Author’s Note: This is a repost from a blog post on my old blog. If you notice any problems, inconsistencies, feel free to reach out.
So one of the easiest ways to flesh out our characters and make sure they’re well rounded is to give them hobbies and interests. If you’re a fan of character sheets, you’ve probably filled out a list of these numerous times. But in case you haven’t here’s some tips to help you create 3D characters!
Start with yourself
If you’re having trouble identifying a character’s hobbies and interests, start listing off your own (using ourselves as a character can be a good starter/reference). Using myself as an example, (start with at least five; I use more in this list but that’s because I’m exploring lots of interests and hobbies I have to give an example of the range and depth people can have. People can always have more or less though).
Interests -> Hobbies
- Sword fighting
- Roller Skating
- World Mythology
- Social media
- Social justice issues
- Pop culture
Therefore, if I was a character, I might say that my character collects rocks, advocates and works at a pet shelter, runs a blog, maybe works in a library, studies English, goes stargazing, and uses photojournalism to document social issues (I don’t really do all of those).
Ask your friends/family
See what kinds of things people are interested in. Better yet, ask your friends/family what they studied in college, planning to study, or are studying and why. Often there’s some other reason behind that that will give you a big clue into their personality.
Even if they haven’t gone to college, ask what they do outside of work/school. What do they follow on social media and why?
Read other books
This should be a fairly obvious one, but its always a good idea to read other books (especially if you’re doing a genre like science fiction/fantasy) and see what kinds of hobbies their characters have. One book I read had a character who designed perfume and aspired to open up her own perfume shop. That was pretty interesting.
Browse lists of college majors
This might seem like a fairly odd one, but trying to think about what your character might study in college and why can tell you a lot about their personality. Why would they choose that major and would they get a minor in anything else or double major perhaps? What clubs or organizations would they join?
Browse Social Media Suggestions
Often enough when you sign up for a social media site like Tumblr or Twitter, they’ll suggest sites, people, and other random stuff for you to follow that you might be interested in. Take a look at these different categories and their resulting suggestions and see if anything might be something your character might follow.
Writing Tip #1
Not only do hobbies and interests help flesh out a character, but its even better if you can find a way to tie in that hobby or interest in with the story! You don’t have to do this for every hobby or interest, but it’ll lend the personality to have a greater plot advantage. You can mention a hobby or interest in passing, but it helps to have at least one or two interests or hobbies come up more than once and in greater detail.
For example, you could have a character on a space ship who is really into studying the stars they pass by. Say one day their ship goes off course and they’re lost. Well maybe the character can use her knowledge of astronomy to help them get back on course before their ship explodes!
Writing Tip #2: Think about your Genre
This ties in with #1, but I wanted to stress how you should not only try and tie their interests in with the plot, but make sure it makes sense for the genre.
Choosing hobbies and interests of your characters can greatly depend on the genre of your story. If you’re writing a historical fiction set in Medieval Europe, your character won’t have any hobbies related to football or tennis because those weren’t invented yet! (That I know of). Or say you’re writing a science fiction story set on a different planet, they might not have any knowledge of our games.
Say you do write a story based on say, Japan (cause that’s my new favorite topic), your character might be really interested in poetry or tea. They might even have an interest in gardening. They could even have an interest in travel writing. Or say your character is very religious, they might know a lot about Buddhism and might write poetry based off on that.
Say you write a fantasy story, your character might know how to sword fight and could be really interested in different kinds of swords. They might even have a collection of daggers or be able to recognize a different swordsmith’s handiwork on the spot. And then geek out about it.
If they’re really interested in magic, they could be really interested in past wizards or in weird, obscure spells. They could study different animals to use as familiars or be interested in biology as a result. Maybe they make potions? They might be a real environmentalist nerd.
Writing Tip #3: Make sense for the Character
Make it make sense for the character. One of the reasons you’re writing out a list of hobbies and interests is so that you know your character better. But you should make sure not to throw in random hobbies for the sake of it. Maybe think about what you already know about the character or wait until you’ve written enough/plotted enough for the story before you think about these.
Its important to make sure your characters don’t have random hobbies just for the sake of giving them one. While lots of people have interests and hobbies unrelated to what they really might be interested in (for example, a biologist might also be really interested in philosophy), your story and characters will seem more authentic if you choose a hobby or interest that makes sense for that character.
Whatever you choose, your character should really seem to care about the topic or know enough that they won’t come off as ridiculous. People’s hobbies and interests usually come from a reason, they don’t just randomly appear.
For example, I’ve always been really into rock collecting because I like the way that no one rock is the same and that sometimes they have really interesting shapes, patterns, and textures. I like studying them and picking them up and comparing them.
I got into jewelry because at a young age I liked making patterns and I knew that you could use gemstones in jewelry. So I would go to the story and pick out shiny beads and cool, interesting beads and string them together in a pattern.
I got into astronomy and archery because of stories I started writing and wanted to do research on them. I’ve also always been fascinated with how stars are so far away, yet we can still see their light on earth and how earth is actually a giant rock floating in space. Also, nebulae and galaxies can form beautiful, glowing patterns and shapes.
I think I got into violins because I’ve always really loved the sounds they make and how elegant and cool people look when they play it. Also, Lindsey Stirling dances while she plays. That’s pretty cool. I’ve also really loved dancing (having a bad back kinda ruins that though), and the thought of people combining those is really great.
No matter what your character’s hobbies and interests are…have fun with it! Provided your character is interested in something enough, you’ll want to do enough research on that subject so that your character (and you) won’t come off as silly. So my recommendation is to pick something that you’re at least semi interested in or something you won’t mind terribly looking into.
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