Each and every one of us has habits, little mannerisms set us apart from everybody else.
Sometimes they are clear and obvious things that others recognize from a distance and can say; “Yep that’s her, I can tell just by the way she’s doing (fill in the blank).”
Your habits can be as innocent as twirling your hair, tapping your fingers, pacing, humming, or tapping your feet. There so many, the list goes on. Sometimes habits irritate another person. My personal irritation is watching somebody bite their fingernails. Look, nothing grosses me out more, but I know that my finger tapping irritates my husband. So, it’s a give-and-take with us; he bites his nails and I tap my nails.
Mannerisms and habits can describe you in many ways. They can reveal that you’re nervous person or perhaps easily bored. Your “tells” may never be seen until you’re in a stressful situation and then act almost as a self-defense mechanism; we let our stress out with these little idiosyncrasies.
Take a look around you, do little bit of people watching and see what you find.
But, you know, it’s funny – people aren’t the only creatures that have mannerisms and habits. Have you ever stopped and noticed your animals actions?
For instance I have three cats and each one of them has her own particular habit that they do. My little gray likes to find a furry blanket to curl up and then she start sucking on the fur. My long hair black-and-white one loves to sit in the middle of the doorway, not in & not out. No, she is right smack across the threshold, as if she can’t make a decision where she wants to go. And my oldest cat, who happens to be almost 18, refuses to drink water, unless it’s out of a running tap.
Even the animals out in the wild have their own particular habits. Some birds migrate to the same exact location every year without fail, without deviation. As a child, my parents would take us while the snow was still on the ground, to see the Canadian Geese that came by the hundreds to the lakes during their yearly migration. So you see, habits are not restricted to humans. Some are natural; cause from your heredity and others – who knows why we start with habits.
As a writer I think it’s really important to bring your characters to life by giving them habits. They can be irritating, endearing, or unconscious but they need to be there. These mannerisms give your character more depth and help reader get to know them better. For instance Megan, in my Citrus Beach Mystery series is a pacer. When she gets nervous she paces and often irritates those around her by doing this. It’s these little things that let you begin to understand the character more.
So, as you sit there on a bench and people watch, try figure out what habits strangers show without realizing. Can some of those habits that you’re watching from other people be worked into your story?
Give your character some life, give them some interest, and give them some habits.