Character Trait Entry: Eccentric

Definition: deviating from conventional or accepted usage or conduct, especially in odd or whimsical ways

Characters in Literature: Willy Wonka, Merlin, Miss Havisham (Great Expectations) 

Common Portrayals: millionnaires, geniuses, the elderly, celebrities, the mentally-challenged 

Clichés to Avoid: the gajillionnaire who does whatever he wants because his money and his lawyers will get him out of any fix, old ladies with too many cats, hermits living on the outskirts of town, the eccentric mentor archetype

Twists on the Traditional Eccentric: 

▪ Eccentrics are almost always old. Why not create an eccentric child or teen with mental faculties fully intact?

▪ What about an Eccentric who is admired by society? Instead of people dismissing his oddities, they emulate them and make them part of the culture.

▪ Eccentrics in literature are often secondary characters. Why not make your main character the odd duck?

Build a worthy protagonist with a mix of unique strengths that will help him overcome obstacles and achieve meaningful goals.

This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form. Together, the bestselling NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating memorable, compelling characters. Each entry contains possible causes for the trait, as well as positive and negative aspects, traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and associated behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. For more information on this bestselling book and where it can be found, please visit our bookstore.

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About BECCA PUGLISI

Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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21 Responses to Character Trait Entry: Eccentric

  1. Anna says:

    Twists on the Traditional Eccentric:
    – Eccentrics are almost always old. Why not create an eccentric child or teen with mental faculties fully intact?
    – What about an Eccentric who is admired by society? Instead of people dismissing his oddities, they emulate them and make them part of the culture.
    – Eccentrics in literature are often secondary characters. Why not make your main character the odd duck?

    I wasn’t even planning this, but my character fits all of these twists. She is young and intelligent, admired by society and her peers, and she is the main character. It’s funny, but I use these thesauruses for everything I write.

  2. Emily says:

    Great list!! I have an eccentric young couple raising a baby in a tiny apartment right now. Love it! Thanks for all the fantastic resources.

  3. Thanks so much, Clifton! 🙂

    Angela

  4. Clifton Hill says:

    Fantastic Thesaurus. Kudos on the creation.

  5. Carol Riggs says:

    What a great idea, to switch up the cliches of eccentric characters. I love eccentric characters; they are fun to include!

  6. Silent Pages says:

    It just makes me think of Doc (from Back to the Future)every time I see this post. XD

  7. Luna Lovegood and the Wizard of Oz are awesome examples!

  8. And we can’t ever forget the Wizard of Oz…

  9. Leslie Rose says:

    What a great picture. I loved that movie and old weird Willy. Your comment about breaking the stereotype of the “old” eccentric is spot on. I see eccentrics in the making every year in my 5th grade class.

  10. Pk Hrezo says:

    An apologetic eccentric! I love it!
    Luna Lovegood comes to mind. Eccentricity is one of my fave traits in others. Love the unconventionalness of it!

  11. I like the idea of writing from the perspective of an eccentric character. It could be fun. 🙂

  12. Perfect choice of a picture for this one!! It is difficult to discover an eccentric personality that isn’t cliche, but then Johnny Depp creates them all the time on screen. We have only to breath life into the mold and viola the eccentric will be there. Nice one!!

  13. Glad you found us, Lola!

    I was a little scandalized when I searched for images of Willy Wonka and 9 out of 10 were Johnny Depp. I understand why, but still…!

    *sings I’ve Got the Golden Ticket*

  14. Eccentric characters are my favorite to read and write – but they usually aren’t the main character. Interesting.

  15. Willy Wonka was a perfect example! These character trait posts are always so fun. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  16. Julie Musil says:

    I’m building characters for a future project, and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Eccentric characters have been some of my absolute favorites. Thanks!

  17. Silent Pages says:

    Okay. This post pretty much describes my entire race of bird-people. XD

    Thanks, lol. 🙂 As usual, this post was really helpful. ^^

  18. Kathryn Ross says:

    I love the eccentric! Much of our best art – both literary and graphic/visual – has come from the personality with a touch of the eccentric-outside-the-box- quirkiness. Tempered with the positive spin – for me, at least – I love the mentor/inspiration eccentric who’s joyful view of life and living and the world at large injects hope and vision into the protagonist for victorious finish line crossings. Eccentric/Protagonist Hero/Heroine? On target – I use them all the time in my melodrama play writing and have had much performance success with them.
    Joy!
    Miss Kathy

  19. Lola X says:

    Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

  20. Janet, says:

    Good post. You’ve given me an idea to maybe put an eccentric person in a story for kids. Kids would like quirky characters. Johnny Depp has played a lot of quirky characters in movies and fans love him.

  21. Oooh, Willy Wonka just freaks me out LOL! Great post – I do like eccentric/quirky characters…they tend to be some of the ones I remember the most:)

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