A writer has many goals when creating a story–one of which is making the characters as believable as possible. The main way to do this is making them relatable. I do not mean to say this in the sense that an author should make a character relatable to everyone in every way. What I mean to say is that an author often forms a believable character by adding qualities real people have; therefore, allowing real people to relate to a character on either a personal or “I know someone like that” level.
There are many ways to do this. Generally focusing on a character’s age, background, attitude, and physical looks come first. But what about digging a little deeper?
This post is about deciding on hobbies and talents–as well as why they are different.
A hobby is something we do because we like to do it. It could be gardening or cooking or anything really. It generally gives people solace, time to think, and adds joy in their life. Having a character with a hobby can broaden the spectrum of their personality by showing more of what they like and possibly what they want out of life. It can also warp the way they look at the world. For instance, someone who really loves running will look at a hill differently than someone who like flying kites. They see the same hill that can be used in different ways. So knowing a character’s ultimate hobby (or passion) can be a fantastic way to figure out their personality, perspective, and goals.
In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric’s hobby is his love for cars. He loves reading about them, driving his, and hopes to have more in the future (if he can even consider the future.) I learned from this because driving is often a form a freedom, and Eric doesn’t have any. Driving is his only freedom. But I particularly love talking about hobbies because it’s a major theme in Seconds Before Sunrise, particularly with Jessica and Jonathon–also known as Pierce. (I cannot wait for the cover reveal Dec. 1) I love it when my characters discover more parts about themselves, and discovering their hobbies allowed me to learn more about who they are as a person and who they will become as an adult. It also allows them to see it for themselves.
Below is my personal example: I played a lot of sports in school. I played track and basketball in middle school and tennis in high school. I still have my tennis team’s photo, but I wanted to share it because I loved playing tennis. I wasn’t fantastic at it. But I still had a great time playing. It was a hobby rather than a talent, but it still shaped me, and I learned a lot from it:
A talent is something we excel in, sometimes with little to nor effort. It could be painting or education or even convincing people to listen to you. Yes, a lot of people’s talents are also their hobbies (or vice versa) but it can be really interesting to see a character who’s very good at something they hate. (Or really bad at something they love.) But I’d like to clarify that there is nothing wrong with someone having a talent and loving it at the same time!
In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric has a knack for lying. Does he like doing this? Not necessarily. Does he use it to his advantage? Absolutely. This “talent” became fun when Jessica decided to have a “talent” for knowing if someone is lying or not.
How to choose what hobby or talent to use:
Well, Discover A Hobby, of course! It’s a website dedicated to opening opportunities for informative learning on all kinds of new hobbies (even ones you might not have known existed.) I think this website is great for helping decide on hobbies as well as talents. Just to name a few on their website:
Soap-Making, Palm-Reading, Tai Chi, Wood-Working, and Novel-Writing. (See? Even us writers made it on there.)
Happy Hobby Hunting!
Do your characters have hobbies and/or talents? Are they generally the same or different? Did you learn anything about your characters when they choose that hobby or talent?
18 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Hobbies & Talents”
Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber.
I’ve been thinking about this for years. It’s difficult to put a hobby onto a character in an adventure story because there are so few times it can come up. I think one of my main characters pulled out a pan pipe at some point, but I haven’t found another time where him using it makes sense. I think I gave each of the six heroes a musical talent if an opening ever appears. Just seems odd to fit in a hobby in such stories. Almost like I’m wandering off topic.
Yes, you’re completely right. Sometimes, it’s impossible to bring up a hobby or a character simply does not live in an environment that supports such a notion. I have a novel like that. But I think I still took a moment to think about what their hobby might be if they had the chance. It was one of the best ways to open up the character’s personality more, even though the reader would never see it.
Thank you for sharing your experiences,
Good point. Just because we give our characters these quirks, it doesn’t mean we have to force them into the book. Like you said, sometimes it simply helps to get a feel for them.
Every character has some interest whether it be whittling, plant collection, knitting, reading etc. I once had an assassin who read books on philosophy.
All I can say, is thank goodness for people like you whose hobby is writing because my favourite hobby is reading :). And I do agree that a book draws me in more when I am able to relate to the characters, even if it’s just in little ways here and there.
Thank you, Shannon. It is an “easy” blog and enjoyable in my otherwise more serious work environment. You gave nice examples of hobbies among your characters. My non-fiction, “Broker Executive”, is focused more on talents you would seek and expect from your financial adviser and/or insurance broker. I do hope to write some fiction one day, though. Thanks for your inspirations!
I have a character who loves animals and has a special gift regarding them. I have another character who takes advantage of this.
I’ve never really given them any hobbies, but a lot of my characters have talents. I don’t think they would be nearly as dynamic if they didn’t.
My hobby is parachuting…NOT in real life, but in Grand Theft Auto 5 lol
This just reminded me how unexciting my real life is. 🙂
Hi Shannon, This post is amazing!!!
Your interview is already on my Blog – http://meglenaivanova.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/a-moment-to-share-with-shannon-a-thompson/. I hope everybody will enjoy it… 🙂 Thanks for taking the time for answering my questions…
I’m glad you liked this post. I read the interview! Thank you very much. I’m sharing it now 😀
Interesting post. As an author I see the value in having a character grow through a hobby which may or may not be related directly to the plot.
Of course, one also needs hobbies to remain sane. It’s already bad enough we spend ever waking minute entrenched in our own heads – a break is needed
Thanks for following my blog, Shannon. I was curious and checked yours out. I’m amused because I have a similar post in mind. This is an insightful post. I’d also point out that characters (like anyone else) can have levels of talent or more than one hobby.
Oh, yes! I completely agree. In fact, I think they should have more than one interest – just like real people. :]
Thank you for commenting.