The best characters show rather than tell the kinds of people they are.
That’s where character mannerisms come in; they connect storytelling imagery and actions to each character, often without the need for extra dialogue.
Each character’s mannerisms can be a mix of expected and surprising elements.
The purpose of the list below is to get you thinking of ways to make your characters more real and more interesting to your readers.
Let’s dive in!
(Side note: If you want the peace of mind that you’re publishing with good grammar and punctuation, then check out the free Grammarly proofreading tool.)
- FAQs about Character Mannerisms
- 107 Character Mannerisms for Writers
- Characters Who Are In Love
- Characters Who Are Lying or Hiding Something
- Characters Who Are Anxious, Angry, or Scared
- Confident or Brash Characters
- Characters Who Are Sky or Lacking in Confidence
- Bored Characters
- Characters Who Are Funny or Who Enjoy Humor
- Narcissistic, Arrogant, or Elitist Characters
- Stern or Uptight Characters
- Scholarly, Educated, or Erudite Characters
- Focused, Organized, or Tidy Characters
- Unfocused, Disorganized, or Sloppy Characters
- Frustrated, Judgmental, or Impatient Characters
107 Character Mannerisms for Writers
Read carefully through the following list of mannerisms to find the ones best suited to each of your story characters.
Make a note of the ones you can most clearly picture.
Characters Who Are In Love
1. Fearless PDA (public displays of affection)
2. Smiling all the time
3. Whispering into their beloved’s ear
4. Fluttering their eyelids and blushing a lot
5. Constantly checking their phone and obsessing over every text
6. Losing their appetite and ability to sleep
7. Twirling/playing with their hair absent-mindedly while talking to their beloved
8. Deliberately playing and enjoying sappy love songs
9. Oblivious to everyone except their beloved
10. Stuttering or faltering a bit in response to their love interest
Characters Who Are Lying or Hiding Something
11. Frequent blinking
12. Avoiding eye contact
13. Looking to the left often
14. Offering unnecessary and oddly-specific details
15. Sweating a lot
16. Changing their tone of voice in odd ways
17. Pausing while speaking (to invent details or gauge the listener’s response)
18. Using evasive or mismatched body language
Characters Who Are Anxious, Angry, or Scared
19. Clenching the jaw
20. Crossing arms defensively
21. Chewing on the lip
22. Swallowing constantly
23. Compulsively scratching their nose or the nape of their neck
24. Chewing on fingernails, pencils, etc.
26. Clasping hands behind the back
27. Pacing back and forth
28. Flexing fingers
29. Cracking knuckles
30. Flaring nostrils
31. Darting eyes
Confident or Brash Characters
32. Maintaining calm eye contact
33. Walking with erect posture, poise, and purpose
34. Standing with feet apart and looking straight ahead
35. Interrupting others when passionate about a specific topic
36. Wearing bright-colored lipstick (red, pink, coral, etc.)
37. Wearing loud, vivid colors, patterns, and styles
38. Clasping hands behind the head
39. Remaining sober at parties (no need for “liquid courage”)
40. Standing out from a crowd
Characters Who Are Sky or Lacking in Confidence
41. Slouching often
42. Looking down when walking
43. Wearing hats or hoodies with the hood often up
44. Finding it difficult to maintain eye contact
45. Apologizing often and for everything
46. Wearing headphones a lot to avoid interacting with others
47. Wearing dark or muted colors
48. Hugging arms around themselves
49. Avoiding their reflection.
50. Keeping their hands in their pockets while sitting or walking
51. Preferring to stand rather than to sit next to strangers
52. Mumbling or speaking softly
53. Laughing to fill awkward silences
54, Yawning frequently
55. Fidgeting with hair, clothing, or jewelry
56. Rolling their eyes
57. Tapping their fingernails on a surface
58. Staring off into the distance
59. Clasping together and unclasping their fingers
60. Doodling absentmindedly
61. Twiddling their thumbs
62. Resting their head in their hands
Characters Who Are Funny or Who Enjoy Humor
63. Wearing multiple pins with quirky messages
64. Telling jokes to whoever will listen
65. Grinning sideways or smirking
66. Laughing a lot / finding humor in much of what they experience
67. Makes light of serious things
68. Dresses in wildly inappropriate attire
Narcissistic, Arrogant, or Elitist Characters
69. Constantly checking themselves out in reflective surfaces
70. Loudly pointing out faults in others
71. Uses dismissive body language toward others
72. Spends a LOT of time on personal grooming (hair, make-up, nails, etc.)
73. Wears only the best and trendiest brands and styles of clothing, shoes, etc.
74. Treats waitstaff or service staff disrespectfully or disdainfully
75. Leaves their messes for others to clean up
Stern or Uptight Characters
76. Wears their hair in a tight bun or immaculately slicked back
77. Often furrows their brow
78. Pinches their lips together
79. Has perfected the stern glare of disapproval (and uses it often)
80. Crosses legs while sitting with a stiff or prim posture
81. Smiles only rarely and with reserve—and often at least a sliver of contempt
82. Stands with hands on their hips (power pose)
83. Looks down their nose at anyone who manifests human frailty
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Scholarly, Educated, or Erudite Characters
84. Frequently quoting famous people and literary works
85. Over-enunciates their words
86. Takes glasses off and cleans them
87. Speaks multiple languages
88. Uses phrases like, “Did you know that…?”
89. Imitates the clothing choices and mannerisms of scholars they admire
90. Often expounding on the state of the world today
Focused, Organized, or Tidy Characters
91. Tilts head to the side when listening
92. Moves quickly from one task to the next
93. Steeples their hands when in thought
94. Wears perfectly-coordinated outfits
95. Making multiple to-do lists and checking off items one by one
96. Frequently restoring objects to their proper places
Unfocused, Disorganized, or Sloppy Characters
97. Always arriving late and losing track of time
98. Often looking disheveled or as if they skipped personal hygiene
99. Wears mismatched, wrinkled, and/or stained clothing
100. Scrambles around frantically for lost or misplaced objects
101. Often distracted and losing focus on their given task
102. Eats noisily and with their mouth at least partly open
Frustrated, Judgmental, or Impatient Characters
103. Tutting or making a “tsk” noise at others
104. Clenching their fist when things don’t go according to plan
105. Exhaling sharply or breathing loudly enough for others to hear
106. Putting fingers to forehead or bridge of the nose while shaking their head
107. Saying “Ha!” with a sarcastic tone.
FAQs about Character Mannerisms
First of all, let’s tackle some of the biggest questions that arise whenever writers and readers discuss character mannerisms.
What are examples of mannerisms?
As you see from the 107 examples of mannerisms listed above, we’re talking about visible manifestations of character traits and emotions.
Listing all of them would be impossible, so we’re counting on your fertile imagination and memory to take our list and add to it with ideas of your own.
Use what you know to build upon what you read here.
What are common mannerisms?
Common mannerisms are the ones that come to mind most quickly when you hear a brief description of a character’s defining traits or what they’re feeling in a particular moment.
Consider the following examples:
- Snobbish character → pointing out cheap or low-quality brands worn by another
- Fearful character → securing a set of door locks more than once and then checking windows and dark corners before using the (much-needed) bathroom
- Loner character → quickly and quietly leaving work and avoiding eye contact while coworkers swarm together to discuss a workplace social event
How do you describe character mannerisms?
Simply picture the character behaving in a way consistent with their given traits or emotions. Then use your imagination to add something that sets them apart from others who might share those traits or emotions.
If you can imagine your character acting in a certain way, try describing their behavior in clear, simple, and elegant language. Don’t expect your wording to be perfect right from the start. Write anything that comes to mind.
Then refine it to make it clearer and distill it to its essence.
Now that we’ve armed you with this list of 107 examples of character mannerisms, which are you most likely to use with the characters in your current work in progress?
And which mannerisms do you see in yourself and the people closest to you?