Fleshing Out Characters Part Two: Behaviors and Quirks


Another thing that can help a character feel more real is having a consistent behavior when reacting to situations.  Behavior in this context is not just a single emotion or reaction; like angry, jovial, blunt, polite, or quiet.  The character’s attitude is an overall guiding way they react which is normally a mixture of emotions or styles depending upon what they are reacting to.  Like the idiosyncrasies we covered earlier sometime aspects of their behaviors can seem to conflict, but if you know the character more fully then it is consistent to who the character is.

One example of a characters behavior is someone that reacts to events in a Patriarchal manner.  This definition was first broadly used to define the relationships that often occurred in Rome, and still has some influence on how people see fathers in general.  Someone who reacts Patriarchly tends to be stern, but protective to those below him as long as they are given proper respect.  They even show moments of warmth and kindness sometimes to unexpected behavior from their subordinates, but have no tolerance for rebellion.  They tend to try to create orderly environments, and are resistant to change.  This combination of attitudes creates a fleshed out behavior pattern that makes it so in hypothetical situations one could say, ‘I am pretty sure (insert Patriarchal character) might act this way,’ or, that reminds me of something that character would do.   Of course keeping in mind the tips from the first article you will want some inconsistencies, or a person will be completely predictable.

To get ideas for behavior patterns you can look at both basic archetypes that are in all sorts of stories (like the hero, the wise woman, the soldier, the trickster) or even modern types, the wall street power monger, the dilettante, the activist, etc.  You can even take the basic behavior patterns of one type of character (like a Robin Hood), and then add additional attitude or tweak basic concepts like this Robin Hood type only works alone when doing her job  of taking from the rich, but prefers to be surrounded by people in her time off.  Overlay that with the fact that she is very calculating, and does not like to make snap decisions and you get a twist off of a well-known behavior type.

Another thing that can flesh out your character is quirks.  These are small random likes and dislikes that are less about a personality, and more small things that identify what a character is like without being necessarily as meaningful. The character who tugs on a lock of her hair when thinking, or prefers his music to have heavy drum beats, the person who can’t stand reading but wants to hear stories told by bards constantly, or the woman who loves spicy food.  Random small things like this can be simple likes and dislikes (music, food, hobbies, fashion, etc.)trademark physical patterns (has a limp, closes eyes when thinking, whips hair around when enters a room), odd preferences (likes to be surrounded by dogs, talks to self when making decisions, etc), phobias (bodies of water, pigs, etc) , and so on.

Adding both meaningful consistent guidelines (through the behaviors) and more surface attitudes (the quirks) combined with the tips from before (motivations and inconsistencies) will give you three dimensional characters which will be more engaging.  If people would like, I could also do some more blogs on this, but the above is a good way to get started.

Not a Poll Exactly, but Close:

I am not technically doing a poll this time, but I would love to hear from people there favorite character types, and even characters in literature or other media.  My favorite type is probably the trickster.  Character wise it’s too diverse for me to pick just one but some favorite characters in various media include Wally West, Perrin Ayabera, Coyote, Walter Slovotsky, Silk, Tim Drake, Jamie Lannister, and Monk Kokkalis.  Quite a mix of media types, but some similar strains in many of those characters.

Book Update:

The book is still moving but very slowly, due to my upcoming cross country move (that starts in a week).  I hope a week or so after I move to fit into a regular schedule, and it is still possible book two of the Allmother’s Grace will be ready for publication in December (I can’t guarantee it but the first half is already being edited and it depends on how quickly I can catch up after my move whether the book is ready late December or early 2013).

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About mdkenning

E-book clockpunk fantasy author View all posts by mdkenning

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