Unfortunately, I’m sitting around today wasting time instead of writing. My self-discipline seems to have headed for higher ground, and it only bothers me a little bit. A mental health break to play with Facebook and my iPad seems fitting. But back to business. I’m picking some of the good stuff out of Marc McCutcheon’s book Building Believable Characters to share with you. Today’s topic is HOBBIES AND SPORTS. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but stick around.
McCutcheon gives a four-page list of hobbies and sports that your character could be involved in. When I’m creating a character, I don’t generally try to figure out how they spend their free time. After all, I’m going to be putting them through a crucible, so when will there be time to relax? But people in real life have things they do to de-stress, unwind, and relax, so fictional characters should, too. But I’m going to skip the standards (reading, jogging, going out with friends) to pick the more unique hobbies and sports listed in the book.
Amateur Archeology is the first one on the list, and immediately I thought of how fun that would be. It’d also be stressful, with all the permits and government agencies and private property problems that go along with it. But it could still be a fun one to put in a book, as it’s not been overdone by any of the best-selling authors (that I know of). Or what about Antique Bottle Collecting? It’s not just for old ladies. I think it’d be charming to see a young male protagonist searching antique shops for old Coke or perfume bottles. Not manly enough for you? How about Barbershop Quartet Singing? Butterfly Hunting? Ceramics? Now I’m just being silly, but these are fairly unique hobbies.
Geology (or rock collecting) isn’t something you see every day in a novel. And we’ve all seen characters who are authors, but what about Greeting Card Writers? Or Jingle Writers? Or Letters-to-the-Editor writing? Here’s one that ticks me off: Magicians. I used to have a friend who could pull a fuzzy red ball out of my hair when I least expected it, and it drove me batty. Why do sleight-of-hand artists think everyone will be impressed with their abilities? That one has great comedic potential. A few others from the list that stuck out to me are Nature Walks, Pottery/Ceramics, Spelunking (cave exploration), Taxidermy, and Whittling.
(Skater photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
As for sports, try to by-pass baseball/basketball/golf and let your character discover the joys of Archery, Billiards, Cricket, Curling, Frisbee, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, or Mountain Biking. Those aren’t extreme enough? What about Rock Climbing or Race Car Driving? Sky Diving, Ski Jumping, and Windsurfing are also up for grabs. These extreme sports aren’t just for men. Wouldn’t it be fun to create a female character who drives in a demolition derby? And aside from Tony Hawk, how many adults do you know who skateboard?
Hobbies/Sports aren’t the most important qualities in a character dossier, but don’t overlook them because they’re minor. Did anything stand out to you as interesting? Can you think of ways to use a hobby as a major plot point? Please share in the comments section.