Character Eccentricities

Sometimes the little details and eccentricities about a fictional character are the best. For instance, Anita Blake (aka the Executioner) collects toy penguins. Betsy Taylor adores designer shoes, and badass Zarek of Moesia makes carvings inspired by The Little Prince. It’s still unconfirmed whether Vishous really does like to knit – a hobby Sylvester Stallone’s character got stuck with in the movie Demolition Man.

Nalini Singh’s Psy character, Walker, makes doll furniture for his daughter. Declan in R. Garland Gray’s sci-fi romance has a pet poodlefly, while Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files) has an enormous dog named Mouse.

Then there are the signature lines. Anyone who ever saw The Princess Bride (and really, who didn’t?) knows which character said, “As you wish,” “You killed my father. Prepare to die,” and “Inconceivable!” Terminator immortalized “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby.” Author P. C. Cast gave us a merman in her Goddess Summoning series who always promised to wait for the heroine forever.

I’m an animal lover, but I think we all wanted to shoot Amy, the obnoxious talking gorilla in both the book and movie, Congo. Mention chaos theory, and many of us think of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park – another Michael Crichton book turned into a movie.

My point is there are some details that are meshed with who and what a character is. These qualities and idiosyncrasies help bring these fictional people to life.

4 responses to “Character Eccentricities

  1. Interesting post Allie. I’d add – You had me at hello – and – show me the money – who doesn’t think of Rene and Cuba’s characters with those tag lines? I love characters who have a hobby or an interest that’s totally incongruous with their personalities.

    • Thanks, Jianne. Those are good ones. It’s really interesting when a character can be identified instantly from a single line. They say pop culture is the glue that binds our society.

  2. Yes, Jianne! Like Professor Snape ending up with a doe as his Petronus (oh I SO spelled that wrong! It’s been a long time since I read the Harry Potter books).

    Here’s a case of it working in real life, and what gave me the idea to use a similar idea in my current book. Most of the places I go in my city, everyone knows my seeing-eye dog. Even if they don’t know my name (and many don’t), even if they don’t know the dog’s name (and most do), they realize I used to have a different dog two years ago and ask after her. So many remember my last dog’s name (and here’s my favorite part) and even notice the differences in behavior between the two dogs. Since, to them, I *am* my dog, why can’t that work for my characters? A kind of touchstone.

    • There’s a reason so many animals are used as mascots. I’ve recently been catching up on some Jayne Castle books (the futuristic novels of Jayne Ann Krentz), and the very best characters are the ones with “dust bunnies” like Fuzz and Gibson. The critters add to and even outshine the human characters.

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