In many of my posts before, I’ve mentioned character depth and development. Just pick one, there’s likely to be something about it. It’s something I’m constantly writing about it, mostly because there are so many aspects and facets to cover and help bring life to a character that is at first two dimensional.
Among their unforgettable facets, is what they pursue as a hobby. Consider that. Even the most alien of creatures has a hobby, don’t they? Unless they’re a robot with no emotional sensation, there’s bound to be something they want to spend their down time doing.
Whether it’s making art out of an unusual medium (bottle caps, broken claw shavings, old aluminum cans), or just having something to do idly (crochet, collections, coloring), or maybe it requires a lot of focus, getting their mind off of whatever their day held (musical instruments, DIY projects, leather crafting). Come up with your own, to fit the universe, or explore those that already exist.
Characters who go through retirement are twice as likely to have hobbies, just to keep them busy. Maybe they volunteer somewhere, or they’ve taken up pottery, or knife making, or magic. Or, one of my favorites that sneaked over into my life, putting together flower arrangements.
As with every other minor detail, hobbies have a place to come up along the story line. It’s a small mention, usually. Maybe their downtime is being encroached upon by a new responsibility and they’re reflecting on what they’ll lose the ability to do. Their cousin or father could say a word or two in the direction of what they’ve been doing when they aren’t busy with more pressing matters.
There exists the chance of overpowering the story line if you give too much time and energy to explaining what they’re doing, unless it fits with the way it’s going. Maybe a chapter or scene filled with thought and wonder, while their hands move about with a needle or they push off from a balance bar in a complicated dance move.
But let’s tuck away the idea of how to put it into a story first and look instead at how well they do. The usual start is a slow one, steady, bad. “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at it,” are the lovely words of Jake from Adventure Time, and I have to agree. However, there are others who manage to pick something up and are more than halfway decent at it on the first try. (Those people tend get a lot of hate, though, because how dare they be so great so quickly?!)
Think of it as if it were your hobby, in a way. Writing was simply a hobby for me when I was a kid, and I had an off again on again relationship with it for several years before it punched on hard and became more than simply a time-pass. It’s become a cultivated interest.
Watercolor and drawing haven’t had quite the same click with me. I’ve been wanting to be more prolific with them, but it doesn’t come as easily as writing. Painting was a great escape and outlet for me after the passing of my mother, however, and it’s always a wonder to see how colors play together, and to make my own art that I’m proud of.
Our main characters are an extension of life, and they live immortal in written or typed word. Whatever they find enjoyable when there’s nothing else imminent says a lot about them, as it would for us as the authors.
The meticulous and detail-oriented would find refuge in the ship-in-a-bottle. Free-spirits gravitate toward dance or paint or sculpting. Rule-driven may lose hours in the physical, such as running or martial arts. Creativity can abound in any of these, not simply limited to the arts, though there tends to be more room for it there.
I shouldn’t forget that video games are a hobby, too… Seeing as I tend to spend a lot of time doing them myself, and here’s something for every type of person there. An aversion to them, or a pull, still has something to say about the character.
Whatever it is that’s said, muttered, whispered, screamed or giggled, explore it, find it, away from the novel or the story you’re working on if you have to. Dedicate a small scene for it, all its own, independent of anything else, just to see how it fits, to see what they do and how they do it. Feel out the smaller parts of a bigger picture.
-The Novice Wordsmith