Sunday, July 14, 2013

BORLICKADOW: Don't scrimp on your characters' quirky traits!

My husband and I have been together since...well, forever. (I was 17 when we started dating and I just turned 38--you do the math). In that time, we've gotten to know each other pretty well. For example, I know that he'd rather saw off his own leg than walk barefoot across smooth concrete, that he pronounces the word "wash" with an "r" in it (WARSH) and that he adds pepper to foods that really don't need it. (French fries...really?!) On the flip side, he knows that the odds of me ordering anything off a menu containing cream sauce are slim to none (sensitive tummy, anyone?!), that I MUST take a bath before bed every night, and that I will sing, very loudly, to songs whether or not I know the correct lyrics. Case in point, BOUND FOR THE FLOOR, by Local H.

Here are the opening lines in case you're unfamiliar:

"Born to be down
I've learned all my lessons before now
Born to be down
I think you'll get used to it..."

See that first line there ^^ and that third line^^?
Yeah, it's BORN TO BE DOWN, and if you listen to it, it's as clear as a bell. The singer is singing, BORN TO BE DOWN. However, in my teenaged brain, all I heard was, BORLICKADOW. (No, this isn't a word, but in my defense, are half the words used in angst-ridden music?!)  At the time, it sounded legit to me, so I sang it loudly, and fearlessly, using that word, BORLICKADOW!!

Needless to say, the first time hubs (boyfriend then) heard me singing this song my way, he nearly wet himself he was laughing so hard. Eighteen years ago, that really pissed me off. Now, I recognize it for what it is: Awesome character development. (For the record, every time we hear this song he laughs. And sometimes it still does annoy me)

As I see it, my propensity toward singing inaccurate lyrics (this happens quite frequently and I'd list them here but that would just be embarrassing. Taylor Swift *coughs*) just makes me that much more an engaging character to know, and, obviously, as a writer I think this will have the same effect on the characters I write.

Knowing that your m/c only reads e-books horizontally because doing so vertically makes her feel uncomfortably tall, or that she eats all the chocolate off of a Klondike bar before she eats the ice cream itself, is a lot more interesting to your reader than saying she read a book or got an ice cream sandwich--likeability is in the details, yo! Never underestimate the power of a quirky trait when it comes to penning a character! After all, we want our characters to be believable, so don't short-change them by not telling their whole story.