Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fidgets and Frets

Right now, I'm acting in a play. The play is an interesting and intriguing experience, and acting is certainly different for me. But, one thing's that I've started to notice now that I have to look at the acting, instead of standing in the wings and looking at costume pieces or properties, is the fidgeting. It turns out, people move. Sometimes, they move without meaning to or without realizing what's going on.

What this got me thinking is that, since everyone fidgets in real life, characters must fidget in books.

People don't all fidget the same way. Most have a specific fidget that they use all the time. I play with one of the rings on my left hand or I fasten and unfasten my watch. (I'm sure other people love my fidgets, since they both produce a tiny clicky sound.) Those are my fidgets. One of the girls in the play has a habit of playing with her skirt, bunch it, smoothing it, tangling her hands in it. That's her fidget. Another girl is in the habit of moving her feet, generally shifting from one foot to the other and playing with them. That's her fidget.

All fidgeting is distinctive. So, character's fidgeting should be distinctive too. Those tiny things they do when nothing is going on with them or when their nervous or when they're bored, those things should be something they do and no one else. Because those things tend to be a part of a person that are just theirs. It should be the same for characters.

In The Thief Book, one of my characters tends to flip a certain coin when he's nervous or has a free moment or is thinking. I like the use of the coin in the context of the book. I like the flipping motion. And I really like that he's got a fidget. I like it.

Do you like fidgets and frets in book characters? Do you like writing them in your own characters? Any particular frets stand out in your mind in books you've read or written?


  1. Interesting post! I've never really noticed other people fidgeting, but I know that I do! When I read one of the vampire books, I noticed that the author commented on how much humans fidget, but I still didn't think about it.

  2. I like using fidgets in my writing, but I have to be careful otherwise it takes people away from the story. So I don't want it to slow down dialogue or anything. It's a fine line for me :)

  3. What bugs me is repetitive fidgets in either real life or characters. It can get annoying and distracting.

  4. Good point! And nice character trait. Muttie has just finished Freya North's book Fen where the main character, when she has to make a decision, looks to her left then right hand to weigh things up ie when she has a decision to make. She does it frequently throughout the book and it's one of 'her things.'

    Milt x

  5. I think that's a very good point. And definitely something I'll have to pay more attention to.

  6. Weird thought. I know I fidget, but I don't actually know what my standard fidget is. Odd...
    Anyway, this is a great post. People really do have different body languages, and as writers we need to pay attention to this.