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I haven't used this literary device until last night, and I LOVE them.
I loved it. My passion for my characters spread to all of the minor characters too, and you know why? Because the quirks made my array of characters individual, and that, I feel, is the main importance of quirks.
Quirks are so helpful.
I didn't use them before because I thought they were 'unnatural' or something to my story. So I just didn't use them. Also, I didn't think JK Rowling used any quirks. That's why I thought, "Quirks aren't necessary. JKR's characters are the best I've seen." And then I realized it was because JKR GAVE her characters quirks.
Dumbledore (<3) is the weird powerful wizard. Ron is the ginger, Hermione is the braniac, Madam Pince is crazy about her library books, and Filch has his cats. In fact, JKR's entire world is full of quirks! How about Spello-tape, or Platform 9 3/4, or Hogwarts, named when Ravenclaw had a dream that she was riding a warty hog.
The reason I didn't think her characters had quirks was because they felt so natural to their character. And that is where I tried to come from in my revisions last night. I knew my characters, and I knew their jobs, habits, and passions. Thus, I fitted a quirk specific to their personalities. This is HUGE, otherwise the quirk feels so unnatural, and non-JKR. Make it so it fits to their personality! Quirks make a world and a character endearing.
And, the other huge thing, is that quirks differentiate your characters from each other, and from other literary characters. Unique quirks will tell a reader, "Oh, he's the redhead," or, "Oh, she's the woman with all those rings on her fingers." If you have teachers in your book, it is SO easy for the reader to lose track of all of them. The way JKR did it is with quirks. Snape = mean, Flitwick = small, McGonagall (<3) = strict with the hat, Sprout = fat, stuff like that.
Quirks would help a ton so the reader doesn't go, "Wait, who is he again?" Because trust me, I do the same thing a TON with a lot of books!
Have fun with quirks, because you are enjoying your characters and world! (Also, same goes with world-building. If you have a unique setting, UTILIZE IT to all the quirks it can have. JKR did this fully, and just look where she is right now :).)
I think you can tell I love JKR :)
What quirks do your characters have? Any truly amazing, funny, creative ones that you would love to share? Do you think quirks are helpful?