Often, the most memorable characters in a story, move, or TV show are the ones that are a little peculiar. These quirky characters might stand out because of their physical appearance, the way they talk, or their unique mannerisms. Wondering how to make a quirky character? Below, we explore what makes a character quirky and how to communicate those unique characteristics through design.
What Is a Quirky Character?
Given the quirky definition—“characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits”—you could argue that every character is a little quirky, as they will all have traits and idiosyncrasies that make them unique. However, the most conventional sense, a quirky character is one who could be considered weird, eccentric, or unusual. Quirky characters may have unique physical attributes, interesting personality traits, or peculiar habits.
Often, you’ll find that quirky characters aren’t the main character in a story—but they’re often engaging and appealing. Why is the quirky side character more likeable than the main character? Because they’re relatable. Everyone has a quirky side; these characters simply aren’t afraid to let it show.
Whether you’re creating a character for a novel, animated film, comic book, or other medium, incorporating some quirks can give that character depth and appeal.
Quirky Character Traits
There are nearly unlimited ways for how to make a character quirky. Here is just a short list of quirky character traits:
In the illustration of the character—how he or she looks on the outside—the main way to make a character quirky is to add in unique physical traits. For example, your character might:
- Wear unusual glasses
- Wear a distinct type or signature article of clothing
- Have a unique color or style of hair
- Have large feet or other standout feature
- Be extremely tall or short
Beyond the physical appearance of the character, there are additional ways to make a character quirky through his or her speech and actions. For example, your character might:
- Mumble, speak in long-winded sentences, or have another unique speech pattern
- Avoid eye contact
- Constantly fidget
- Be obsessively neat and tidy
- Shuffle when he or she walks
- Never be without a drink or food item
- Speak with an accent
While none of these traits—physical or behavioral—are exceptionally weird, they do have the potential to make a character stand out from others, and that’s exactly what makes a character quirky.
Examples of Quirky Characters
Think of nearly any movie, book, or TV show, and you can likely pinpoint one (or several) quirky characters. They typically stand out not only for their sometimes untraditional appearance, but also for their unique personality traits. Here are just a few examples of well-known quirky characters.
Recognizable by their oblong shape and yellow hue, minions are characters from the animated Despicable Me series. What makes the minions quirky? Beyond their signature yellow color, they speak in what seems like gibberish—but is actually derived from French, English, and the occasional food reference.
Olaf, known for his comedic role in the animated movie Frozen, has one very obvious quirk: He’s a talking snowman. But he’s also known to be naive (e.g., he doesn’t understand that snow melts in summer) and eternally optimistic.
The fictional chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka has a signature eccentric clothing style, but he also has behavioral quirks. He’s mysterious and guarded, and he often speaks in lyrical, but somewhat mysterious, phrases.
Particularly in some of the more recent Batman adaptations, the Joker has become an increasingly eccentric and quirky character. He dons disheveled clown makeup and is skillful, smart, and a little maniacal.
3 Steps to Creating a Quirky Character
Step 1: Conceptualize Your Character
Before actually designing your character, do some brainstorming. Create a backstory that provides context for your character’s quirks. For example, if your character has blue hair, when did she first dye it blue and what prompted that transformation? Asking those questions from the beginning will allow you to create a deep and believable character.
However, keep in mind that when you are intentionally creating a quirky character, it can be easy to get carried away. Add quirks sparingly; if your character has too many peculiarities, he or she won’t be relatable as a character.
It can be helpful to draw inspiration from real life, so think of the people you know. What kind of physician and behavioral attributes make them unique? What kind of speech patterns or tics do they display? Using real people as inspiration can give your characters depth and believability.
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Step 2: Use Shape Language to Communicate Quirks
When designing your character, it will be easy to incorporate some quirks, like a signature hairstyle or unique glasses. Other quirks, however, can be harder to communicate through design. For example, how do you convey that a character is tense or uptight, compared to someone else who is mild-mannered and soft spoken?
In these cases, shape language can be helpful. Shape language refers to how incorporating certain shapes into your character’s anatomy can convey personality quirks. A triangle, for example, can represent strength, aggression, anger, violence, or power. A circle, on the other hand, communicates gentleness, warmth, comfort, and generosity.
You can use shape language both in the anatomy of your character (e.g., the way his face or body is shaped), as well as in his or her clothing and accessories.
Step 3: Check the Strength of the Character Through Silhouette
Once you’ve completed your design, there’s a quick way to test the strength of your character. Simply fill in the entire outline of your character with black to create a silhouette. If the character has been designed well, even the silhouette should convey something about his or her unique traits or quirks. You should also be able to clearly recognize the character just from his or her silhouette.
A quirky character will stand out from the rest. And fortunately, learning how to make a character quirky is easy. Draw inspiration from real life and incorporate quirks that are both physical and behavioral. Ultimately, you will create a relatable, deep, memorable character.
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