Audiences purchase your work because of your concept, but they embrace it because of your characters.

I don’t know where I found this quote. But it had enough impact for me to print and pin it within my mess of motivational messages. It’s some of the best writing advice I’ve got, and it arrived right when I was characterizing a new fiction series.

Ah, yes, the old plot-driven vs. character-driven debate. I’m not going there with this post, as it’s probably been done to death on The Kill Zone and by far more qualified fiction writers than me. But I will share with you a list of 234 Interesting Character Quirks I found while rabbit-holing tips on fleshing-out characters. First, let me tell you about Harry—one of the most interesting and quirky characters I ever met.

Harry was my detective partner. Harry and I paired for five years, and I loved every day of working with Harry. Harry’s real name wasn’t Harry. It was Sheryl. Sheryl Henderson. Sheryl was a large lady with large hair and an even larger personality. We nicknamed Sheryl “Harry” after the Sasquatch/Bigfoot in the movie Harry and the Hendersons,

Where do I start describing Harry and her character quirks? First of all, Harry was 100 percent Nordic. Her hair—all of it, I assume—was totally blonde with none of those dark roots you see on wanna-be blondes. Harry’s eyes were blue—a shade of blue that had to be seen rather than chronicled. And Harry’s skin was flawless. I’m sure Harry never suffered one zit in her life.

Harry was the most intuitive, innovative, and invigorating cop I ever knew. I don’t know Harry’s IQ, but it had to be high. Once, we gave Harry a Myers-Briggs personality test and she scored an ENFP. Here’s the M-B character synopsis for an ENFP like Harry:

You have a rare ability to be charming and completely rebellious at the same time. You have almost zero respect for traditions or doing things the way they’ve always been done. You think everything can be made newer and better, which sometimes leads to grand innovations and other times leads to “reinventing the wheel”. But even if your ideas don’t always come to fruition, you do everything with such contagious enthusiasm and curiosity that we can’t help but get swept away in the excitement of it all.

Harry was born into policing royalty. Her great-grandfather was a constable in the Northwest Mounted Police that morphed into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police which Harry’s grandfather joined. Harry’s dad, Hendrik (Hank) Henderson followed suit, and Hank was a high-ranking RCMP commissioned officer when Harry became a recruit.

I’ll never forget meeting Harry. She was assigned to the uniformed patrol division in the same department where I was a plainclothes detective. It was an evening shift when I walked into the bullpen. Harry was there with a circle around her, and she just delivered the punch line of some sexually-explicit joke.

She reared her head and let out a whinny followed by a winded snort and some sort of snot that shot from her nose. She wiped it with her hand, brushed past me, and headed for the locker room.

“Who the &@#* is that?” I asked the harness bulls.

“Our new addition,” a young bull said. “She swears worse than the Sergeant Major who once made a grammatically-correct sentence using nothing but a run of &@#*s with one noun and a single conjunction, but she has a better sense of humor.”

“Smarter, too,” said an older bull. “You’ll wanna keep your eye on this one.”

It wasn’t long before Harry made a name for herself—good, bad, or otherwise. I did keep my eye on Harry as investigative potential and, when a rotational position came open in our Serious Crimes Section, I asked for Harry. It was the best request I ever made.

Harry came on board for three months as part of an experience-building program the department ran. It was a good program, but when Harry’s three months expired she was too good to lose. She stayed my partner until I retired.

Harry’s character quirks? Too many to list.

Harry was left-handed but ate with her right. On dayshift, we always went to lunch at the same diner and Harry always ordered breakfast. Always the same—she hated substitutes. Pork sausages, eggs lightly steamed, shredded hash browns, dry white toast, and black coffee that she loaded with curdles of cream and sacks of sugar. Once served, Harry held her fork in her right, her knife in her left, and chopped everything into one large mangled mess which she mawed down while constantly talking.

Harry was a Starbucks gal. She constantly had a Verdi in her dented, stainless steel travel mug which she slurped and followed with a muffled belch and a “ ’Scuse me.” sort of non-apology.

Harry wasn’t married. Nor did she have, nor want to have, kids. Rumor was Harry played for the other team, but I had it from an unimpeachable source that wasn’t the case. We had an unmentioned agreement, Harry and I. I didn’t probe Harry’s personal life, and she didn’t mine mine.

Harry had money. Detectives make decent salaries, but Harry was better off than most. I believe it was an inheritance and that was okay. She wasn’t a flashy spender, but her house was paid for and she drove a Range Rover.

She was a classy dresser, Harry was. Black on black with a hint of red and a slight white surrender was her style, like her supercharged Range Rover, and I remember one day when Harry and I made a trip to a native reservation on a culturally-sensitive murder investigation. Harry slipped and slid on res-dog crap in her north-of-$300 leather boots which she took off, plastic-bagged, and threw in the back of our police-issued Explorer, driving back in her sock feet. I think she threw the boots away rather than having them cleaned.

Harry was a nervous passenger. She always drove while I rode shotgun. That was okay because Harry was an excellent driver, although she talked non-stop and habitually made eye contact as she spoke.

Harry exuded confidence… but not that in-your-face attitude that turned people off. The longer I worked with Harry the more I noticed how she leaned into people during conversations. One day, when Harry was too close in my zone, it hit me…

Harry was hard of hearing.

She completely and hostilely rejected my concern so, confidentially, I had the boss request a hearing test at her annual physical. After that, Harry reluctantly had hearing aids hidden by her large hair. (We, the other detectives, used to mess with Harry by raising and lowering our voices.)

Some of Harry’s quirks were sucking her teeth when deep in thought, blurting out while writing reports, subconsciously bouncing her left knee, and her stomach chronically growling after her lunch breakfast. She was a bit OCD—a neatish freak—and she’d organize other people’s desks. (We’d also intentionally mess our desks to mess with Harry.)

Harry wore no jewelry, she didn’t apply makeup, she played the same lotto numbers religiously, she listened to George Strait like a George Strait junkie, she line danced Brooks & Dunn’s Boot Scootin’ Bogie like a cow-girl-pro, and she always read the morning paper to which Harry would blast comments at leftish and alt-right columnists that’d make a biker blush.

I could go on and on about Harry, but I’ll leave it with the time she smashed a prized porcelain Confucius statue then cussed-out the Taoist monk who owned the thing. You can read about that in Beyond The Limits.

Now, for the list of 234 Interesting Character Quirks I told you about. I stumbled upon this site while rabbit-holing at Here’s the link:

If you don’t feel like visiting the site, I’ve copied & pasted most of the content which, I’m sure, you’ll find enlightening for fleshing out your fictional characters. (I make no apologies for the C&P—I’m a big believer that good writers borrow and great writers steal.)

Personality Quirks

  • adrenaline junkie
  • brags about one’s own accomplishments
  • high levels of enthusiasm
  • likes to be the center of attention
  • makes assumptions about others’ motives
  • makes snap judgments about other people
  • needs the approval of others
  • obsessive about personal hygiene
  • overly trusting of other people
  • plans things to the most minute detail
  • quick to recognize others accomplishments
  • seeks adventure or new experiences
  • seeks stability
  • suspicious or distrustful of others
  • takes credit for other’s work
  • tendency to one-up other people’s accomplishments
  • tendency to pull for the underdog
  • tendency to react emotionally
  • tendency to respond objectively
  • tendency to take things personally
  • tenderhearted nature
  • tends to be argumentative just for the sake of arguing
  • tends to see how things unfold without planning ahead
  • very outgoing in demeanor
  • won’t touch people, even to shake hands

Behavioral Quirks

  • always wants to sit facing the door
  • bites lip when thinking or trying to remember something
  • chain-smokes
  • chews gum all the time
  • clears throat frequently
  • eating all of one type of food before moving on to the next item on the plate
  • flipping hair back over one’s shoulders
  • grasping a fork or spoon with one’s full fist to eat
  • jingles keys
  • laughs very loud
  • licks lips frequently
  • makes humming noises
  • makes very intense eye contact with people
  • moves around a lot when talking to a group
  • paces when thinking
  • points at people when talking to them
  • prefers to sit at the end of a row rather than between people
  • sniffs frequently
  • snorts when laughing
  • taps chin or nose when thinking
  • taps fingernails on surfaces
  • tends to giggle
  • uses air quotes when talking
  • very distinctive laugh noises
  • whistles the tune to songs

Quirks Related to Eating and Drinking

  • always orders the same food in a restaurant
  • barely chews food before swallowing
  • brings snacks everywhere
  • burps or belches loudly at the end of meals
  • constantly talks about dieting
  • counts the number of chews before swallowing
  • drinks coffee or tea very frequently
  • eats while driving the car
  • extremely delicate eater
  • grazes throughout the day
  • makes nasty remarks about other people’s food
  • makes sure everyone knows they’re vegan
  • messy eater
  • only eats organic food
  • picks food off other people’s plates
  • prefers junk food to home-cooked meals
  • pretends to be a dainty eater but pigs out in private
  • refuses to eat leftovers
  • snacks excessively
  • takes huge bites of food
  • takes other people’s food without asking
  • tries to win over everyone to their way of eating
  • tucks a napkin into one’s shirt when eating
  • won’t eat in front of other people
  • won’t eat food that other people cook

Quirky Movement and Walking Habits

  • adjusting sleeves frequently
  • bouncing one’s leg when sitting
  • bouncy walk
  • cracking knuckles frequently
  • determined, purposeful walk
  • enters rooms hesitantly
  • extent to which a person’s arms swing when they walk
  • loose-limbed way of walking
  • meandering walk
  • often breaks into a jog when walking
  • picking at nail polish
  • pulling down on one’s jacket or skirt
  • pulling sleeves down over one’s hands
  • scratches one’s head frequently
  • scratching one’s face
  • shakes foot when sitting with legs crossed
  • sidles up to people
  • takes large steps
  • takes tiny, mincing steps
  • tends to push past other people abruptly
  • tugging a sweater or jacket from left to right
  • twisting to crack one’s back or next
  • walks at a very rapid pace
  • walks with a limp
  • walks with an even stride

Posture Quirks

  • crossing legs at the ankle when seated
  • favors one side vs. the other when standing
  • frequently shifts from side to side
  • lays head down on desk or table
  • leaning back in one’s chair
  • leans in toward people who are speaking
  • leans on things when standing up
  • leans to one side when standing
  • looks straight ahead
  • propping one’s feet up on furniture
  • rests head in hands when seated
  • shifting from one foot to another when standing
  • shifts or squirms when sitting
  • sitting with one’s legs crossed
  • stands or sits extremely still
  • stands up extremely straight
  • stands with hands behind back
  • stands with hands on hips
  • stands with hyperextended knees
  • tends to lean away from people
  • tends to slouch
  • tends to stretch a lot
  • tilts head down most of the time

Physical Traits and Quirks

  • a lot of freckles
  • a lot of tattoos or unusual tattoos
  • always too cold
  • always too warm
  • asymmetrical features
  • athletic build
  • different color eyes
  • distinctive moles
  • extremely tall or short
  • lanky build
  • messy, free-flowing hair
  • missing or extra appendages
  • perfectly coiffed hair
  • red nose
  • twitchy eye
  • unique birthmark
  • unusual color eyes
  • unusual facial features
  • unusual hair color
  • unusual hairstyle
  • very long fingernails
  • weight range

Communication Style Quirks

  • chats nervously when there is a lull in conversation
  • chooses words very carefully; speaks in an exacting way
  • describes things very precisely
  • doesn’t speak up unless directly asked a question
  • embellishes or exaggerates stories or information
  • enunciates words very precisely
  • gestures a lot when talking
  • habitually avoids eye contact
  • hinting at one wants rather than stating it directly
  • insists on face-to-face conversations (rather than phone or text)
  • insists on having the last word
  • makes up a nickname for everyone
  • pauses a long time before speaking
  • restating what other people have already said
  • speaks in a way such that statements come across like questions
  • speaks with an accent
  • talking to oneself
  • talks very fast
  • talks with a sing-songy cadence
  • unreadable facial expressions
  • uses a particular dialect
  • very expressive facial expressions
  • very reserved in demeanor
  • winks at people when talking to them

Quirky Clothing Style

  • always looks perfectly pressed
  • always wears boots
  • always wears tennis shoes
  • appears to have been professionally styled
  • becomes disheveled with very little activity
  • doesn’t worry about whether clothing items coordinate with each other
  • dresses in a flashy style
  • dresses in exercise apparel even when not exercising
  • dresses in very revealing apparel
  • overdresses or underdresses for occasions
  • squeezes into clothing that is too small
  • wears cheap knock-offs of designer fashions
  • wears clothes made for much younger people
  • wears loose-fitting clothes
  • wears only designer labels
  • wears shorts even when it’s freezing outside
  • wears socks with sandals
  • wears stiletto heels all the time
  • wears the latest styles
  • wears the same color clothing all the time
  • wears the same style of clothes all the time
  • wears very outdated styles
  • wears wrinkled clothes

Quirky Signature Accessories

  • always carries an umbrella
  • always wears a scarf
  • carries a briefcase everywhere
  • carries a huge purse
  • constantly wears a hat
  • has earbuds in (or headphones on) all the time
  • is never seen without a certain piece of jewelry
  • keeps a pocket square in a suit jacket
  • keeps sunglasses on all the time
  • never seen without a backpack
  • totes a pet in one’s purse or other bag
  • uses a pocket watch
  • wears a flower in one’s hair
  • wears a headband
  • wears a large fitness tracking device
  • wears a lot of jewelry
  • wears a nametag
  • wears an overcoat or other distinctive outerwear
  • wears bangle bracelets that jingle
  • wears enormous earrings
  • wears huge glasses
  • wears socks with weird patterns or in strange colors

Other Characterization Quirks

  • answers for other people instead of letting them speak
  • complains about everything
  • constantly complains about aches and pains
  • constantly correcting other people’s grammar
  • constantly misplaces certain items, like keys or glasses
  • expects unquestioning loyalty from people
  • frequently gets hiccups
  • gets heavily involved in campaigning for political candidates
  • has hypochondriac tendencies
  • holds other people to higher standards than themselves
  • is easily influenced or swayed
  • makes snap judgments about other people
  • makes unusual snoring noises
  • participates in marches and protests
  • quick to find fault in others
  • seeks out flattery
  • seems to turn all conversations political
  • takes in stray animals frequently
  • tends to look for the bright side in every situation
  • tends to make biased remarks about others

I see a lot more Harry-quirks in this list, but I’ll leave the rest of Harry to your imagination. By the way, Harry is now also retired and serving as an elected city counselor in my community. I think I’ll call Harry up and take her to lunch breakfast.

Audiences purchase your work because of your concept, but they embrace it because of your characters.

That phrase is well worth remembering. Over to you, Kill Zoners. What unique quirks have you embraced in your characters? And if you want to open the character-driven vs. plot-driven debate, go for it, but I’m stayin’ out.


Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective with a second investigative stint as a coroner. Now, Garry is a writer with based-on-true crime books as well as building a new hardboiled detective fiction series titled City Of Danger.

Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast is home to Garry Rodgers where he boats around the Pacific saltwater. You can track down Garry’s blog at or try him on Twitter @GarryRodgers1. His email is

49 thoughts on “Characterization

  1. Morning, Garry. I had to look up the quote. It’s “Law 2” from Matt Bird’s The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers. Not a bad quote, but I think I’d never buy a book with “perfecting your fiction” in the subtitle. Silly.

    • Oh, as for my characters, I get to know them as they grow in the story. Like anyone else, they’re “complete” when I first meet them, but I know nothing more about them then than I know about anyone else when we first meet.

    • I must have got that quote from another quoter, Harvey. I’ve never heard of this book just like I’ve never heard of perfection in writing, fiction or otherwise. Speaking of perfection, there’s a parlor game about finding the one editing/spelling/grammar mistake in John Grisham’s The Firm. I’ve read the book twice and couldn’t pick up on it but, then, that shouldn’t surprise aanyone.

  2. Happy New Year, Garry! Thanks for the great post in general and that list in particular. I think I went to law school with Harry.

    When you were paired with her, did they call you “Harry and Garry”?

    • And Happy New Year to you, too, Joe. I was up much earlier and was outside shovelling out from a foot of overnight snow which is rare for this part of the country. Harry – everyone called her Harry, even the lawyers. As for me, I never had a nickname so, yeah, we were Harry & Garry. No one mistook us for twins.

  3. Another meaty post, Garry.
    I generally focus on one or two traits/quirks for my characters. And, like Harvey, I meet them and learn about them as we travel the story together.

    • Good morning, Terry. I like yours & Harvey’s character-building style -let them unfold as you go. I did my last series with a Writing Into The Dark approach which was thoroughly enjoyable. This new one I’m on is much more structured and outlined. Sue will be happy to hear I’m back to plotting after my experiment in pantsing.

  4. Great post, Garry. Thanks for all the information and the link to the character quirks site. I think you have just described one fantastic character that readers would “embrace” in your next detective series “When Harry was Sally.” Humor Detective Fiction. I would certainly read it. And that would make a great TV series.

    What I like to do with characterization is take a trait or quirk, and then exaggerate it. You wouldn’t need to do that with Harry.

    Have a great day. Happy New Year!

    • Thanks, Steve. Harry is a main character in my based on true crime series. I didn’t have to invent anything. I just let Harry be Harry and that was good enough. There are a couple Harry stories I held back, though 🙂 Enjoy your year!

      • What does Harry think about starting in tour based on true crime books? Has she offered any kudos or suggestions?

  5. Garry, this is such a sweet tribute to Harry. I feel like I already know her from your books. 🙂

    Great list, too. When I create a character, I only have a basic idea of who they are. They come alive while writing. The only exception is if a character pops in my head for no reason, not for the book I’m working on but for a future book. A character I created, oh, gotta be four or five years ago by now, still haunts me. One of these days I’ll write her story. She won’t let me rest till I do.

    • “Morning, Sue. I was thinking of you when I was out shovelling snow this morning – wondering if you ever had to do that at your place 🙂 When it gets light, I’ll take a picture from our kitchen window and post it on Facebook. (Yes, THAT kitchen.)

      You know this so well – when you tell a non-writer about how characters just pop up and start talking to you, they give you that look that can only be described by a writer. In my last book, I had a character – Joyce Platt is her name – interrupt me out of nowhere and demanded to be in the story. She was so persistent that I gave in – she made for a better story

      • Have I ever shoveled snow? Are you kidding? Of course! I live in New England. Truth be told, it’s been years. Even when Bob was out of commission (hernia surgery, if memory serves), I still managed to avoid shoveling by fixing my hair and makeup and waving down a plow truck.

        “Excuse me, sir. Can you help me?”

        Works like a charm. 😉

  6. Garry, I can see why you were a good detective with your sharp powers of observation. Thanks for that great list.

    Harry had already made a lasting impression from your prior mentions about her in earlier posts. She sounds like the perfect lead character for a TV series. I’d tune in every week. BTW, you should be executive producer. 😉

    Like Harvey and Terry, I get to know characters as they act and react in the story.

    Like Harry, my male lead burst on the scene and made a huge splash. He intimidated me so much that I didn’t dare go into his POV until the fourth book in the series. He still springs a surprise on me with every new book.

    Looking forward to reading more about Harry in Beyond the Limits.

    • No one ever said I was a good detective, Debbie. I was just smart enough to find a partner like Harry and let her do all the heavy lifting. Speaking of intimidating, that was a regular complaint about Harry is that she was intimidating. She’s 6 feet tall and tips the scale at about 230-240. Once she came to the staff Christmas party dressed as a Viking.

  7. Pretty cool way to start the morning. But man, police officers are terrible workers – you must have had a busy HR department. Reminds me of my world of Industrial Construction – a lady who works for me can’t stop swearing if her life depended on it.

    • It is cool here this morning, Ben. Cool for Vancouver Island, that is, with a good foot of heavy, wet snow. My wife had to start work at 5:00 am so I was out mighty early with the shovel that normally sits in the shed over our “winter”.

      I don’t know what it is about female police officers, but most swear more than the males. It’s not a learned, on-the-job thing from what I’ve seen. I think it’s the base personalities of women who are attracted to police work.

  8. A picture of my favorite breakfast, Garry. Now I’m going to try it as a “large mangled mess.”

    As for characters, I need to see and hear them before I can start writing. I find a head shot that jumps out at me, and do a voice journal to get a sense of how they talk. Then they begin to show me who they are.

    • Make sure you use the “Harry Technique”, Jim. Fork in right, knife in left, and use the knife to load the mangled mess onto the fork. Oh, I forgot that before mangling, Harry always did a full circle of ketchup and HP sauce which was mixed into the mash like entropy.

      I like how your characters show before telling. Also, I like the idea of starting with a headshot. Happy ’22!

  9. Good morning, Garry, and thanks for another wonderful blog post.

    You had me completely captivated by Harry. Who wouldn’t want to meet such a fascinating character?

    One of the main characters in my books is Cece. She’s an actress who is cute and snarky, but in a fun way. She occasionally goes into disguise, and she’s so good at it that the reader often doesn’t know it’s Cece until later in the story.

    Btw, what are lightly steamed eggs? Down here in Memphis, we fry, poach, scramble or baste. I’ve never met a steamed egg, but I’ll give it a try in honor of you and Harry.

    Have a great year.

    • You’d like Harry, Kay. In fact, I don’t know anyone who didn’t like Harry – except for criminals – but even some criminals liked Harry. We used to do the good cop-bad cop routine. You can guess which part Harry got.

      I think there’s a culinary name for “lightly steamed” – it’s not over-easy which my wife likes and I hate making – it’s where you regularly fry an egg sunny-side up and then, at the last minute, you cover the pan so it stream-coats the yolk. I don’t know why anyone would want to ruin a nice and sunny yolk but Harry had her way and Harry got what she wanted (most of the time).

      Happy New Year and say Hi to Cece from Harry & me.

  10. Fantastic post as always, Garry. I’m waiting for the story entitled When Garry Met Harry. 🙂

    My characters are like my children. When I first met my three, I didn’t know anything about them. I can still visualize their completely unlined faces, clear eyes, and first smiles. They grew and developed into three distinct personalities. And they are still distinct.

    My characters allow me in when it’s necessary (just like my kids nowadays), and shut me out when I probe too deeply (also just like my kids).

    For me, it’s the journey of discovery that is so enticing as an author. I don’t think I dream these people up . . . they walk into my head and say, “Hey, what’s up, Deb? Got a story to tell you.”

    Love it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Deb. When Garry Met Harry was that bull pen scene. I didn’t catch the brunt of the joke but, whatever it was, it had the harness bulls laughing. Harry and I had an old sergeant who was our boss. He’d always say, “There’s a story that goes with this.” And we heard the same story over and over and over…

      By the way, what’s up, Deb? Got a story to tell you.

  11. Good morning, Garry, and Happy New Year, my friend. Your first KZB post of 2022 is another terrific one, packed with information and color. Harry sounds exactly the kind of person you’d want alongside you as a detective, and someone who would be there when the chips were down.

    Years ago, I took a writing workshop from fantasy author Charles De Lint, on creating deep 3rd person POV. Charles mentioned that the way he develops his characters is very organic, he starts out meeting a character as if you were introduced to them by a friend, and that’s helped me frame how I get to know my characters. I conjure roles and images, but don’t really know them. I don’t do detailed character sheets, instead, I need to write about them in the story or novel, and get to know them better. It’s taken me forever to do that.

    A favorite new character of mine in my mystery series is “Aunt” Dorothy, an elderly friend, neighbor and mentor to my librarian-sleuth Meg, who helps her with mysteries, and who has lived a long and colorful life Meg is only starting to learn about.

    Thanks for yet another fantastic post!

    • And good morning and HNY back atcha, Dale. It’s interesting reading this morning’s comments that everyone seems to develop their characters as they get to know them like real people. Where the characters come from is everyone’s choice and originality but fleshing them out seems to be very organic, as you say.

      I’ve never done any real deep POV but I see it’s a very popular storytelling technique. My style is 1st and 3rd omniscient and I write blog posts somewhat in the 2nd but it’s hard to hold an entire piece in 2nd. I wonder if anyone has mastered 2nd? What say you?

      • I’ve tried writing in 2nd person in short fiction, but the result wasn’t good. There are a few literary novels I know of written in 2nd person, like “Bright Lights, Big City” and “The Night Circus,” but I’ve never been able to make it through one.

  12. Gary,

    Glad to hear another Pacific Northwesterner is shoveling snow and ice!
    Fantastic post and great quirks list. Thanks for sharing.
    As for Harry, are you sure she doesn’t have siblings? I swear her twin brother worked as a Command Sergeant Major in one of my units. Had to pick up the book to make sure you didn’t miss something.
    Have a prosperous New Year.

    • Hi Larry – you’re more than welcome to my share of the snow. Harry had no brothers but she did have a sister who couldn’t have been more opposite. Her sister worked as a civilian interceptor / wiretap monitor in our office and took the secrecy thing so-to-heart that she wouldn’t tell us – the investigators – what was going on. They finally demoted her down to the cell block where she worked part-time as a guard (matron).

  13. The Giant Quirk of the detective was a very golden age of mystery thing that reached the point of the ridiculous in later years and is seen to be annoying or bad writing in some circles. I am not a fan either when younger writers ask about it.

    An important character should have flaws, but they should not totally define the character. That’s just lazy writing when someone doesn’t want to do the work of writing a complex character. Quirks do work, though, in secondary characters with just a bit of plot space because they help the reader remember these people when they show up later.

    • The Giant Quirk (Gigantification) – I had to Google that, Marilynn. I can understand how the golden age of mystery grew their characters to levels beyond the suspension of disbelief and that led to a downfall in the genre. I agree that flaws help to keep characters real and I always remember a piece of advice that sometimes serial killers help little old ladies across the street.

    • Good to hear, Elaine. I hoped the list would be a good go-to. When I went through the list, I think I’ve known people over the years that had many of these quirks. “Talks to themselves” – sounds like me.

  14. I like to wind them up and watch them go. We still have the white pages here and I’ll flip the phone book open, select a last name at random, flip the pages again and select a first name at random and turn the key on them. They’ll start talking to me. Someone told me one time that when you throw them in the water there’s no telling where they’ll swim to. I do like JSB’s mind mapping exercise he talked about a little while ago. It segues nicely into developing a story and characters. TKZ is like an advanced class and I thank you all for it.

  15. Fantastic post Garry! I loved your description of Harry and the lists are going to be so helpful. I tend to give characters similar quirks etc. so these lists will refresh my writing. Thanks for making my morning awesome. 🙂

  16. Making up unique characters, especially for a genre with a hundred years of history, is increasingly tricky. (I recall a thriller movie that had a character who was a computer genius. He was black. And used a wheel chair. Oh, yeah, and he was blind, too, a bit of sarcasm re modern genre character creation.)

    I tend to put a character in place and let them run with it. My Mary Bancroft begged my MC to go with him on a dangerous mission. She begged her OSS boss. She begged the OKW contact. They all turned her down before I realized she was really asking me for permission. She went. (She da kine.)

  17. Great post, Garry! I printed out the list so I could highlight the ones that fit the characters floating around in my head right now. Happy New Year and I’m sorry I’m late to the party.

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