Imagine someone popping a piece of gum it their mouth and the sound of loud chewing and smacking. Just when the smacking stops, the person reaches into their mouth and starts to twirl the gum around their finger. That might not bother some people but that image haunts me, and reminds me of something important when creating characters.
No one is perfect, so why should our characters be? If our characters don’t do anything to annoy the reader or another character they seem less real because everyone has at least one bad habit. Bad habits are one of the things that make us human, and are one of the things that make characters relatable. Whether it be alcohol and cigarettes for old school detectives or a penchant for using foul language at wrong occasions, bad habits in characters are memorable.
And there are hundreds of bad habits one can choose. One person’s annoyance is another person’s habit. The way others characters and even readers react to whatever habit you chose can be as varied and different as what annoys people in the first place.
Think about how often you pay attention to the person whistling, cracking their knuckles, or talking way too loudly on their cell phones. It’s almost impossible to look away from such a scene and makes you wonder some things about that person. They might not be complementary things, but you wonder some things. So pay attention the next time you get annoyed by someone, that habit might make it into your next character.