As in life, not every character you meet is going to be some hottie vampire dude with a soft spot for humans. Most people (and characters) are going to be at least a little weird. The trick is learning to how to write believably strange characters that tug at the heart strings just enough. Or maybe you opt to write characters that are so weird everyone kind of hates them. Whatever you decide to do, use these five tips to write a weirdo that keeps your reader cringing and laughing all at once.
Emphasize the little details.
Maybe it’s that oddly shaped, oozing scab on their elbow they keep reopening. Or perhaps it’s the particular way they always have just one awkwardly long hair growing out of their chin. This is the most amusing thing about weirdo characters – they can be really anything you want. You can model the classroom freak after an old bully that pissed you off (it’s quite cathartic, trust me – I’ve done it). Or maybe an eccentric neighbor with a giant wart growing out of their neck who routinely shakes their fist at you for scootering by too fast. The more exaggerated, the better. You can also play into the frenemies dynamic, which you can read more about HERE.
Play with different levels of self-awareness.
The best weirdos, in my opinion, are the ones that fully acknowledge they are, without a doubt, weird. They know their sense of style is eccentric at best, but they still buy up every yak-haired sweater from the thrift shop they can find. They don’t just let their freak flag fly – they hoist it up high into the air with a ritzy spot-light to make it visible at night. Then, there are the weirdos that genuinely don’t believe they’re strange at all. They push themselves to sit with the popular crowd, despite the glaring disparity in their levels of cool. This weirdo is lovable, in the sense that a small part of us relates to them. That brings me nicely to my next point, which is:
Tease out your own oddities to make your weirdo relatable.
Everyone’s at least a little weird, right? You definitely are even if you have trouble admitting it out loud. Do some soul-searching and figure out the tiny things about you that could seem weird to the untrained eye. Maybe you like to color-coordinate your trash bags with your socks. Or your bookshelf is organized by publication dates. Take a small speck of weird from your own life and add it to your character in much larger doses. Chances are, if it’s something you relate to, your readers will too. And there’s something really welcoming about a character that is not only undeniably weird, but also a little familiar.
Make your weirdo rationalize their eccentricities.
This is a great way to work in a tragic (or hilarious) backstory later. Maybe your character is afraid of toasters because one of their family members got electrocuted by one. Or perhaps they hate walking through puddles because they sunk up to their eyeballs in one last time it rained. Also, this adds depth to your weirdo because suddenly, there’s an explanation for why they do the things they do. As all is explained and they slowly become less weird, your reader will start to sympathize with them. The best weirdos are the ones that become almost normal by book’s end. Bonus points if you can make your reader question their own normality by the end of it.
Give the weirdo a motivation.
Maybe it’s an unattainable dream like being asked to homecoming by the star football player. Or maybe it’s something more realistic like winning some scholastic decathlon or getting a much-needed promotion. Either way, give them a motivation for the madness. It adds depth and purpose to their eccentricities. Make it something that the reader can grab onto as something that would potentially matter to them too.
As stated by the lovely but ghostly guitarist Luke Patterson in the popular Netflix show Julie and the Phantoms, “We’re all a little crazy.” So embrace what makes you unique as you do the same for your characters. Haven’t you heard? Being normal is overrated.