“What quirk does your protagonist have? If they don’t have one, give them one.”
Quirk’s are a particular interest of mine. I think they make life interesting, movies hilarious, and novels deeper. So I was thrilled when Mr. Maass added this to his list of prompts for creating more compelling characters.
I was working on my third novel… the one I am revising… the one giving me trouble right now… and was using it to experiment with technique. In this case, however, I was relieved that it already had the quirkiness that Donald Maass was suggesting. For example the hero has the oddest habit of wearing theme-like clothing:
“What?” Aiden asked innocently, although this time Lucia knew there was no way he could be oblivious to his fashion choice.
“No one has worn a bathing outfit like that since, like, 1920, I think.” she shook her head still cracking up. “You are sooooo outrageous.”
“I know, isn’t it cool?”
“It’s something,” she answered, unsure how else to describe it. He was wearing what looked like long johns except they stopped above the knee. The top part was a tank and the whole thing was striped. Striped! Well, really, she thought, where did he even find something like that?
I have been able to picture this very clearly… maybe even based it on a friend from my past (just saying). But Donald Maass encouraged us to go further. Why do they have this quirk. Why does it work for them? And put them in a situation where it doesn’t. What happens then?
I can tell you what happens then, we all know what happens then; we’ve lived through it. He feels like an eight year old caught watching Barney- sad, embarrassed, self-conscious, and ashamed. Being the solid, self-confident guy he is he will shrug and say, “who cares what they think.” But inside what has always been fun to him will become tainted and make him feel a little bit sick in his stomach. He will have eaten the apple of knowledge and nothing will be quite the same after that.
It will also make him feel insecure with the heroine, Lucia…but that is a whole other can of worms.
Quirks are funny because they indicate we don’t take ourselves too seriously… and often this is entirely appropriate. Sometimes, though, life is serious. The question is, what happens with our quirks then? If I were a kind writer I might let Aiden off the hook and assume he gets this. But Donald Maass challenged us to be the Old Testament rather than New Testament God when it comes to our characters. Test them, wring them out, allow them to fail so that, through fighting their own internal demons their grace can shine through.
Things are about to get tricky for Aiden and the rest of the characters in Molto Mayhem. It may take a while to get it revised but I have a feeling my readers are really going to enjoy the quirkiness, and humanity, when it is eventually released.
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