Several years ago, I found myself in the Dallas, Texas DMV, changing my license over from Pennsylvania to Texas. At the time, I had both a class C license and a motorcycle license that I’d earned after getting a small motor scooter in college. The law didn’t require me to keep the license in order to operate the scooter, and, in a moment of frugality, I chose to let it lapse instead of paying the additional fee to renew.
More than a decade has passed since that moment, and I have never once found myself faced with the opportunity to drive a motorcycle without a license. Yet I constantly reflect on my decision, because having certification on a piece of plastic that I carried around in my wallet did something for me. It was evidence that there were things about me that you might not expect if you judged me based on your first impression. I liked being able to surprise people by telling them that I had my motorcycle license, and being able to back it up with proof. At my core, I liked being that person.
I sometimes think that we all underestimate the little things about us that help us feel like the people we want to be. Maybe it’s a collection of Green Lantern action figures stashed away in a closet. Maybe it’s the ability to speak fluently in Klingon. Maybe it’s a complete wardrobe of expensive, lacy lingerie worn under otherwise nondescript sweats and baggy jeans. They’re the secrets that help us feel like who we are, even if we’re not ready to show that very same self to the rest of the world. Having the Green Lantern action figures is enough. We don’t need to post pictures of little six inch versions of him in order to appreciate what we have.
Even though I no longer have that motorcycle license, I could easily list half a dozen other quirks of mine if given the right setting. I’m guessing that you could list your own quirks too. But if pressed, could you list the quirks of your characters? Do you know the secret collections that they hide in their closets, carry in their wallets, and wear under their sweatshirts? Do you know what fictional languages they can speak? And how old they were when they first got the desire to learn to speak them?
Maybe your character played drums in an all-girl band in high school. Maybe she hasn’t picked up a pair of drumsticks since the last time she pounded out We Got The Beat at graduation. But being that drummer thirty years ago made her the person she is today, and knowing her past will help you make her come alive.
What quirks have you discovered in a book that made you connect with a character?
Diane Vallere | @dianevallere