certainly can go a long way towards making me want to keep reading!

Jen Daiker said...

Way to share with us how quirks are awesome to have!!! Fun post, your take was fantastic! Thanks for participating! It was so fun!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great post! That is so adorable that your son laughs in his sleep. So precious! Little nuggets like that, tucked into a story, make the characters more real and believable and lovable.

Hema P. said...

Adorable post, Kelly! It's funny how we see leads for writing everywhere around us, isn't it? As for my protagonist's quirks, she bites her fingernails when she's worried or anxious. She's trying very hard to kick that habit :).

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Everyone's got to have a quirk! And it does sound adorable to hear a child laughing in his sleep.

Julie said...

You totally made me smile.

And I feel compelled to confess that I really miss the divided plates I had when I was younger. I really don't like my food to touch each other. :)