Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quirky Quagmire

I think most people have strong opinions about quirky... quirky characters, quirky settings, quirky plots... even quirky language. Now you don't have to have the same opinion for all these things... many people can take their quirky in doses, but not swim in it.

The height of quirk
But there are some people with fastidious intolerance where the quirk comes in... some of these happen to be literary agents.

It isn't always the first thing you screen for when you query... are we a match on the quirk? But I've seen some full-on intolerance.

This confuses me.

What the heck is wrong with quirky? It gives flavor, humor... what's not to like?

But I think the PROBLEM is people have used the TERM quirky as a synonym for say... irritating... or weird (and yes, this may indeed BE a synonym in some uptight, fussy person's head). But I think people ALSO use the term if a character is inconsistent (which is a no no, and NOT quirky, but unrealistic--so this is a penalty for other people misusing the term, if you will...). Quirky sometimes means over the top, which can work—I will give a couple examples momentarily, but over the top HAS to be done humorously—serious can't carry over-the-top. (and honestly, not everybody has a sense of humor, sad as this may be. If you doubt this, read Twilight—not a humorous thing in the whole book. No laugh, no joke, no incongruence where the author intends a giggle. I suspect poor Meyer has no humor. And I pity her. It's true. People who take life so seriously have no fun. If she spent some time naked now and again, she'd write better. *cough*)

So you've been warned. When you make your agent short list, look up their views on quirky. Find matches or you are banging your head against a wall.

Favorite Quirks

Characters: Luna and Tonks (Harry Potter), Foxface and Beetee (Hunger Games trilogy), Bilbo Baggins. The Cyclops half brother of Percy Jackson.

Quirky settings: Life of Pi (a small boat with a tiger:  perhaps missing the humor to quite pull this off, but it might have been my frame of mind reading), Through the Looking Glass.

Quirky plots: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, The Graveyard Book. Tom Robbins and Neil Gaiman are MASTERS at quirk.

Quirky tellings: The Book Thief (strangely humorous for a Holocaust book), A Series of Unfortunate Events

Quirky language use: The Color Purple (here, not humorous, but poignant), The Golden Compass

The BOOK, not the movie (never seen the movie)
Now books like Harry Potter had several quirks... all the details of the courses, spells, games... the historical figures... but it was set up in a fantasy setting, so it took more... but STILL some of the quirks were particularly quirky.

I think probably the quirk winning writer favorite of mine, though, is Tom Robbins. He twists and turns and bends and it is a wild good time... and not everybody gets him. I had a phase where I judged my compatibility with people by whether they got Tom Robbins or not.

I should probably mention that I won't probably be working with anybody intolerant of quirky, even if most of my stuff doesn't push too many boundaries... My BFF of my MC in my cozy series, though, definitely qualifies.

AND of note!  RaShelle Workman has given a fabulous boost for Elizabeth and I and our book release today, so THANK YOU, RaShelle!  (And anyone interested in the Crazy Cozy Blogfest June 5th, please click the icon in my top right 'I'm Doing What?' box!)


M.J. Fifield said...

Neil Gaiman and the Graveyard Book is a great example of quirk. I also think Charles de Lint fits the bill too.

I'm unfamiliar with Tom Robbins though.

Old Kitty said...

Terry Pratchett is my kind of quirky!!

It's Thursday! Isn't it time to get NAKED?!?!

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Monty Python is my type of quirky.
And we selected the same word today, Hart!

Matthew MacNish said...

Not being into quirk is for jerks! I've only read one Tom Robbins novel (Frog Pajamas) but I loved it. Thanks for the reminder that I need to read more of them.

A.D. Duling said...

Hello Hart,

I loved this! So much I just had to share your thoughts on my A.D.'s FAV 5 of the A to Z Challenge today!

If you do no see my FAV 5 right away, I am still working through, have two more to post :0) So do check back!

Have a wonderful day!

Anonymous said...

I wanted Harry to end up with Luna. Not sure why, but it made more sense to me. Sure, give Ginny a toss, but Luna for the long run. More fun.

Laura Marcella said...

Hello, Hart! I agree with you about The Book Thief. Markus Zusak tossed in some amusing scenes and unexpected lines that evoked a chuckle. it takes a talented writer to do that in a serious plot without making it seem out of place!

Have a quirky week and happy A to Z!!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

M.J. is right about THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. I would also nominate THE BLUE GIRL by Charles de Lint. And Luna might just be my favorite character in all of the Harry Potter books, Roland

Tracy said...

hah, I think of quirky as kind of an odd duck! not in a bad way, just well, 'quirky'...I think it is a great word!

Tracy Makara said...

Great post! I love quirky. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

I love The Graveyard Book; and all the other books I've read by Neil Gaiman, for that matter.

Interesting post on quirks!

The Golden Eagle
The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

Laura Eno said...

I love quirk, as long as it's consistent. I tend to write quirky sidekicks. You're right, Twilight didn't have a funny aside to be found, which makes for drab characters. SOMEONE must have a sense of humor in a story!

Jackie said...

Fun post today. Stephanie Meyer definitely could use some naked time! I guess vampires don't have much of a sense of humor though. Another quirky character in HP is Professor Trelawney.

Anonymous said...

Tom Robbins? I haven't read him in forever. Very, very quirky. Keep hearing about this Gaimen guy - haven't read him yet. As to Meyer - you didn't LOL at the sparkly vampire bit? Why ever not? :D