Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Character Hobbies and Skills Brainstorming List

By Jill Williamson

Last week, Stephanie talked about teaching your character new skills. I loved reading all the cool skills you've given your characters and wanted to add something to that discussion. Giving your character at least one interesting skill or hobby can not only make your character more interesting, it can help them in their journey, add humor, and/or be the glue that holds the story together.

For example, Alex Rider was already a black belt in Karate before he became a spy, Wally McDoogle's novel writing makes for some hysterical parallels in his adventures, and Opal Buloni's dog Winn-Dixie helps her make a lot of friends. In fact, Winn-Dixie is the catalyst in that story, causing disasters and making introductions wherever he goes.

If you're ever feeling blank and need some hobbies or skills for your characters that are fun, unique, and that just might be the missing ingredient in your story, I created a list that is just a starting point. There are hundreds more things that you could add to this list, but it's a nice reference to pull out where you're looking to think up some unique interests for the characters in your novel.

Click here to read, download, and/or print the file.

Character Skills and Hobbies Brainstorming List
Character Hobbies and Skills Brainstorming List

40 comments:

  1. Thank you! That looks super cool. I'm having trouble thinking of a hobby for my MC. Her enemy's hobby is blogging(random I know!) but it is a key element in the story. Should it be something unrelated to anything, like beading or srapbooking? Or should I just ignore it and see if something would suit her later? I guess I'll do that.... Thanks for the post! Oh and I didn't receive the e-newsletter. Was it sent out? Thanks!

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    1. Michelle,
      You can ignore it and see if something comes to you as you write. There are plenty of teens out there who really don't have much of a hobby. But they're really social, so they spend all their time with a friend or friends, texting, on Facebook, things like that. If your character is a social butterfly, that might be how she spends most her free time.

      I don't know about the newsletter. Stephanie sends those out. I got one on Monday, the 14th... Have you gotten one before? Or was this going to be your first one?

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  2. I'm having difficulty myself finding my MC (Grey) a hobby OR job. He is a very literal person. No fantasy, no sci-fi, he has a hard time believing in things that you can't see, hear or feel. Thus saying, he isn't a bookworm type. He reads to gain knowledge, and that's it. With all that, you would think he'd prefer manual labor, like carpentry, or Sports. But no. Until he was 13, he was raise in New York City, and now (age 18) he still keeps the city boy trend. I need a hobby and job for him, but it seems he might be too bland. Should I re make his character? Can you help me at all?

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    1. Well, I have some cousins who are like that. One of them is a complete geography whiz, and another one has been really into politics since he was a kid, and now he goes to a lot of conferences and stuff. What makes your MC happy? What sorts of things does he really care about? His hobby or job should probably be related to one of those. Does that help at all?

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    2. That's good advice, Anonymous. :-)

      Sounds like learning new things is his hobby. He might like to watch the Discovery channel--or even reading science magazines or National Geographic would fascinate him. If he's in Manhattan, he might like to visit the NY Public Library.

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    3. Actually, I think he sounds like a great character, and - in my personal opinion - you should keep him around! He would probably do well (literary-ly speaking) paired with a vibrant, splashy, spontaneous character...

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  3. How could we learn more about those hobbies if we don't have access to them? (like glassmaking.) Google? Reading? Videos on YouTube?

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    1. That's a very good question ,Allison? How do we learn more?

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    2. YouTube could be good... I just looked up hang gliding on YouTube and it looks so fun!

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    3. Yep. I Google them first, find out what they are, then I like to watch YouTube videos to see how it is. YouTube is an amazing resource for writers. It's a step between research and actually trying it yourself. I spend a lot of time on YouTube these days.

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    4. And if you live in a bigger town, you could always see if you could find a class on the subject. Many places offer one free class before you have to pay.

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  4. I have no problem giving my characters hobbies xD Love the list by the way! <3

    What I've found that helps add a little something to the story is giving my characters quirks. Like... one of my secondary characters eats a lot. Another one smokes. It helps a little. My main character for my WIP has a funny quirk. She is a polite person, she drinks a lot of water and when she isn't thinking about something, she just doesn't pay any attention to it. So whenever she has to go to the bathroom, it sometimes sneaks up on her and then she REALLY has to go. Her quirk is that when she has to go... she has to GO and she doesn't care who she offends trying to reach a restroom. In my story it's worked in the way that she had to throw somebody out of a bathroom... who later on becomes one of her great friends. Another time she is racing to the restroom and runs head first into some guy... who later on becomes the love interest. Oh and she also runs into another girl (who is the girlfriend of said love interest) and accidently splashes water all over her. So yeah, giving her that quirk adds something to my story I think ^_^

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    1. That's funny, Random. And really good characterizing. I'm going to talk a bit about quirks, faults, and fears on Friday.
      :-)

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  5. Thanks for posting! One of my MCs is actually a French foreign exchange student and I am having a hard time putting her culture into the book. Like if she came here, what would she know? She probably would not know who John Wayne is, but how muh would she know about the US's government and president? What mistakes might she make or things might she assume because of cultural differences?
    How do I learn these things?

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    1. She might know who John Wayne is. I had a girl come to my house right from China, and the only thing she knew about America was John Wayne. Interesting story idea.

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    2. I'd say do lots of research on attitudes in France and see if you can get to know some foreign born folks. I have several foreign friends and it's fun to see our country through their eyes. My Mexican friend was afraid of having a baby here in case it was a boy. She assumed America had mandatory military service for its young men and was afraid her son would end up fighting our wars even if they went back to Mexico. She was also suprised that we have clothing bearing our flag's colors. My Indonisian friend was shocked by how unpatriotic Americans are. I recently read that France has hightened privacy laws because people were forced to betray neighbors during the Nazi occupation. Hope these ideas help you start brainstorming. :)

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    3. Your best bet would be to find a French foreign exchange student to talk to. Does your school even get exchange students? Have you tried to search YouTube. I did a quick search for "french students take on america" and found this video. It was kind of fun. I like his accent. :-)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhQDYedxXB4

      As to what mistakes and what she'll assume, you've got to use your imagination for that once you learn some things about her. You can do it!

      Often times with exchange students, the biggest barrier is the american slang.

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    4. I can vouch for the slang. I had Chinese students in my history class last year, and they didn't get what a high-five was.

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    5. Thanks! I shall have to try all these ideas sometime. Thank you.

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  6. I LOVE this list. I needed something like this. I just finished my story and found that my FMC cooks/eats half the time. I need to figure something else that she could do.

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    1. Maybe she should challenge herself to a weekly game of Chopped where she randomly picks three items out of a bag and tries to cool something good with them.

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  7. YAY!!! SOMEONE ELSE WHO HAS READ THE ALEX RIDER BOOKS!!!!! ^_^ Sorry, I got excited. :D

    I know what you mean about the talents, though. My whole story would fall apart if my PCs didn't have their talents. Of course, it had to change when I realized my MC was talentless. At least, to the extent that he needed to be to be there. Then I figured out why, so now it's all good. :)

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    1. Have that many people NOT read Alex Rider...
      I read them all ages ago for research as I was writing a spy kid book and I wanted to study the market. But they are fun books.

      Talentless can be fun, though. Your character could be on the search for a talent and maybe learn that his talent all along has been trying new things. I dunno. LOL

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    2. Becki Badger, how about music? Maybe even musical theater? I find that you can do so much and have so much fun when you add music to the story.

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  8. Yay! Love this list, cant wait to try this out!
    Hobbies are so fun, especially getting to research something cool- like dirt bike stunts.

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    1. I would ride a dirt bike down a ramp. But I don't think I could try any air stunts. I want to still have the use of my hands--at least--if I'm going to be able to type a book. LOL

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  9. This is a cool list! I need to find hobbies for some of my character who don't have them, and I will be looking at this! One of my character draws, paints, or does art in general, and the hobbies has been very helpful in developing her. =D

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    1. Thanks!

      I have an artist in my WIP too. It's been interesting to look at the world through the eyes of someone who wants to capture it on paper/canvas.

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    2. It is neat! My artist draws and paints as an outlet for her emotions. It's been fun so far.

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  10. This list was really helpful, especially since I was trying to think of some interesting hobbies after last week's post! Maybe the MC of my story could be a fan of astrology, a unique hobby for a teen girl...

    And, I just had to say that I loved reading Because of Winn-Dixie when I was younger :)

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    1. And astrology--depending on what you believe--is ripe with possibilities because it is based on superstition, so your character can do lots of things because she interprets that she should, and that could get her into a lot of trouble and make for fun disasters.

      Agreed! Winn-Dixie is a fun book.

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    2. Jill, try musical theater. Watch old musical/movies from the 1950s and 1960s. You have probably seen The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews, but have you seen M Fair Lady or The Music Man?

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  11. Thanks for this list! It looks great.

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  12. Currently I'm rewriting a novel I wrote last year, and when I first started to do so I realized that my MC had no real hobbies. So I decided to give her one, but realized that it was kind of difficult to actually brainstorm a good idea. With my mom's brainstorming help, I settled on painting, but I know firsthand how useful a list of hobbies could be! Your list is absolutely AMAZING - thank you so much! :D

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  13. Hi. Does the hobby has to be a key element of the story? My protagonist is a Mennonite girl living in a conservative community (where neither art nor sports are promoted). I was thinking assigning her the talent to draw portraits in order to create conflict with the rules they live with. Her creativity lets her create unique quilt designs too. Thankyou for the list.

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  14. Hi, I'm a teen writer!
    My story is set in a fantasy world, and my main character has a dream to leave the little village she lives in. I feel like I need to expand on that (Maybe give her a reason to want to leave the village). Could I have her hope to leave the village because she wants to just see more of the world, or is that not enough of a reason?
    Please help!
    -Zoya Guerin

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  15. Hi again!
    I was wondering if my character needs a main hobby, and if so, what it should be. She's a katniss-like type and I figured she needs something to be really good at. I need some help figuring out what that is...
    some context:
    1. She lives in a fantasy-dystopian world.
    2. The laws there are pretty strict so her hobby can't be, say, hunting.
    3. She's really busy, so I want it to be a practical hobby.
    Tanks in advance!

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