I’ve heard here and there the idea of giving a character a kind of “tick”, something they do when nervous.
You know, like tapping your fingers on a table, biting your nails or pacing?
I think this is genuinely a good idea, I’ve definitely done it before in my writing. But there is one small detail that kind of bugs me as someone with a lot of these “ticks”.
And that’s the idea people would have only one. Like, I don’t have only one.
I usually tap my fingers on my desk when at home nervous. I bounce my leg when in class nervous. Bite the inside of my mouth when at work nervous. I play with a piece of plastic connected to my wire when I have access to it.
I have options is what I’m trying to say. But I also definitely follow a pattern. It’s not completely random when or where I’ll apply which option. And there are things I’ve never done, such as biting my nails. I used to chew on my hair but I stopped that a long time ago.
So, perhaps don’t limit yourself to just one? Figure out what your character does depending on the situation.
A quick example, in my book Dear Dragon, Kai is shown to bite his claws. This is why he doesn’t have sharp an effective claws. But when he’s talking and nervous, he will usually pick at his palm with those blunt claws. He also paces a couple of times while trying to figure out a plan.
Itazu taps her claws on things, but she’ll also tap her fingertips if she doesn’t want to make noise and even fidget with her fingers.
It’s not just one thing, but there is still a pattern. And different characters still behave differently.
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What do you do when nervous?