What makes a character feel real?
Is their looks? Personality? Quirks?
Yes, to all the above, but I would also put forward that an author should include hobbies on that list. The reason should be obvious. It adds another layers to the complexity of a character to give this imagined person a sense of realness. More than anything, as readers, we want to connect with the characters in books. Why? It makes their story more exciting and relatable. I mentioned this in an earlier post: How My Character’s Parents Influenced Choices.
Most of the time, authors focus on how a character looks, thinks, and reacts; maybe a quirk or two is thrown in there, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t taken the time to think through all the minor details. There are plenty of exhaustive lists of questions to ask when creating a character. Sometimes you’ll see them called character interviews (if you need one, click here). My favorite details to focus on are hobbies and quirks, but I’m going to talk about the hobbies today.
Hobbies for characters are important because it adds a layer of realness to them, even if the hobby is never mentioned because it can affect a character in a myriad of ways. A hobby can be used as something during conversation blocks, used as a comfort for the character during a difficult time, or show a character’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of that skill.
Let me give an example. My main female character (MFC), Kiira likes to shoot a bow and arrow (something I had to become familiar with to make believable). She’s not a novice, so the descriptors and language I use will be different because she already has knowledge of string tension and draw weight. She knows how to sight a target and aim based on that target’s distance. This differs from a character just learning.
Here’s the best part. The usefulness of knowing a character’s hobby doesn’t stop at the hobby itself.
Potentially, Kiira can judge the distance between something or to something. She could take a guess at how strong another character is based on their strength and build (a person using a bow and arrow will have different musculature from a person using a broadsword). She could determine if a person or animal was killed by her preferred weapon or not. Those are practical uses regarding the character, but this knowledge base can also help fill in conversation blocks with actions or providing comfort in times of stress.
I use the technique of filling conversation blocks when Kiira is in the Nyuten Priest Temple, spending time with the priestess Tereyssa. While they talk about life and love, the two characters are working on embroidery. No one wants to read large blocks of text anymore. These are not the days of Sherlock Holmes, so having something, like a hobby, for a character to do while conversing is helpful.
So hobbies are fundamental. Hobbies shape the characters we love to read about and immerse ourselves in their story. It affects how they speak about certain things or react to whatever tragic situation you’ve plummeted them into. Next time you’re creating a character, spend a little extra time on their hobbies and see where it takes you. How might it change their personality? Also, in case you need my permission, yes, your character can have more than one hobby. As a human being, I have more than one hobby, so your character can definitely have one, too.
Until next week, Fictionados!
Thanks for stopping by!
If you'd like to read about Kiira and her ability with the bow and arrow, check out Heart: A Story of the Broken Realms. If you'd like to know how the broken realms became that way, check out Divided: A Broken Realms Novella.