This week, using June bugs as a prompt, let’s talk about what bugs our characters. How do these bugs inform your characters? Do you share any of the bugs?
Jessie: I love the graphic you created for this month, Julie! My sleuth, Beryl Helliwell, dislikes naysayers and conversations about why things aren’t possible. I am not a fan of those either. In my real life, probably my most glaring pet peeve is about drinking vessels. I cannot stand plastic cups and I really prefer that the vessel is suited for the contents. I want my champagne in a flute, my espresso in a demi-tasse, and my tea in a mug to hold the heat.
Edith/Maddie: I’m with you on appropriate drinking containers, Jessie. Mac is borderline obsessed with keeping things neat and tidy. Messes bug her, whether in the kitchen or in her life. I don’t share that completely, but I do like a nice clean kitchen counter (free of toast crumbs, which really bugs me…), polished with a dishtowel. Robbie gets bugged in her restaurant when customers don’t say please or thank you. She’s not their mom, but a little common courtesy goes a long way. Amen, Robbie!
Sherry: I have to agree with Jessie about not drinking out of plastic! However, I prefer a coupe glass to a flute. There are always arguments about which is better and frankly if someone is offering me bubbles, I’ll drink it. Hmmmm, I’ve never really thought about what bugs Chloe — probably people who can’t hold their liquor.
Julie: What bugs me? Talking loudly in the theater, cell phones in the movie theater, people who take up more than one seat on the subway, people who are rude (especially to any sort of staff). What bugs my characters? Lilly Jayne tolerates much less than I do. Anything that doesn’t work the way she thinks it should bugs her. The good thing about Lilly is that she’s willing to do the work to make changes. She is not faint of heart.
Barb: What bugs me you ask? People with the emotional intelligence of five-year-olds and the critical thinking skills of the lower forms of mammals loudly proclaiming their whiny resentments and petty grudges as if the were some kind of badge of honor. Harrumph. (I have to say I get a strange, tingly pleasure from drinking from a vessel that is plainly wrong, like fine wine from a jelly jar or coffee from a cardboard cup decorated for Christmas in the middle of July. I think this is because this has happened in my life in moments that were spontaneous and improvised and therefore loads of fun. It doesn’t work if you do it on purpose. Or maybe it does. I will try it.) As for my characters, Jane Darrowfield prefers people who are honest and direct, but has been around long enough to understand why some people can’t be. Julia Snowden hates it when people insist on doing things the way they’ve always been done, for no other reason than they’ve always been done that way.
Readers, do you like it when bugs work their way into characters?
Sure. It makes them more believable. Just don’t overdo it by mentioning the bugs too often.
Agreed, unless the bugs are part of the character, like Monk on television.
What bugs me is rude customer service people. I hate reporting people but this one man was so rude to me and then hung up on me. My mom taught me that you always got more with honey than with vinegar.
Customer service is tricky, isn’t it?
Yes, it shows they are just like us.
I’ve read some things that bug characters that also make me think “I’m not the only one!”.
Yes, especially when I recognize one of those bugs in myself or someone I know!
Bugs are a great way to identify with a character, or to understand motivation, aren’t they?
If characters are going to feel like “real people,” they need to have their pet peeves. Just don’t overdo it and make them whiny!
I hate whiny. But whiny can also make me hate a character, which sometimes works.
People who think they’re the “smartest guy in the room” bug me and my main character. I guess it’s arrogance that sets us off. But, to Liz Milliron’s point, I hope neither of us are whiny about it!
“The smartest guy in the room” is a great way to set someone up as a foil for the sleuth.
Yes, I enjoy reading about what bugs them. Those quirks helps develop their characters.
Agreed. As a writer, they give you things to work with in a scene.
Pet peeves help deepen the character and most of the time I can relate to them and it makes the character more memorable. My biggest bug is litter-people take your trash home if you can’t find anywhere to dump it. 😁
With you on the litter. When I go to the beach, I bring a trash bag with me for what I pick up.
We all have bugs. It makes characters more real and relatable when they have them.
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