Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Enter a Quirky Giveaway

We've all got them—little habits that charm (or annoy) others.
  1. My dad always hitched up his pants in a twisting motion so they sat a little crooked on his waist. (Happy Birthday, Dad, in case you read this blog in heaven.)
  2. Mom looked like she had a stiff neck when she peered down through the bottom half of her bifocals.
  3. Lucy starts every sentence with, "Actually . . ."
  4. Heidi wears a pencil behind her ear.
  5. Dee openly eavesdrops without embarrassment.
I'm not aware of my own delightful facial tics and speech patterns—I assume they're all endearing—but I'm sure my family could make an entertaining list. Characters become real when their little quirks are included.

In Son of a Gun I gave Ruby a habit of tying and untying her ponytail with a black velvet ribbon she wore around her wrist like a bracelet. Jack rolled his own cigarettes (I researched the how-to by visiting a tobacco store.) Turk launched into a tall tale whenever he had an audience. When asked if his stories were true, he always responded, "Truer than an outright lie."

Now I'm getting acquainted with new characters for a mystery called Death in Moscow. It takes place in Vienna in 1933:
  1. Max Bauman—a wealthy 60-year-old American. His construction company builds dams.
  2. Clara Bauman—his 55-year-old wife, from humble beginnings, anxious to be accepted by upper-class society.
  3. Alice Bauman—18-year-old heiress to the Bauman fortune. Used to privilege, she's on a grand tour of Europe with her mother.
  4. Baron Erwin Sarkoti—a 36-year-old Hungarian aristocrat who lost everything but his title, and is looking for an heiress.
They each need some unique, interesting personality quirks—something they wear or carry, or do or say. Do you have some suggestions?

Leave an idea in the comment section before midnight Friday, January 21, and you'll be entered in the Quirky Giveaway. I'll choose a characteristic for each character and four of you will win a prize. (Enter as many times as you want.) If I use your idea, I'll mention you in the Acknowledgments section when the book gets published!

It's your turn:
When you're writing about someone (real or imagined) make sure you include a few quirks!


Raejean said...

My dad has a bridge in his mouth that he used to make a clicking noise with when he wasn't thinking about it.

One of my children starts half their sentences with "In a book I read..."

Another talks faster the more excited they get until it becomes so the words mumble together.

Diane said...
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Diane said...

What if Clara were a nail-biter? That would make it a little harder for her to hide her upbringing.

Sheri said...
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Sheri said...

Interesting. I'm thinking.

In the Bryson book At Home, I just finished reading the section which talked about all the American nouveau riche who married their daughters to the "poor" aristocracy of Europe. Some 500 young women had that fate. Very interesting that you are writing about this topic.

I'm still thinking.

I definitely like the nail-biting idea. I did this all of my life due to insecurity. Maybe she's also a hankie twister.

I'm still thinking.

The Grandmother Here said...

If my child slams the door once or twice, I'm okay, but the third time pushes me over the edge and I scream, "That's a repeated noise!" So if you have a character that you want me to like, don't let them irritate me with repeated actions. It would be fine for your villain. But that's just me.

Beck said...

I don't know if either men in the story has any facial hair, but when my husband is thinking he stares off into space while running his thumb and finger up the sides of his goatee around his mouth. I've seen men with moustaches absetmindedly twirl the ends, and men with full beards tug violently on them when they are flustered.

Me? I fiddle with my wedding ring or the buttons on my shirts, or repeatedly zip something open and closed (purse, diaper bag) when I'm nervous.

Weren't there some really small hats that women wore in the 30s? What about having one of the women fiddle with the hat brim or the decorations on the hat?

There's always someone repeatedly smoothing their clothes or hair, chewing on the end of a cigar or grasping for some token in a pocket that comforts them or brings them luck.

Hope this helps!

Christie said...

I like little character quirks. Loved in The Help when Aibileen wrote her prayers instead of speaking them. Not that it helps you out here, but quirks for me are what make the character believable. I'll wrack my brain and try to come up with something...

Heffalump said...

You could have a male character with a pocket watch that he could habitually take out, open, close and return to his pocket or otherwise fiddle with.
Wedding ring twisting.
The wife who was from humble beginnings could have an unconcious habit of touching her necklace or earings to make sure they are still there. People that start off poor often still worry about losing expensive things and even though she wouldn't want someone to perceive her as worried about it, she might still have a habit of checking.
The baron could always have a flower in his lapel to try to seem more well to do. His clothes could always be very clean and well pressed, but not quite in the latest style, to show that he can't afford to get the latest trends and tries to make up for it by being fastidious about what he does wear.

~Kristina said...

Max has a dangerous charisma. He is also a compulsive winker.

Clara entertains a nervous laughter when meeting new people or when confronted with overwhelming situations. She also bites her lip.

Alice always hold up her pinky when sipping from cups.

Baron Erwin jingles change in his pocket as a reminder of what he once had.

May I pre-preorder signed copies of all your books, Oma?

Heather P said...

Max —fingering money in his pocket, flipping coins over and over obsessively.

Clara --looking down at the floor, shuffling feet nervously, kicking dust.

Alice —twirling and smoothing a lock of hair at the nape of her neck as she listens to others talk.

Baron Erwin —walking with a haughty stilt reminiscent of his lost societal stature.

Chiska said...

When one of my kids gets excited about something he repeats the same word over and over until you want to nudge the "needle" so that he will quit skipping and finish the sentence.

I have a habit of trying to anticipate what people are saying when I'm nervous and finishing their sentences for them....usually incorrectly--it makes for interesting conversations sometimes, especially when people are open enough to correct and stop me.

Finally there's when the person comments to one person and then looks around to see if anyone else is listening in (and looking expectant).