Nerd: an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.
Recently, my boss’s 9 year old daughter and niece, who I shall call Hurricane and Tsunami, made me and my co-workers take the “kid” test. Basically, it was a bunch of which would you rather questions. For example, would you rather be a nerd and make lots of money or be in a band (they’re smart enough to know musicians don’t make any money)?
I, of course chose the former. And got it wrong. Whatever, the test was highly biased anyways. They neglected to tell us that we were supposed to choose what they would rather do.
Historically, geeks and nerds get a pretty bad rap. They are the uber-intelligent kids who have zero fashion sense. Often considered ugly, feeble and sometimes contradictorily, stupid. However, in recent years, there has been a subtle shift in the way nerds and geeks are perceived. Geek-chic is now popular among the stars. Nerdfighteria is making its way from underground to mainstream. Being nerdy is no longer something to be ashamed of.
I’m a mix of both, or a neek as Brenda (Dios4vida for you Bransforumers) so eloquently put it. I can hold an entire conversation in Princess Bride quotes. I spend more time with my head stuck in a book than conversing with people. I’m obsessed with history, draw fan-art like it’s nobody’s business, read manga, own a collection of antique katanas, and prefer SYFY over MTV. But I don’t look like your typical “nerd”. Most people don’t realize just how nerdy I am until they’ve spent some time with me. Basically, I’m a covert nerd.
Everyone has an obsessive knowledge of something. Whether it’s the love lives of current celebrities, who sang what on American Idol, every player on their favorite sports team in the last 50 years, the latest runway fashions, fluency in Quenyan, the rules of D&D, the history of the typewriter, or the ability to quote the entire Star War series word for word. Some like to dress up to go to the Harry Potter premier, others to a showing of Serenity, others yet prefer to dress up in period clothing and re-enact the battle of Gettysburg.
I guess what I trying to say in a long and round-about way is why not take your character building a step further, and give your characters a passion, an obsession about something other than their love interest? For instance, what would motivate your character to dress up in a costume and stand in line outside of a bookstore at midnight? What do they have an expansive knowledge of? Do they randomly quote things? Do they know the capitol of Assyria off the top of their head? How about the first 20 digits of pi?
And if your book takes place in a made up world, it is no excuse not to up the nerd quotient. You’ll just have to get a little creative. Take Hermione for example. Total know-it-all book nerd. She can recite passages from Hogwarts: A History (which is a good thing too, considering Harry and Ron never seem to actually read it themselves). If your character is living in a made up world, give your characters a made up book to love. Or maybe an encyclopedic knowledge of 500 year old weaponry, or the names of every species of butterfly or were-whatever in their made-up universe is more their nerd style.
Give your characters something to fangirl/boy over. Because everyone is a little bit of a nerd on the inside.
What brings out your inner nerd?