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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Embracing Eccentricities

by Terry McLaughlin

Writers often make their characters seem more real--more human--by gifting them with flaws or quirks. After all, though we humans may find reassurance or security in conformity, it's our differences that make us far more interesting to each other.

A quick online search turns up many examples of famous eccentrics. William Blake and his wife used to sit nude in front of guests and recite passages from Paradise Lost. Albert Einstein found sailing on windless days more challenging. Johnny Appleseed and Thoreau were both considered nonconformists.

In England, eccentricity became so fashionable that some aristocrats hired a hermit or wild man to install on their estates.

Most of us know someone whose hobby or collection seems to have gotten a little out of control. Many others are guilty of some odd habits, particularly with their pets. One Englishman enjoyed feasting with his menagerie, going so far as to install a trapdoor in his dining room so his pet giraffe could join him for Sunday lunch.

Do you know someone who might be considered slightly offbeat? If you were a character in a book, what quirk might make you memorable?


At 4:46 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Terry -

What an interesting topic.

I know of a couple who have a massive home that is decorated very interestingly, but the one thing that stood out was the glass shower. The entire thing was enclosed by a foot thick wall that was an aquarium so there were fish swimming everywhere when you showered. The water temp for the fish was controlled so the water never got hot in the aquarium.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

I'm about as quirky as drying paint, so I'm going to be watching the comment thread to see what other say. Or maybe I'll ask hubby -- I'm sure he's got a LOT of things he thinks I do that are offbeat.

In When Danger Calls, the heroine schedules temper outlets for her five-year-old daughter, setting a timer for 10 minutes and they both march around being angry, complaining, etc. to 'get the grumps out.'

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Great question, Terry!

My husband often says he's my quirk. He gets a bit obsessed with things--such as when he first bought his hybrid Civic and went to some website to post his mileage. He named his car Tuvak, after a character from Star Trek Voyager, who is half human, half Vulcan. He suggested that we celebrate Tuvak, the car's birthday this year. He remembers the date of purchase!

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

When I had my Saturn, the dealership sent it a birthday card every year. A writing buddy of mine has always named her cars.

However, I consider her fondness for vintage clothing (wearing it as well as simply acquiring it) more eccentric than naming a vehicle.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I have been considered the neighborhood eccentric for so long it doesn't even phase me anymore. I mean, I live in the HEART of country and western music central (Hank William's birthplace is an hour away, his museum is 30 minutes away.) and I am a retired opera singer.

For years I shared my home with a menagerie of snakes, lizards and tortoises ( a few tarantulas and hedgehogs too.)

Of course I am not truly "Eccentric." To be eccentric one must be rich. If you are quirky and poor your just plain crazy!

And in my town very few people share their homes with more books than the local library.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Most of us know someone whose hobby or collection seems to have gotten a little out of control.

Okay. Who ratted on me?
Just because my research books are double and triple shelved and some are in piles on the floor doesn't make me eccentric! (does it???)

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

That makes you eccentric AND well-read, O Divine One and the envy of those of us who just have research books double stacked!

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

OH, these are great! Naming the car is hilarious...and the car getting birthday cards is even funnier!

A shower with fish??! Wow!

My sister likes to "knock on wood" a lot! so she nailed a piece of wood to the front console of her car so the wood is easily available to knock on. :) Okay, I think I'm going to use this one now!

Thanks, Terry!

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Ladyhawk said...

Um... that would definitely be me. I've a room full of LOTR stuff, two costumes, attending LOTR events all over the country, at least once a year, and more. However, that being said, I'm mild compared to people I know. :-)

It used to be that when people asked me if I had children I always replied, "Yes, two; one barks and one neighs." My horse vet once declared that if there is reincarnation then she wanted to come back as my horse or my dog.

Some people find it a bit eccentric that I make blackberry jam every year from the blackberry bushes in the backyard. There are other things about me that people would consider eccentric if I mentioned them; I don't.

I've noticed that when people I don't know well seek my company it isn't to talk about the every day things, they want to hear about the things I'm passionate about. I've had the impression, from time to time, that they want to feel that same delight and joy but can't quite seem to figure out how.

And let's face it, there are many who would consider writers eccentric. :-)

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

These are all very interesting things you've been sharing, everyone--thank you! And Judy, your comment about writers was too funny :-).

I've never nailed a piece of knocking wood to my car, and I know I've never named a car or worn vintage clothing or owned a tarantula (yikes!), but I do have a few tiny quirks. One of them: I don't like different foods on my plate to come into contact with each other (sauces are a challenge).


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