Bad habits. Everyone has at least one. Some are secret some are out in the open and annoy others to the point of near homicidal reaction. As I pointed out in The good… good habits can help a story along in a positive way, so what do bad habits do?
The same. No matter what you do, if you are enhancing your story, good or bad it is an improvement. Bad habits make us human, and relatable. From common to unusual, they can aid in humanizing a character and giving them something to do and or talk about.
Bad habit ideas
- Biting nails
- Chewing hangnails
- Picking nose
- Eating the results of picking nose
- Being late
- Forgetting responsibilities
- Neglecting something important consistently
- Leaving garbage on the counter
- Smoking (See also littering)
- Scraping a fork on your teeth when you eat
- Talking with mouth full
- Belching in public
- Not covering a sneeze
- Cutting lines
This list can literally go on and on. Why? Because bad habits are easy, sometimes born or laziness and issues. Those issues are the key to creating depth.
The blind date was a bust. Sylvia clicked her thumbnail and index nail and looked to the exit, waiting for her moment to escape. Bill again sucked food from his teeth with his tongue. The occasional fingernail excavation resulted in a prize that he promptly re-ate. It took great patience to listen to him tell a slightly different version of the same story for the third time. As if she wouldn’t notice. The moment she could, she paid her share and gave the same tired line. “It was nice to meet you Bill, I’m sorry I don’t think we have a connection.”
What had her reeling was his response.
“No kidding I wanted to smack your hand every time you clicked your nails together.”
“Can you believe it?” Sasha said as Valery tapped her finger on the table. They had met for drinks after the failed date.
“You cant see past any flaw can you? Perhaps he was just nervous.”
“He ate the God knows what from between his teeth Val.”
“So? What was it with Gil last week?”
Sasha sighed and took a sip of her martini. “He adjusted his crotch thirty two times as we walked down the boardwalk.”
“Uh huh and Paul three weeks ago?” Val tipped the side of her mouth up in a sly grin and tapped her nail on the table.
“Ugh Paul. He was late. He picked a scab at the table and sucked the blood like a cannibal vampire.” Sasha shivered and finished her drink.
“Every single guy you’ve had a shallow or petty problem with.”
Sasha ordered another drink. She only went on these dammed dates so Valery would back off. The closer it got to the anniversary the more eligible bachelors she seemed to dredge up. It was as if she had opened a dating site profile and was meeting dates for her that way.
“You’re too picky Sash. You need to jump in, go on at least a second date. Or just break the ice and go to bed with a man already.”
Sasha glared at her friend, reached over with her hand and stopped Valery’s finger from keeping beat. “I’m done dating for a while. No more for at least a month.”
“Nope. I’ll give you your stupid week of mourning off from structured dates. However we’re going to the bar with Anne and you are going to have some fun.”
Sasha is picky for a reason she doesn’t want to date and is probably waiting for mr. Perfect. Or at least someone that doesn’t have gross bad habits exhibited on a first date. While bad habits may not be plot changing they can be key factors to plot turns or good foreshadows. Gail’s bad habit of sticking her chewed gum to the bottom of her desk might come in handy later when Arron needs something to jam into a leaking gas pipe. Mention it early and use it later. Jill’s smoking habit and littering of her cigarette butts is what tips her neighbour off that she’s missing when they notice they are not appearing. Since they had a small (Casually mentioned) confrontation about her leaving them in her garden.
My advice about bad habits.
Being bad is easy and being bad by habit is easier. Ooh the tension you can create, the conflict and character building. Don’t be afraid to give the saintliest of your characters a flaw or two, and why not a bad habit to make them more human.
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