Posted in Character Development, Descriptive Writing, Writing

How To Write Characters With Unique Sensory Quirks

We all have issues. We all have quirks. It’s part of what makes us human.

Therefore, our characters should have quirks too.

How to write characters with unique sensory quirks

What exactly is a quirk?

A quirk is an unusual behavior, an out of the ordinary habit. If it was something everyone did, then it wouldn’t exactly be a “quirk.” But I’m not saying no two people can share the same quirk. We all have our likes and dislikes.

But, for the sake of descriptive writing, I’m going to stick with sensory quirks.

And I’m going to talk a lot about myself, so I won’t blame you if you decide to leave now.

What’s a sensory quirk?

I don’t even know if this is a real thing or if I made it up, but I’m going to pretend it is for the sake of this post.

A sensory quirk is just what it sounds like. A quirk that has to do with your senses. Or you could just say you have sensory issues. Because I do. Big time.

Examples?

1. Chalk

A lot of other people might agree with me on this one. I don’t like the feeling of chalk. I don’t like the feeling of it when I scrap it against the pavement or wall. I don’t like how it gets underneath my fingernails.

This is something I used to love. I played with chalk a lot when I was a kid. When I started working in preschools, my appreciation for chalk shrunk. The kids would as me all the time to play chalk with them and I would agree because… Well, that’d just be mean otherwise. I’d hold the chalk in between my index finger and thumb and barely put any pressure on it when coloring.

Why? I don’t even know. There’s just something about the feeling of chalk that makes me cringe.

2. Socks

Others may be able to relate to this one as well, especially if you have young kids. The seams of the socks (or as I call it, “the line across the toes”) are awful. They bother me. I don’t have any explanation why, they just do.

And, I prefer knee socks. I look ridiculous, but I love them. I can wear ankle socks, but I pull them up as far as they can go. They stretch out and then I get holes. (I go through a lot of socks.)

They also feel too loose on me, which is why I think I pull them up so far. I don’t know why that bothers me, but it does.

3. Toothpaste

I don’t like the taste of toothpaste. It’s all gross. I like mint, but even the mint is yucky to me. But it’s something you have to do, so I suck it up.

What really bothers me is the feeling of it on my teeth. I don’t like the feeling of the brush gliding over my teeth and I don’t like the sound it makes in my head. Brushing my teeth is the worst part of my day, every day.

4. Lettuce

I’ve saved the weirdest for last. I don’t like lettuce. I’m not a huge fan of the taste, but that’s not why. I mean, lettuce doesn’t really have a taste anyway.

No, it’s because of the crunch. Yes, you read that right.

I love everything crunchy. Chips, croutons, graham crackers, regular crackers, anything. But I can’t stand the sound (or the feeling) of lettuce crunching in my mouth. Why? No idea.

In conclusion…

A sensory quirk can literally be anything. I mean, if lettuce bothers me, then you can find something ridiculous for your character.

It adds a little more depth to your character and makes them a little more real, as strange as it is.

Do you have any strange quirks? Have you given any to your characters? Let me know in the comments below!

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

30 thoughts on “How To Write Characters With Unique Sensory Quirks

  1. This is actually great! I never thought of sensory quirks but now that you mention it, they appear in stories and we don’t notice them consciously but when a scene with that particular quirk appears, we know exactly what it is. I love it!

  2. I totally agree. The last thing your readers need is a vanilla hero or villain. Give them something to remember the character by, even if it’s as tiny and barely notcieable as a quirk. That’s what makes for a more memorable character. I write comic crime and murder novels, sort of Phil Marlowe and Chili Palmer, working a case with Stephanie Plum, that make a ton of fun the L.A. life, crime, murder, sex and the entertainment industry. In HAIR OF THE DOG, my second book in the series, I had a huge, cold-blooded hit man who freakin’ loved his job. Problem was, he needed something to separate him from every other carreer-driven psychotic in downtown L.A.. Then I decided to have him gush like Marilyn Monroe whenever he spoke, and parade around in nothing but black Armani. Trust me, no EVER forgot Leon Witherspoon.

  3. I’m with you on the toothpaste. I don’t have a problem with the feel and noise of the toothbrush, but I hate the taste of toothpaste. Even the supposedly nicer tasting children’s ones really aren’t in my opinion.

    I also don’t like lettuce, though not for the same reason as you. It’s weird, because I’m a vegetarian and there are very few vegetables and salad ingredients I don’t like. But lettuce… I tolerate it, but never buy it myself, and will avoid eating it if I can. Problem is, I’m not entirely sure what it is about lettuce I don’t like.

    1. I feel like the kids’ toothpaste is worse than the standard “mint” for the adults.

      As for lettuce, I’m glad I’m not the only one. But lettuce doesn’t have much of a taste, so maybe you’re just looking for something a little more flavorful?

  4. Now I’m going to be ultra-focused next time I eat lettuce, to think about the way it crunches. Interesting post — it got me to think about these sensory things in a way I hadn’t.

  5. You’re not alone. My husband wore his white t-shirts inside out because he couldn’t stand the seams. He wore socks inside out also. Because he wore long pants it didn’t show. I’m so glad these clothes manufacturers don’t put tags on the necks of clothing any longer. They used to scratch my neck. I guess a lot of people complained.

  6. Love this!! Made me laugh… and then think. Not sure about negative quirks but I do have a friend who loves hearing people chew. Thinking about it that;s one of my quirks; I hate hearing people chew! Great post

    1. She actually likes the sound of chewing? Oh, no… lol. I don’t like that sound at all either. But hey, good for her then. One less thing to get annoyed at. 😉

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