Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

To Each His Own

26 Comments

Image courtesy Elmers.com

Image courtesy Elmers.com

When I was in the 4th grade there was a boy who sat next to me who ate glue. Every morning he would pull out a bottle of Elmer’s he kept tucked in his backpack and squirt a blob on his desk. After it dried, he would carefully peel it away from the wood and eat it. This was his morning ritual. I remember thinking maybe his mother didn’t make him breakfast before school, so one day I asked.

“Why do you eat that?”

“I like it.”

That was all he said before turning his attention to the chalkboard. So began my life as a people-watcher. I didn’t know then, but people watching would play an important role in my life. Observing the idiosyncrasies or quirks displayed by family, friends and strangers on the street is beneficial to me when it comes to creating characters.

Everyone has quirks; something that is unique, odd or special. You might even say it borders weirdness. I have to admit, I did think it was a little weird that my classmate ate glue every morning, but I was 10 years old, who was I to judge?

I love characters that leave a lasting impression long after I’ve read the last page. I want characters that are three-dimensional with complex emotions and conflicting motives. Characters who are complicated and have messy lives are someone I will root for. By adding a quirk or two, maybe a twitch, an obsession or a habit allows the reader to see inside the character, even if the other characters cannot. I relate to a character that is obsessed with clean hands or eats M&Ms by the color. As a child, I used to separate my M&Ms by the color before popping them in my mouth and these days, I never leave home without my antibacterial wipes.

Many years ago, as a job requirement, I was fingerprinted. The supervisor made several attempts to obtain good prints, but finally gave up and sent me to the Sheriff’s Department for electronic printing. Even electronically, the technician wasn’t able to get clear prints. He asked me if I washed my hands a lot. I revealed my germaphobe tendencies, and he explained how he has seen “bad” fingerprints in scrub nurses and doctors.

As fun as it may be to give your characters quirks, be careful not to overdo it. The reader might begin to get annoyed and then the quirks become the story. Case in point, I’ll be remembered now as the writer who washed her fingerprints down the drain.

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, will release in March, 2017. It's now able for pre-order on Amazon. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

26 thoughts on “To Each His Own

  1. Great minds definitely think alike, Jill (you and I being the great minds in this scenario 😉 I was just considering doing a post of this nature. In my current writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, I had to observe a child (unrelated to me) in a particular situation and recount his actions and behaviors in 500 words. Then using the observations, I had to create a fictional character profile. The next assignment involved writing a 1,000 word story around this character. It was such a cool exercise, as I’d never developed a story around a character. My stories always start with an idea nugget and grow outward from there. What I’ve learned is people watching can be a powerful experience if you unleash the imagination.

    Great post, as always. I also sat next to a glue-eater in elementary school. Enjoy the weekend. xo

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    • Lol! I figured you were referring to “our” great minds, Gwen. 🙂 Your writing course sounds very interesting; the character profile is a great idea. Yes, people watching triggers all sorts of ideas for me. I especially like people watching at the mall, that way I can get in some shopping. 🙂 What is it with the glue eaters? I never tried it, perhaps we were missing out on something. Have a great weekend!

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  2. Great post! Quirks do make an impact on the reader. As a reader I am often captivated by characters who are just a little different!

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  3. Great thoughts on character, Jill! On your note not to overdo it, I read some advice in on of my writing books (I think it was one by Jack Bickham). He said to go all out when you first draft your characters. It’s a lot easier to trim back their eccentricities than it is to tack them on later. Not sure how true that is, but it’s another way to look at it.

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    • Thanks, Phillip! You make an excellent point. First drafts are the time to get everything out there, especially the character idiosyncrasies. I would imagine adding them in during the editing stage would make them less realistic. Thanks for your input!

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  4. This is great advice, Jill. Character quirks can make or break a character. Case in point – I’m still thinking about the boy who ate glue because that is such an unusual quirk and a very powerful image!

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    • Thank you so much, Dianne! From what I read on Amazon, your characters in Wolf Pear have some quirkiness of their own. I can’t wait to read it! I’ve often wondered about the boy who ate glue…I hope he didn’t sustain any brain damage.

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  5. Haha, I wear disposable gloves when filling up at the gas station. i just hate getting dust and grime on my fingers! 🙂
    In New York City I love traveling in the subways in winter and fall. I can get away with wearing gloves! 🙂

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  6. You’d make a good burglar Jill, no clues left behind! Good points on characterisation. In the early stages of my latest WIP I’m trying to work harder on this – in particular introducing some more unpleasant aspects which I’ve realised I’m not very good at.

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    • LOL! So I’ve been told, Roy! I think I’ll remain an honest citizen. When I was a kid, I always got caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. 🙂 I guess we are always discovering aspects of our writing that need work. Congratulations again on your recent book launch! So happy it was a success!

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  7. Love this post! I think the quirks writers include are what make their characters feel human. Lets face it, even the most normal person in the world has some strange traits/characteristics/habits, and I love when writers are able to capture those little bits of weirdness on paper. 🙂

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    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree with your comment, “even the most normal person in the world has some strange traits/characteristics/habits.” My significant other and I often debate this issue. He says, “everyone is weird,” while I believe, “everyone is different.” My wording just sounds a little more nice. 🙂

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  8. Beautiful post. I am obsessed with washing my hands and if I could I would like to wear gloves during summertime too. Quirks do give characters a uniqueness which is important for a powerful story, I think. Very informative post, thanks for sharing Jill.

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  9. I like this post! It is so true that we all have a bit of quirkiness in us. They occur with no logical explanation sometimes, they just are. I have developed a phobia of driving across train tracks in the past couple of years. I’ve never had a bad experience with a train and in fact, used to ride in them on a daily basis when I worked in Boston. But, I CANNOT drive through a track without my heart racing or stopping, my palms sweating and my wanting to shut my eyes! 🙂

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    • Thank you, I’m happy you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to the racing heart and sweaty palms because I have the same phobia with escalators. It’s a terrible feeling.

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  10. As always, I enjoyed reading your post. I’ve never seen anyone eat glue, I’ve seen many paper eaters.

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  11. Just nominated you for a “special” award. Check it out. 🙂

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  12. I loved this post.
    I think the boy who ate dried glue from the top of his desk had a brother…and he sat across from me in study hall and did all kinds of things to gross us out. Do you think they were twins separated at birth?
    Algebra was also impossible for me, and if you ask fiction writers they’ll often agree. Must be a right side of the brain vs. the left side?

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    • Thanks, Marylin! What is it with boys and glue? I never saw any girls eat their glue. 🙂 Oh yes, the Algebra vs. English is definitely a right side vs. left side of the brain. I’m so glad the Algebra days are behind me.

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