On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in UK“, JJ Barnes wrote about how to develop your characters by giving them hobbies.
Written by JJ Barnes
Give your character hobbies to make them feel like they’re real people. In reality, your characters exist solely to serve your story. They were born the moment they first appeared on the page, and they will die at The End. That is their entire world.
However, your characters need to feel to your audience like they live and breathe in a world far beyond your pages. They need to be complete people, people who your audience can believe in. If your audience doesn’t believe in your characters, they won’t believe in your story.
Character Hobbies And Passions
Hobbies and passions can tell you a lot about who your character is. If your character is passionate about art, it builds a different picture of who they are than if they’re interested in kickboxing.
Characters with passions and hobbies are immediately more interesting. If they are willing to work hard to accomplish a goal external to the plot it tells you they have the tenacity to accomplish their story goal. If they are emotionally connected to something they love, it will humanise them and create a connection with the audience.
Dangerous character hobbies, or unsettling hobbies such as taxidermy, can create feelings of unease about that character in your audience. It could be a red herring about a perfectly safe character, or it could be a red flag on a journey to learning about somebody dangerous.
Whatever your character is passionate about, it doesn’t have to be plot relevant. If they developed a skill through passion that later helps them that can work brilliantly. However those hobbies can also just be something that shapes the image of who they are in your audiences head.
Merida in Brave
In the Disney/Pixar film Brave, we meet Merida, the Scottish princess with a passion for archery. Merida is an extremely talented archer, she works hard to practice, and is very dedicated. These character hobbies create a snapshot of her personality very quickly. She is shown to be a strong, independent, and driven young woman who the audience relate to.
Seeing someone love something immediately makes them more likeable. Passions is an appealing quality.
Merida’s Bow In The Story
As the story goes, you learn that this hobby is a source of story conflict. Merida is to study how to be a “lady” ready to be married off and become a Queen. This involves a lot of sitting still with her wild mane of red hair restricted, just like Merida must be. It’s immediately at odds with the personality and passion we’ve come to know.
Later, Merida is able to use her passion as a challenge against the Princes presented to be a future husband. She wins proving her strength but this grows the conflict. Her mother takes the bow and throws it in the fire, causing the ultimate rift in their relationship which causes Merida to take action to change her life.
Dwight Schrute in The Office
As characters go, Dwight Schrute is one of the most well developed I’ve ever seen. Dwight’s character hobbies and passions go far beyond the office he works in. As the series goes forwards you start to learn more and more of who this man is.
As well as being top salesman at Dunder Mifflin, Dwight runs a highly successful beet farm. He is passionate about growing his vegetables and has a wealth of knowledge about soil, fertiliser, and the skill needed for growing the perfect beetroot. He is shown to be incredibly intelligent and very successful in all areas of his life.
This farm features repeatedly throughout the series. Whilst it isn’t essential for the plot, it makes Dwight and the story more interesting and developed.
Other Passions Of Dwight
Dwight is a volunteer Sheriff. He is passionate about law enforcement, knows minor by-laws, and is willing to suffer for the upkeep of the law. This plays into direct conflict with other sides of his personality at different points. Allowing for internal conflict that makes Dwight even more interesting. He’s willing to break rules to protect his boss Michael Scott, to be with the woman he loves Angela, and in his desire to protect the people of his office.
Which brings me to Dwight’s love of weaponry. About the office, in hidden locations, Dwight has stashed illegal and dangerous weapons. He is able to use a can of pepper spray to defend Jim from his love rival Roy, and he loses his job when he fires a gun in the office.
Throughout the course of the series, you get to know Dwight as his character is developed through multiple passions and hobbies. For this reason, he is a popular and favourite character.
Creating Character Hobbies Creates A Feeling Of Reality
Giving your characters passions and hobbies outside your plot is a brilliant way to develop who they are. It makes them more dynamic and interesting. Hobbies and passions can cause internal or external conflict within your story, or simply make your characters feel more real.
Hobbies and passions turns characters from flat props to move about your story like puppets, into real people who your audience can relate to. The more your audience connects to your characters, the more they will care. The more they care about your characters, the more they will care about your story.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose