Describing a person as “quirky” is often a compliment, but not always.
If you have any quirks that make you stand out in some way, you know what I mean.
They’re a mixed bag.
Quirks can make a story character more interesting or more relatable.
They can also make them easier to dislike.
But what makes quirks so powerful?
And how can you harness this power for good?
What Are Personality Quirks?
A character’s quirks make them stand out in some way from the crowd. Those quirks can be physical (e.g., spiky blue hair or brightly-colored scarves) or tied to their personality or their strengths and weaknesses.
One character’s signature quirk could save their lives or the lives of their friends. Another’s quirk could bring about the apocalypse.
Consider the following famous examples of quirks:
- Katniss Everdeen’s skill with a bow was critical to her survival in The Hunger Games.
- Felicity Smoak’s brilliant hacking skills are often critical to the success of the team.
- Harry Potter’s famous lightning scar even lets him know when Voldemort is near.
Think of other characters in your favorite movies, novels, or TV series and how their quirks contributed in a memorable way to their success or failure.
How to Use Character Quirks in Your Writing
It’s not as simple as mentioning the quirk in passing or have one of your characters remark on it out of the blue.
Consider the following ways to make your character quirks meaningful and memorable:
- Don’t overdo it with the details or backstory. Less is more.
- But give your characters a reason to bring it up. It has to matter, somehow.
- Make your chosen quirks critical to your story’s plot.
- Be consistent, with very few meaningful exceptions.
- Avoid clichés and unnecessary exaggeration as much as possible.
You want your character’s quirks to add to the story and make them more relatable or compelling to your readers. But they shouldn’t eclipse the more essential elements of your story.
List of Character Quirks: 105 Common Quirks
Enjoy this list of quirks, grouped by category. and try out a few with your characters. See what a particular quirk might add to your story or change how it develops.
The better you know your characters, the easier it is to see which quirk or quirks make the most sense.
1. Unusual hair color
2. Unusual eye color
3. Heterochromia (each eye has a different color)
4. Lazy eye (amblyopia)
5. Unusual glasses or contact lens color/s
6. Braces and/or headgear
7. Wheelchair or other assistive tech for mobility
8. A distinctive mole, birthmark, or scar
9. A habit of nailbiting
10. Constant fidgeting
11. Tattoos or piercings
12. Frequent illness
13. Severe or unusual allergies
14. Talks very loudly
15. Talks so softly others can barely hear them
16. Terrible breath
17. Profuse sweating
18. Never seen without a faceful of make-up
19. Stutters or has difficulty speaking
20. Smokes and has a raspy voice
21. Breathes heavily
22. Snores (possibly due to a deviated septum or sleep apnea)
23. Extremely muscular or extremely the opposite
24. Walks very quickly or very slowly
25. Left-handed or ambidextrous
26. Always wears a distinctive piece of jewelry or article of clothing
27. Is constantly writing their observations in a small notebook
28. Honest to the point of showing zero consideration of people’s feelings
29. Messy and unable to find things when they need them
30. Freakishly organized and efficient
31. Quick to judge/criticize others, particularly those who disagree with or defy them
32. Short-tempered and quick to take their anger out on others
33. Needing to win at everything — and taking it badly when they don’t
34. Always patient and calm, to an abnormal degree
35. Always seeing the good in others, even when it costs them
36. Obsessive personality who is the “ultimate fan” of their chosen obsession
37. Always looking for an excuse to drink (alcohol) and party
38. Always energetic and ready for anything
39. Constantly getting lost, thanks to their terrible sense of direction
40. Super-driven overachiever who seems incapable of relaxing
41. Wildcard whose behavior no one (not even friends or family) can predict
42. Rarely shows emotion and doesn’t know how to be around those who do
43. Charismatic and compelling
44. Always polite and proper
45. Always dating new people and preferring “short term arrangements”
46. Never dating and looking for someone who meets their impossibly high standards
47. Crushing on a new person every week or so and imagining a lifetime together before moving on to someone else
Strengths or Talents
48. Talented musician with a particular instrument (or with more than one)
49. Gifted artist (drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.)
50. Amazing cook or baker
51. Good at sleight-of-hand (“magic” tricks) and picking pockets
52. Can pick any lock, using what they have on hand
53. Mathematical genius or brilliant coder and hacker
54. Speaks multiple languages fluently — even some obscure ones
55. Gifted storyteller or poet
56. Knows everything about random topics or trivia
57. Exceptional photographic or phonographic memory, which is a mixed blessing
58. Super quick deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills
59. Clairvoyance, clairaudience, or the gift of prophecy
60. Strong intuition that guides them and those who listen to them
61. Model athlete who excels at a particular sport or athletic activity
62. Super strength or unusually fast reflexes
63. Restless when all is well and at their best in a crisis situation
64. Able to lie or B.S. their way out of anything
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Weaknesses or Faults
65. Unable to lie, even to save their life
66. Tending to see the worst in people or to focus on their faults
67. Lazy, unwilling to work, and expects others to support and coddle them
68. Tending to blame others for their own problems
69. Terrible at driving and constantly endangering others
70. Painfully awkward when it comes to public speaking or acting
71. Compulsive or pathological liar
72. Predatory toward those they perceive as weaker
73. Manipulates others (even friends and family) to get what they want
74. Gets insanely jealous over nothing
75. Always late or always ridiculously early and judging those who come any later
76. Terrible at penmanship, with illegible handwriting and ridiculous signature
77. Always gets blackout drunk and ends up in strange places
78. Foot-In-Mouth Disease, always saying the wrong thing
79. Deeply in debt and always needing (or wanting) money
80. Phobias — irrational fear of spiders, elevators, clowns, etc.
Weird Quirks or Idiosyncracies
81. Dresses in the same color every day — or all in one color that varies day by day
82. Won’t drink plain water (must have bubbles or food coloring).
83. Always overdresses for the occasion
84. Walks around barefoot (can’t tolerate socks)
85. Wears a brightly colored fanny pack everywhere they go
86. Prefers the outdoors — for sleeping, working, and using the bathroom
87. Plans their outfits or meals at least a week in advance.
88. Sings opera (badly) in the shower
89. Plays a musical instrument at work because it helps them think
90. Brings a favorite stuffed buddy or doll everywhere they go
91. Wears the same friendship bracelet given by someone they don’t talk about
92. Carries a lint-roller and offers to de-lint the clothes of random people
93. Extremely superstitious
94. Can be depended on to drop things they’re asked to hold (especially if it’s fragile)
95. Always crafts unusual and innovative gifts for friends and family
96. Has an imaginary friend and talks to them out loud
97. Leaves notes in library books for future readers
98. Wears their hair in Princess Leia buns
99. Quotes British comedy at the weirdest possible times
100. Pretends to gallop on a horse when they’re in a hurry
Cliché Quirks (to Avoid)
101. Intense stare
102. Crooked smile
103. Clumsiness to a degree that reaching adulthood is statistically unlikely
104. Ghostly pale skin
105. Thinking they’re ugly when every other character sees them as beautiful
Which quirks fit your characters?
Now that you’ve looked through this list of 105 character quirks, which quirky traits would make your protagonist more interesting or endearing to your readers?
Which could make your antagonist easier to dislike — or (plot twist) easier to root for?
Whatever quirks you choose for your characters, make sure they add to your story, so they don’t feel tacked on with little thought or thrown in last minute.
Your characters, and your readers, deserve better.