June 9, 2010 at 5:24 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , )

We all have those odd little ticks and quirks that make us who we are. Our characters should too.

I would make a terrible character. I’ll tap anything on any surface and I’ll do it continuously until someone makes me stop. When I have a pen in my hand I flick the lid off, just a little bit, and then click it back on. I do this over and over again. If I have a tic-tac packet I will rattle it and open it and close it until it drives everyone else in the room nuts. I would probably be the character in the horror story that gets shoved in the path of the monster while everyone else flees.

But those little ticks and traits are part of what make me who I am.

So you need to consider is your character:

  • a hair flicker
  • an eye-lash flutterer
  • a nervous laugher
  • a twitchy sitter
  • a toe tapper
  • a question tagger (You understand what I mean, right?)
  • a jacket straightener
  • a collar turner
  • a ring fiddler
  • a lip chewer
  • an ear tucker
  • a head turner

And I’m sure you can add many dozens of interesting traits to this list. Let’s see how many we can come up with.



  1. Brown Eyed Mystic said,

    A character who is incessant looker for information. Research (anything that ticks her on or is relevant to who she is) would be her middle name. She can’t stop; no she cannot. The character has been accused of being “too self-engrossed” by some, and “not having enough time to spend with” by her lover. Still, she cannot help.

    She has a wandering eye for the good stuff; she wants to gulp down every spice of information; and she keeps hopping, from one source to another–nothing can keep her heed for long, for the simple reason that there’s so much to explore, and gulp down!

    Umm, well, in a couple words you say? Okay;
    – an info sucker

    And that would be me, by the way 😉

    Thanks, the exercise was pretty interesting! 🙂


  2. Alex Willging said,

    I suppose my current protagonist counts as:
    –a pendant fiddler
    –a daydreamer

    She often loses focus in a conversation she’d rather not be having, and then she needs to hold onto something like her pendant when trying to keep that focus.

  3. papaspoint said,

    a knuckle popper, a neck cracker, a sniffer, a throat clearer…

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I can just hear the person with all of those mannerisms sitting behind me.

  4. Carol Kilgore said,

    One of my characters calls everyone sweetie. Another uses overblown adjectives – everything is marvelous, huge, outstanding, and so on.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I like the idea of a character always using overblown adjectives – probably because I do it so often.

  5. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    I was about to say I *am* that person! Nervous energy. 🙂

  6. laurelrainsnow said,

    My current protagonist is definitely a nervous laugher…

  7. Lynn Rush said,

    This is great. I have one who tugs his hair, one who bites her nails, another who chews her bottom lip..oh wait, you have that one on your list already

    This is fun. Love it!

  8. AlexJ said,

    Yes, I’m definitely a toe tapper. With headphones on, I forget that I’m the only one listening to the music. If eating you didn’t stop the monster, I’d be the next to go I’m sure.

  9. Tweets that mention Mannerisms « Cassandra Jade in the Realm -- said,

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cassandra Jade, Maureen Doallas. Maureen Doallas said: RT @CPatrickSchulze: What mannerisms do you give your characters? #fiction #writing #amwriting #writetip […]

  10. Tooty Nolan said,

    I tend to have characters who straighten their ties if complimented or if they feel that they have a chance with a female. They don’t have to actually be wearing a tie – just as long as they make the actions. Don’t know why – I just like writing into a story.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I have a character that keeps straightening her sleeves when she’s talking to people – mostly males. I actually don’t know why she does this, maybe I’ll need to think about that.

  11. sandra seamans said,

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned over-using these mannerisms. It’s great to have them, but if they show up on every other page they get boring to the reader. I read a book where the protag had a boatwide smile, by the time I finished reading I wanted nothing more than to slap that smile off his face. Mannerisms are good, but using them in moderation is better.

  12. catwoods said,

    I’ll add a snapper and a clapper and up the ante with a hair twirler.

    This post made me laugh. I’m a shaker, myself. It drives my DH crazy. I shake anything and everything as I pick it up to put it away, pull it off the shelf to consider buying it, hold it in my hands to cook with it. I shake everything at least once.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Nothing wrong with shaking – unless you are shaking a can of drink that you’re about to open, then it might be problematic or amusing, depending on whether you remember you’ve been shaking it.

  13. Blog posts « Serial Distractions said,

    […] can have a distinguishing feature (“kohl-rimmed eyes”). Cassandra Jade provides some mannerisms to give your characters […]

  14. Writer Links – Characters, Characters, and More Characters « Leith Literary said,

    […] Jade dishes up a buffet of goodness, including: ♥ the importance of character mannerisms, ♥ the five reasons she will read your writer blog, ♥ another look at Bowl of […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: