Character Quirks

He shifted his weight from one foot to another.

She ran her hands through her hair.

The bald man rubbed the top of his head.

The mother shook her fist at the two year old who stood in a pile of toilet paper and kleenex.

Dad threw up his hands to the heavens before glaring at me, speechless.

All things a character may do when experiencing a strong emotion: nervousness, stress, frustration, anger.

blurting out without thinking first
no sense of direction

All things a character may display often throughout the course of a novel.   A characteristic quirk.  Something a reader comes to rely on.  Something that lets the reader KNOW your character.  Something they come to expect when certain situations arise.  These are character quirks that help your novel move along. They make your reader know your characters, fall in love with your characters, become exasperated with your characters - all good things. They eliminate unneeded dialogue tags and adverbs.

Oh, he's rubbing his head again? Now I know he's nervous!

When can all this hurt you? When they contradict something your character might normally feel. Don't mislead your reader! If your character runs her fingers through her hair while she's flirting and suddenly does it while talking to someone she hates, don't be surprised when your reader reacts by saying "She can't like him! He's such a jerk!" unless, well, she likes him. If she feels like screaming at him and running away - no hair combing needed.

Pay attention to these actions. Your readers will. Happy writing!

(psst. . . marathoners. . . word counts due tonight at midnight for week's total. email christy. it's anyone's game. first to the finish line wins great prizes, but of course, we're all winners. we have to say that, we're teachers.)


  1. I found your blog from via the Writers Platform Crusade and wanted to stop by and say 'hello'
    Hopefully this will help me get on with my writing now that I have started again!

  2. Sarah,

    You will love this blog. Lots of helpful insights and how to write a stronger ms. Erica and Christy give great tips daily.

    Hi Ladies,
    I enjoyed reading about character quirks. I alway like when I read about the strange little things some characters do when in a given situation. Just wanted to say Hi! I've got to get back to writing. We're down to the wire. I still have a way to go. It's so hard to write those last few thousand words.

  3. Thanks for the great tips! You're right, readers definitely notice these things. I may use some of these!

  4. Nice to meet you, Sue! We both just finished "edit mode" on our first novels and are in the thick of things with new first drafts. Good luck!!

    Thanks again Michael and Heather!

  5. Oh no, I called Sarah Sue!! Consider that a first-draft post.

    Nice to meet you, Sarah! (thank goodness I usually edit, that'll teach me to post from school!)


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