Character Trait Entry: Eccentric

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

Causes: a sense of entitlement (having earned the right to act however one wants), a lack of concern for what others think, a desire to break free from an overly strict or regimented past, growing up in an environment that held little respect for conventionality, dementia

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

Positives: Eccentrics usually fall into one of two categories: those who choose to act eccentrically (because they can get away with it or because they want to thumb their nose at conventionality) and those who are compelled to do so (the mentally deficient). Either way, Eccentrics don't live by the rules and no one expects them to, so they are free to do pretty much what they want. They can get away with things that others can't, which is a nice little tool in the writer's arsenal. Because they are easily stereotyped, they are often underestimated or overlooked by society at large.

Negatives: Whatever the cause, Eccentrics are not often respected by their peers and can be misunderstood. Everyone has something (knowledge, love, time, passion) to offer, but the gifts of an Eccentric are not often sought out or graciously received. They live on the outskirts of community and fellowship and are often alone. Because of their strangeness, Eccentrics make convenient scapegoats.

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

Cliches 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?
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Eccentric unique or more interesting: apologetic, affectionate, happy, responsible, naive, proper

20 comments:

Lindsay N. Currie said...

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:)

Janet, said...

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.

Lola X said...

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

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

Kathryn Ross said...

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

Silent Pages said...

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

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

Julie Musil said...

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!

Carrie Butler said...

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

Laura Pauling said...

Eccentric characters are my favorite to read and write - but they usually aren't the main character. Interesting.

Becca Puglisi said...

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*

tracikenworth said...

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!!

The Golden Eagle said...

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

Pk Hrezo said...

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!

Leslie Rose said...

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.

Gail Shepherd said...

And we can't ever forget the Wizard of Oz...

Becca Puglisi said...

Luna Lovegood and the Wizard of Oz are awesome examples!

Silent Pages said...

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

Carol Riggs said...

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

Clifton Hill said...

Fantastic Thesaurus. Kudos on the creation.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks so much, Clifton! :)

Angela

Emily said...

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.

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