Writers, what do your characters DO? When they’re not catching criminals, falling in love, crossing the ocean or solving mysteries, what to they do?
Readers, have you ever thought outside the book? Have you ever wondered what the characters you’ve come to know and love do when they’re not cavorting across the pages of your books?
Or have you, the author, told your readers already? Have you included the characters hobbies and interests as part of their story, part of revealing their character? Because, let’s face it, we all do something in our spare time, even if it’s sitting in front of the tv, or falling asleep on the couch. Our interests and hobbies tell a lot about us.
If someone tells you they like to go scuba diving and hillwalking, you quickly get the impression they are pretty active, energetic, out-doorsy. If they say they like to go fishing, taking the dog for a walk in the park, doing a bit of gardening, you’ll think of them as a little less adventurous but still active and still enjoy being in the fresh air. What about stamp collecting, video-gaming, knitting, reading – quieter pursuits? Perhaps they’re altogether quieter and prefer to be indoors.
Sometimes you meet someone who likes a real mixture of all of the above. Maybe most of the people you know like doing a good mix of things.
But, whatever it is they do, it can shape how they live their lives. It dictates how they use their time, how they spend their money, how much they interact with other people.
As writers, if we want to make our characters live on the page, if we want our readers to identify with them, feel they know them, almost expect to bump into them on the street, then we need to think about what our characters do when they’re not rushing about through the main plot of the story. We might only allude to it in passing, or we might build the story round it. Either way, it can enhance our writing to give our characters a hobby, an interest, a passion.
As readers, do you find it helps you identify with the character who enjoys gardening, as you do? Or who scuba dives like you’d like to? Who horse rides? Or who plays video games? Or knits? Or sews?
In my latest release, Gold Plated, my main character, Rosanna, loves to paint, to design clothes and to make them. She’s enjoyed these pursuits since she was a young girl.
Can you imagine her lying on the grass in her mother’s garden, sketching the shrubs and trees, painting the flowers? Or sitting at the patio table taking inspiration from the colours and shapes of the flowers for the next dress she intends to design and make?
What about now she’s older? Can you picture her sitting in her conservatory, looking out at her garden, still allowing nature to inspire the dresses she designs
What does her interest in such a pursuit, and the fact it has been the interest of a lifetime, tell you about her? She’s turned seventy now and it’s still her passion. Does that help you picture her?
Perhaps if she tells you about the dress she’s designed and made for her Golden Wedding Anniversary party:
“The dress I’m going to wear tonight is hidden in the wardrobe till later. I want it to be a surprise for Paul. He hasn’t seen it yet and has no idea of the peaceful hours I’ve spent sewing while he’s been out and about. It makes me smile every time I open the wardrobe door, push aside the things it hides behind, and see my handiwork hanging there. Inspired by the pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primroses that bloom in our garden every spring, designed and fashioned over the summer months after their faded beauty folded and faded further, it has been such a delight to make. Impossible to improve on nature, all I could do was allow the delicate flowers to inform my eye and guide my hand as I sketched and painted, desiring to capture the essence of their beauty in the spring to infuse into my work in the summer.
The chiffon material I sought out is gossamer thin and beautiful, the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day, and the dress slips over my still-trim figure in flattering, floaty, fluted layers to just below my knees.
Being so fine, it is one of the most difficult materials I have ever worked with, but worth every painstaking moment of the hours and days it took to cut and sew. Even the buttery silk lining had to be handled gently. Never have I worked so slowly and never have I been so rewarded for my care.
My fingers melt with pleasure as they linger on the fabric, and I long to feel my creation slip over my body to caress my skin.
I thrill with contented anticipation.”
Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage.
Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, all their friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul.
What could possibly go wrong?
When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.
Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?
Give yourself a treat!