By Darvell Hunt
This week, I added an emergency stash of salt to my key ring. Up to this point, I had been keeping my emergency stash of salt in little restaurant condiment packs in the zippered coin pocket in my wallet.
Um, emergency stash of salt, you say? What the heck are you talking about and why would anybody need something like that?
My family has a history of salt wasting. We have a hard time retaining salt. For some reason, salt—both potassium and sodium—gets flushed from my body too quickly, so I have to replenish it or I get severe body cramps. I never know when a cramp attack is coming, so I carry an emergency stash of salt, just in case my salt levels drop unexpectedly.
Since my body needs both potassium and sodium salt, the little condiment packs aren’t providing sufficient electrolyte replenishment, being only sodium chloride. So I purchased a lightweight aluminum cylinder key-ring pill box, which I’ve filled with half-and-half salt: a mixture of potassium chloride and sodium chloride. Now I’ll be better prepared when I’m away from home and begin to have body cramps.
Why do I mention this? Because it’s weird. While it’s a very annoying physical malady for me, it’s interesting and even a little amusing (if you’re not the one getting the unexpected severe body cramps, that is).
Characters who don’t have weird attributes are not memorable, especially if you are writing for children. Sometimes the weirdness need only be a strange name, like Scout for a girl (To Kill a Mockingbird) or Hiccup for a nerdy Viking kid (How to Train your Dragon). A weird title might be the key, like: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Or, your character might have a common name, but some bizarre attribute, like a scar on his forehead because a powerful wizard tried to kill him with magic, but failed for some reason, and the evil wizard almost ended up killing himself in the process.
While I’m not sure that I want to read about a character who must carry emergency salt to prevent body cramps, I do believe the weirdness of things like this help the reader remember a character. With so many books out there now, anything that can make your writing more memorable (to readers and even agents and editors) is definitely a good thing.
So, make it weird or don't bother!