Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters

Bringing Characters to Life: Habits, Quirks & Key Phrases

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I absolutely adored the way Oskar Schnell, in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, said “Anyway” every time he felt uncomfortable or uncertain. I loved it so much I started saying it all the time.

My husband, Greg, would say, “Lou, you can’t just leave your underwear on the bathroom floor as if you disappeared into thin air.” (The fact that he calls me Lou is another story – you can read about it here.)

I would say, “Anyway.” And then possibly walk down the hallway, picking up the underwear later. Or if I spaced out and went on a tangent about whatever happened that day, I’d eventually realize what I was doing and say, “Anyway,” before changing the subject and coming back to Earth.

I loved this habit of Oskar’s. This catch phrase of his, if you will.

And there are moments when you realize that someone you’re reading about or writing about has something they often do. Perhaps it is why we can relate to what we read. Maybe it’s why we wish we were more like a certain character, or even relieved that we are nothing like them. Reading can be so personal and it’s often because of a character quirk. Is it a nervous habit? A word he or she often says? A way they glare or roll their eyes when spoken to? (think teenage years)

Think of quirks we have as humans. And don’t even think about saying that some people are quirk-less. That is impossible.

I have too many quirks to count. Call it OCD, call it spazzy, call it whatever you want, but I have plenty. (Ask Greg, he could tell you all of them!) Here are a FEW:

-I hate it when anything goes counter-close wise. I’m all about the clockwise.

-I don’t step on cracks with my left foot.

-I never, under ANY circumstance, open my eyes after turning out the light for bed. It’s way too scary. I know… I’m a wimp. (I made the huge mistake of watching Darkness Falls in high school. Now you know I’m even more of a wimp than you thought just seconds ago.)

In each manuscript I’ve written the main character always has some very interesting qualities. Some are subtle. Some are obvious. I wrote a girl named Virginia who can’t keep her hands still and runs five miles a day just to remain calm (Don’t you wish that was YOUR habit? Me, too…) I wrote a futuristic guy named Mason who never gets worked up about anything (believe me, this is a quirk) and a “tough” guy named Dane who is moody and keeps secrets… even ones that might not be necessary. Then there’s Ezra with the ultra potty mouth (F**K!) and cigarette addiction he claims is something he can control (F**K again). The list goes on, but someday you’ll just have to read all my stories in order to meet EVERYONE.

What is your quirk? Comment and tell me about it!! Be warned, however, that it may spark an idea for me to write a character with that same habit ;) I will change the name ;) ;)

FIRST SHORT STORY POSTED TODAY!!! {READ}

After reading take time to listen to the songs that inspired this story. #8 and #9, especially!!

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Author: Melinda Haas

I write, I read, I love to laugh. God, my husband, and my step children make up my world. I am working on publishing many novels, three of which are completed manuscripts.

4 thoughts on “Bringing Characters to Life: Habits, Quirks & Key Phrases

  1. Great thoughts! You are right- it’s the quirks tht make characters come to life!
    One of mine- I was told I lick my lips before every sip of coffee. …I didn’t believe it but it turns out it’s true.

  2. Thanks!! That’s a great one! It’s always fun/frustrating to have something pointed out to us, isn’t it? : ) But it’s great to laugh it off!!

  3. One of my quirks is that I feel I am constantly having imaginary dialogues with other people in my head. Sometimes, I realize it while I’m walking down the street or riding on the train and I hope people aren’t watching my facial expressions thinking, “What is wrong with that girl!” Sometimes I think if every one of my thoughts was broadcast to an audience, people would surely think I have issues. Thank god there’s not a Truman Show like that where instead of watching a person’s every move, an audience can observe a person’s EVERY THOUGHT. yikes!

    • hahahahahha I would LOVE to be inside our head, billy. Thanks for the post. And yes, that is a scary thought and I’m glad, too! I think everyone is a little bit crazy…. :) love you!!

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