Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bringing #Characters to Life, One Quirk at a Time by R.J. Blain @rj_blain #fantasy #mustread

Bringing characters to life is one of the hardest tasks a writer must face. It involves understanding personalities, understanding how people interact with each other, and understanding how emotions really work. It also takes having an open mind to personalities other than your own.
One way to jumpstart the characterization process is to give a main character a quirk. What sets them apart from regular people? Do they have something that makes them stand out from the crowd in a good or a bad way?
For example, you could have a character who is allergic to cats, but has to work with cats every day. This quirk can create a lot of problems and mayhem form the character. It is the type of quirk that can lead to a life-changing decision. Maybe they decide to change jobs because they can’t deal with their allergies anymore. Perhaps they are sent to the hospital on account of their allergies. Maybe they’re fired because their allergies are disruptive.
One little quirk can serve as a catalyst for an entire story.
Before you randomly assign quirks to characters, there are a few things you should think about. Understanding the impact of a quirk is as important as the quirk itself, so make sure you pick the right quirk for the right reasons; quirks can significantly impact a character’s life and how they development, so you have to make certain you pick a good quirk for your character and your novel.
Physical Quirks
A physical quirk is one of the easiest quirks to add to a character. They could be missing a pinky finger from a freak accident as a child. They might have a nervous tick. They could walk with a permanent limp due to being hit by a car when they were young.
Physical quirks are usually the most obvious. The severity of the quirk can be minor or catastrophic. If a character is crippled, you need to figure out how this would impact their quality of life. The quirk could be nothing more than a discussion point. Either way, physical quirks are usually the easiest to implement and plan for.
Emotional Quirks
Emotional quirks are a lot harder to work with. Emotional quirks can include triggers, such as someone who reacts poorly when they’re forced into a crowd. In the case of someone who had been hit by a car, it can be post-traumatic stress disorder that triggers whenever they cross a street with cars nearby. Emotional quirks are difficult because there are rarely any outward signs of the quirk’s existence. Showing one of these quirks takes skill, unless it is something extremely simple. Emotional quirks are often complex.
Fear is an excellent quirk, as it both gives characters a weakness and something to overcome. It provides conflict, and allows characters to develop and grow. Not all fears can be conquered, which can add to the lure of using fear as a quirk. If you’re using fear as a quirk, consider how their fear can impact their daily life.
Mental Disorders
Mental disorders are an interesting quirk to write about. However, of all of the quirk types I’ve mentioned so far, mental disorders require the most research and sensitivity to pull off. Mental disorders can be a powerful tool in a novel, but they can also be easily abused. When you’re working with a character with a mental disorder, you will likely have to write far outside of your normal comfort zones. Mental disorders can range from mild ADHD to extreme psychosis.
No matter what quirk type you select, quirks can add depth to otherwise stereotypical characters, allowing you to develop them in a way that makes them a unique individual.
Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.
When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.
But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.
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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG - 13
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