The Quirk


To quirk, or not to quirk. That is the question. Indeed. I’m sick of quirky characters, quirky TV shows, quirky novels, and quirky Facebook status updates. The quirk has lost its shine for me. Can we not be normal and still interesting anymore? Do TV charcters all have to have OCD or some form of socially crippling genius or other such oddity? Did everything in Running With Scissors really happen?

When are sentiment and well-developed, complex characters going to come back into favour? Please, God, let it be soon. I get that Napoleon Dynamite is funny, I actually do, but it’s a rare film/book/TV show that pulls off quirk to this level of sophistication (if indeed the two aren’t truly mutually exclusive).  The thing about being quirky is that it’s too easy to do – just do, be, or say something odd but not too odd (because that would be  just plain weird and weird is definitely not quirky). Creating a quirk doesn’t require much creative responsibility.

When did real life cease to be bizarre and interesting? Can real, quirkless-characters not have epiphanies and insights too? Do we have to have a low spectrum mental illness, or a collection of ex-lovers’ belly-button fluff, or a day a week where we only speak in song lyrics to be interesting?

And this is coming from someone with a character suffering from mild OCD in her first novel. Was it necessary for that character, I ask myself? Yes, I think it was. But did I let myself be influenced by this GenX/GenY indie culture obession? Aye, there’s the rub…

This quest for quirk,  irony, and idiosyncrasy drives out deeper meanings and ultimately alientates us from the real truth of the character. I ache for things to matter again; for the dramatic arc of a character to be about more than a quirky dance; for characters not to have matching tracksuits or schizophrenic fathers; for sixteen year old girls to have dialogue appropriate to their age and intelligence that doesn’t ooze sarcasm with every noun.  I ache for that.



Filed under Art, Fiction, My Book, Reading, Writing

15 responses to “The Quirk

  1. sandybarker

    brilliant post…clever, funny, insightful…


  2. Jaded from too much quirk? I tend to agree with you, but I also think that if you dig below the surface everyone is weird in their own way. It’s the obsession with a pretty superficial level of quirk (the matching tracksuits) that has become boring and same-old, same-old.


  3. Kim

    point taken. i often long for a good old fashion ‘speech’ – one with crisp rhetoric, powerful images, and a clean character arc.

    is the point here the difference between an art form and a gimmick? one sells. one inspires.


  4. Thanks Sandy.

    I totally agree, Charlotte, that everyone has amazing weird stuff underneath, hence why the superficial stuff is so annoying!

    Interesting point, Kim. I don’t think that inspirational, gimmickless art isn’t marketable though… just not at the moment!! 😉


  5. Great post! I also hate ‘quirk for quirk’s sake’ or the overly ‘bizarre’, but a lot of the things I enjoy do have genuine, moving characters with an edge of quirk. I think there’s a definite line between writers/screenwriters using ‘lazy quirk’ or ‘genuine quirk that provides an insight into life and all our differences’.
    Know what I’m saying? 🙂

    Yes, I know exactly what you’re saying, and I agree. And it’s great to get a GenY opinion on the subject!


  6. I agree. Here’s to “ordinary”!

    I wrote a post about how memoirs like Running with Scissors sort of up the ante on how what sells these days is really the extraordinary, the almost unbelievable…and wa-la, is it any surprise then that so many memoirs that have sold of late are actually about fictional lives?

    Ah, will have to check that out 🙂 Yes, I think Running With Scissors certainly did change things a bit…


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  8. Quirky seems to be appealing to so many. The first weeks of American Idol is built on 80% quirky and 20% talent.
    I too am hungry for deeper characters in entertainment and in the world at large.


  9. Reading this post made me ache for some of that realness again too! Well…you’re real, for one thing, so that helps 🙂


  10. uppington

    Interesting post, and I think I get your point. However, working as I do with the mentally ill, I’ve come to firmly believe that there is no normal. Every day for me is a through the looking glass experience, and my co-workers and I are always shaking our heads and saying, “you can’t make this stuff up.” For me, quirky is normal, I’m afraid, and everything I write is going to reflect that.

    I actually agree, that there’s no normal, but it’s the carefully selected quirks like the tracksuited Tenenbaums that I’m finding so irksome. They don’t feel at all organic in the creative process to me.


  11. I’ve never met a quirky person in real life. I’ve met some full blown crazies like myself a few times though. “When are sentiment and well-developed, complex characters going to come back into favour?” On the television, I suspect never.

    Yes, we all had a feeling you were a full blown crazy, my dear 😉


  12. I am a strong opponent of political-correctness–“Native American” is the only politically-correct term I use, because it is accurate and fair.

    Yet I wish to point out that the following is beyond political-incorrectness–that it is a totally-insensitive product of ignorance.

    “Can we not be normal and still interesting anymore? Do TV characters all have to have OCD or some form of socially crippling genius or other such oddity?”

    Even if I did not have mental illness (specifically OCD), I would (hopefully) take offense at this.


  13. Tony

    Brilliant and funny comment. I can’t help but recommend that if you want : “sentiment and well-developed, complex characters to come back into favour”, well then it’s time to watch again Marcello Mastroianni in La Notte (The Night) by Michelangelo Antonioni. Just a masterpiece to be revisited again and again. At a time when men where real…and complex, just like life really.


  14. Howard Davis

    This post is kind of quirky


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