To quirk or not to quirk…
I recently read a book that had a heroine in it that was so full of quirks and oddities that she became more of a caricature than a woman I could relate to. Now I love character quirks and use them all the time in my writing. They make the character feel more real. And don't we all love quirky characters like Monk or House? But it’s easy to go too far, like that author of the book I just read.
Everyone has weird little fears or oddities that make them unique. Some of them can be debilitating and completely take over a person's life. Some of them are kind of funny. I had a great-aunt who had gotten into a car accident making a left hand turn. From then on she refused to make a left turn. It didn’t stop her from driving; she just planned out a route where she only took right turns to get to her destination. Her fear became a quirk and a funny one too. But if she was also afraid of heights, and water and puppets and telephones… well you get the picture.
So, where do we draw the line between interesting relatable characters and overly quirked caricatures? It’s a fine line to be sure and as individual as the stories we create. Often writers use a character’s fears and experiences to add conflict and to explain their motivation. But they can also weigh a down plot and keep a character from achieving their goal.
For this blog I Googled phobias and came across a list of phobias that I thought would be terribly hard to avoid- the fear of chins, thinking, ugliness, sunshine, words, colors, air and sitting, to name but a few.
And here are some real fears of things I love and could NOT do without -
Philemaphobia-kissing (What’s coitus without kissing?)
Doxophobia-receiving praise (Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more)
Chrometophobia-money (The ONLY reason to marry The Donald.)
Melophobia-music (Then Dave Grohl couldn’t be my boyfriend!)
Medorthophobia-erect penis (Egad! Say it ain’t so! Viva Viagra!)
Bibliophobia-books (That is wrong on so many levels.)
Coitophobia-coitus (How would I get my DH to buy me jewelry? Take out the trash? Do the dishes?)
Anthrophobia-flowers (This would certainly take the pressure off my DH on Valentine’s Day.)
Hedonophobia- feeling pleasure (Again what’s coitus without it? Just a big wet spot I guess.)
Yikes! Wouldn’t it be awful to have those fears? Think of what you’d miss!
Now, I feel it’s only fair for me to reveal some of my own fears and personality quirks. So here they are, don’t think less of me:
-ALL spiders must die.
-Snakes, lizards, rats, and mice-cool.
-I must be cremated because I have a fear that I will wake up buried 6 ft under in my coffin (I saw a horror movie when I was a kid where this woman had a disease that made it appear that she died-stopped heart, no breathing-then she would recover and be alive again, it happened over and over until she woke up the final time in her coffin).*shiver*
-Also I don't like caves and could never be in a submarine.
-I love to swim but am afraid of drowning when I'm not in the water.
-I'm afraid of fire but heights are okay -I don't like people (especially men) with beady close together eyes and no lips- they creep me out
-Men with really small hands-totally gross
-The butter, cream cheese and mayonnaise must cover the entire slice of bread evenly all the way to the edge or I won't eat it
-babies with dirty ears-eew!
-The Dentist-I’d volunteer to go to the Gyno 10 times before I’d go to the Dentist
There you go. I sound like a made up overly quirked character, don't I?
What are your fears, personality quirks and oddities? What makes you special?
**Beth writes comtemporary romantic comedies. She just finished her first novel in November and is working on her 2nd. She's actively looking for an agent for her first book Hairassment. **