Why the Best Characters for Your Story are Weirdos
So much of what most of us consider to be good writing requires the writer to create a believable scene and realistic characters—or if not believable and realistic, close enough so that the reader willingly suspends their disbelief. Today’s article and corresponding writing practice is all about throwing those rules out the window by writing about weirdos.
The general consensus in writing for a modern audience is that subtlety and nuance are key to getting the reader on board with your story. This is true for many slice-of-life type stories, but not every story requires a delicate touch. There are entire genres dedicated to exploring the fantastic and weird, so why stay on the path of realism with your work?
There are many ways to get your freak flag flying on your pages, but we’ll start with how that works in characterization.
Weirdos Are Everywhere
When it comes to characters, writers are most often criticized because of the believeability of their characters. Taken at face value, that seems to mean that your characters should be the kind of people that you would find on the street or the bus or the subway or in your office or at school, and a lot of writers have somehow interpreted that to mean normal or average.
As a frequent public transit rider, I have to say to these writers: buses and subways are full of weirdos. (Share that on Twitter?)
In fact, offices and classrooms are full of weirdos, too. Have you spent any amount of time around children under the age of ten? And everyone has at least one story about a coworker who never wore shoes in the office, or who would inexplicably hoard Earl Grey tea from the break room at their desk, or who never wore deodorant.
How to Write Good Characters: Dig Into the Weirdness
Take this post as an affirmation to write your weird characters, and to really dig into that weirdness.
Make all of them residents of some alternate civilization where the Air Bud DVDs are a form of legal tender and Ashanti is a minor deity in their pantheon.
Give them a dialectal quirk that results in them adding the word “biscuit” to the end of all of their sentences.
Maybe you’ve got a serial killer who makes teapots out of their victims’ skulls.
The point is that reality is pretty rarely realistic, so there’s no reason to try to make your characters the beige version of “realistic”.
Can you think of someone you’ve seen or know personally who is a bona-fide weirdo (besides yourself, that is!)? What makes them so weird/fascinating? Share in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes and write about a person in a food/beverage establishment. Get weird with the customer and the service staff. Describe appearances, verbal and physical quirks, behavioral tics, and general demeanors as you create the conversation. Post your practice in the comments and be sure to check out the work of your fellow writers.
About Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.