“That proves you are unusual,’ returned the Scarecrow; ‘and I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Land Of Oz
I’ve always prided myself on being a little different. In my senior class yearbook, I was voted “most unique.” I just never really wanted to fit in. I never saw what all the excitement about wearing the right clothes or having the right hairstyle was all about. I liked what I liked, and that made me somehow unusual. I tend to gravitate toward people who are different, just uniquely themselves. After all, I figured that once I knew one of the cool kids, I kinda knew them all. And how is that interesting? Back in high school, I deliberately tried to be weird, not necessarily for attention, but just because “unusual” was part of my identity, so I wanted to be as unusual as I could be.
I don’t do that anymore. Most of the time, in fact, I try to tone it down just a little, mostly so I can blend in at work. There are always a few who say interesting things, and then the real me jumps out and says the things I’d normally keep to myself.
In stories, I enjoy unusual characters with interesting traits. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett is about as unique as it gets, which is, in my opinion, why she’s such a lasting character, and why I, and others, are still reading this book 201 years later!
When Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay came out, there was no other character quite like him. The serial killer raised by a police officer to be ethical was something that hadn’t been done in quite that way before. Dexter was such an unusual character that TV got 8 seasons out of his escapades.
And of course, I have to mention that there’s no one else quite like Tyler Durden/ The Narrator from Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk. The first time I saw the movie, I was pretty blown away, and rushed out to read the book. I was even more blown away by the book.
From a writing standpoint, unusual and interesting characters, once developed, can take on a life of their own in plot. The writer has to be willing to sit back and watch what’s going to happen, rather than direct it. I’ve had that experience. I wrote half of a novel with an unusual character, and it felt like I was fighting the plot every step of the way. When I finally stepped back and asked the character some better questions, I realized that the story started in the wrong place, and when I went back to start over, it went much easier. Unusual characters are fun for readers and fun for writers.
Who’s your favorite unusual character, either in books or on TV?