Friday, April 15

Quotes and Tags

I quote movies.

While I don't know as many movies as Rebekah Roberts does, I love to use the one-liners, or even entire conversations from films in daily life (My household is particularly fond of quoting the family scenes from While You Were Sleeping—These mashed potatoes are so creamy...).  Sometimes the folks I'm chatting with don't get it.  Other times it can open up further and fun conversation because we have seen the same movie and enjoyed it (particularly with my friends who also quote movies in normal conversations).  And mostly it's just fun.

But imagine my surprise when I was watching a rerun of one of my favorite shows, Human Target, and the leading man, Christopher Chance, seemed to quote Han Solo.  Not just in one episode, but in two!  I need to watch more to see if he does it more.  Granted the lines used are actually older than the heartthrob scrounge, but in the context of the scene I couldn't help but wonder if the writers threw that into the show as a character trait for Chance.  Since he is a bit of a Han Solo character (rough around the edges, a romantic at heart, gallivanting all over the world), it would make perfect sense for Chance to quote him on purpose.

That's a pretty fun tag for a character, isn't it?  (A tag is an identifier for a character, like the tag on the back of your shirt.  It can come in dozens of forms such as clothing and jewelry, side items, speech patterns, gestures, and more.)  I've seen the quoting tag in another place.  Tony DiNozzo of NCIS is always quoting or referencing the plots of movies.  This is one of his endearing, as well as annoying, traits.  But what a great character tag.  If someone in the show is referencing a movie, it's either Tony or because of Tony's influence.  But it always points back to Tony.  If a case is looking like a movie plot, Tony will point it out (and he has been right).  His tag can be handled in numerous ways, but it's always there.  Tony loves movies, and he's seen a lot, so his tag has quite the variety to keep it interesting and almost always amusing.

I'm thinking about tags to give my character for my next short story to flesh him out and make him jump off the page.  Tony and Chance could provide some inspiration.

What are your favorite sort of character tags?  What's the hardest one you've ever tried to write?


  1. Oh, tags, so that's what they're called. Nice to have a word to go with the concept (thanks!).

    My favorite would be catch phrases. When they are unique to a specific character they make fun tags, and since I myself use probably 5+ catchphrases of my own consistently (do "so be it" and "I've heard that rumor" sound familiar?), it helps me relate to the people I write out. Trouble is they get old quickly if not done well, and you can forget about having more than one or two characters with a catch phrase in any particular story. My second favorite is giving the character a pet peeve. Everyone loves to watch the guy who hates Jack Black go on a rant when "Kung Fu Panda III" posters start going up.

    Hardest? Consistently witty characters, definitely. It's one thing to throw out the wit in a real conversation as you play off of other people, it's another thing entirely to have to craft the entire conversation yourself in order to bring out the character's wittiness. Very tough. I have resorted to writing down great phrases that come into my conversations with the intention of finding places to work them into the story dialogue. Even then, they rarely seem as funny on paper.

  2. That's funny. You know that in Doctor Who, the Doctor "regenerates" -- instead of dying, he turns into a different guy with a different face and a different personality, but he retains all his memories and his Doctorness. Well, one -- just one -- of his incarnations did this. The tenth Doctor quotes songs and references movies a lot, starting with quoting the Lion King... on accident. It was amusing.