Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is Your Writing Quirky?

Sometimes, when I read descriptions of what agents are looking for, they say things like "middle grade novels with quirky characters". And sometimes books are described as "quirky". What exactly does that mean? I looked up quirky using define with Google:

Quirky: Characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits

When I think of quirky, I think of something you wouldn't find just anywhere. Something that's a little bit different, and special because it's different. It's a book with things you wouldn't normally think of together (but a middle grader might).

Quirky fits well with writing middle grade, because 9 to 12-year-olds are at an interesting place in their lives. They sometimes play like younger kids, creating intense imaginary worlds, but a few minutes later, they might be texting friends like a teenager. They can act all sophisticated by choosing the perfect school outfit and then come home and work on capturing more crickets for their collection. For me, quirkiness is one of the reason why I enjoy reading (and writing) books for middle grade readers.

What do you think "quirky" means? How can you capture "quirky" in your writing?

9 comments:

  1. I've thought about this too. I think quirky means a well developed character, fleshed out enough and 3 dimensional enough that the quirks seem believable and not just tacked on.

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  2. I was told by an agent that I had "strong writing and a quirky/intriguing plot," but that it wasn't marketable, so sometimes quirky can bite you in the booty :) (It was an MG novel about a boy who stole his recently deceased father's cremation urn and ran away on a father-son road trip to scatter the ashes. Oh yes, and the ashes talked to him). In general, I agree with Laura above. Great post topic!

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  3. Hey! Someone just described my book as "quirky" today. I took it as a compliment because to me it definitely means something different...and a little silly (in a good way). Normally I think of quirky as being portrayed in the characters, but I think it can happen in storyline too---with perfectly normal people plopped into whacked out situations.

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  4. Quirky is tough (although it's a good Q subject). I think it's something you really haven't seen before. My son and I read a middle grade about reanimating Ben Franklin (Benjamin Franklinstein). That was quirky. I totally agree with Laura: quirky has to be fully fleshed out or it's tacked on.

    Odd, Jess, I thought I read a British YA recently with a plot revolving around a teenager carrying around ashes and talking to them. Sometimes British books seems a little quirkier than American books, but maybe that's just my faulty perception.

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  5. That's a great explanation of it! I think of quirky characters as unique and straying from chliches. The mean cheerleader character isn't quirky by herself, but if she has unexpected traits, then she could be quirky. Or she could just be gimmicky, depending on who's interpreting it!

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  6. Quirky is all the rage in picture books too. I think it means really interesting and different - something we haven't seen before - please entertain us :)

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  7. I love quirky. I think it's good to have books with quirky characters. Quirky to me means different but in a fun, light way. I can imagine that would be very important in children's fiction!

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  8. Thanks for all the great thoughts on what quirky means!

    In reading your responses, I starting thinkg about whether there's a big distinction between "unique" and "quirky". I think I'm with Jennifer, and the idea of quirky as different, in a light and fun way.

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  9. Quirky to me is breaking a stereotype with an opposite or unusual trait. Like a cheerleader that saves her scabs in a jar or a nerd that break dances for money on the Subway or a jock who sings show tunes to calm his nerves before a test.

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