So, I'm reading Raquel Byrne's neat blog and apparently she separates her M&Ms into piles of colour and then eats the smaller pile first. This may be a lie. On that post, she has a number of facts about herself and apparently one is false. That doesn't matter. What matters is that it's an interesting trait and it led me to realise what's missing in a lot of fictional characters - especially Fantasy characters. Kooky mannerisms.
I don't mean kooky mannerisms like a need to sniff every tree because you're an elf and tree pheromones tell you what they're feeling. I mean the kind of weird things that individuals happen to say or do. We all have them. It often makes it easier to identify with a character if they happen to have one as well and, sure, you don't want to put too much words towards something not strictly plot-relevant but these sorts of mannerisms don't need many words to detail them.
Some of them are gross: peeing in the shower, scratching one's crack, cupping our farts and shoving them under people's noses, wiping snot on our sleeves if we're crying and can't find a tissue, or making it rain dandruff by scratching our heads, letting a dog lick your face, always kissing with tongue no matter who's present, ripping off the edges of your finger/toe nails when they get too long and leaving them on the table, shaving your face and leaving the hairs behind.
Some of them are silly: crawling up the stairs to the first floor, throwing a pseudo-tantrum at bed time so your partner has to drag you across the tiled floor by your feet to get you to the stairs, getting really hyper when you're over-tired and talking a hundred miles an hour, or sudden giggle bursts where you just can't stop laughing, snorting when you laugh (I do all these things).
Some are just odd: separating M&Ms according to colour and eating the smaller pile first (sorry Raquel), ironing your socks, snuffing out candles with finger tips rather than blowing them out, changing your sheets every morning, using eating utensils like you're left-handed when you're actually right-handed, constantly fidgeting, jigging your foot constantly, flicking your fingers when you get bored, attempting 'puppy dog eyes' to convince people to do stuff for you when you really can't pull it off, never being able to get the tone right to pull off a joke.
These are all mannerisms I've seen in real life. I'm sure that even in a fantasy world some of these would transfer over with few, or even no, differences. Why does your character have to be squeaky clean and normal? Why can't they pop zits or threaten people with snotty rags or spend 20 minutes trying to make sure that painting is perfectly level? Making the characters feel that extra bit more real should be a priority.
So, give it a go, and please, tell me ... what are some of the strange mannerisms you've either used in a book or seen in real life?