Friday, June 3, 2022

Writing an Un-Put-Downable Character (Part 5 of 10): Interests

by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

When you make a connection with another person in life, what do you do? I'm not sure how it works for you, but when I'm trying to get to know someone, I ask about their hobbies. 

Would you believe it works the same way for fictional people too?

Last month in our series about creating un-put-downable characters, we talked about History (links to previous posts can be found at the bottom of today's post). Today, we’re talking about Interests.

Even though they are figments of your imagination, your characters are people. They should have things they like and dislike, personal preferences, and unique tastes.

Take a classic as an example. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet enjoys reading, but she isn't much for music. (Granted, if you ask Mr. Darcy, she plays the pianoforte quite well!)

In the Pixar movie, Ratatouille, the story's protagonist Remy loves to cook. In Disney's The Little Mermaid, Ariel loves to collect human things. 

What's important about Interests, though, is that they serve as part of the story. Sure you can have a character love to surf, but what is the point of that interest if it doesn't matter to the overall story? 

One of the most popular Netflix streaming shows, Stranger Things, is a fascinating mash-up of high-stakes horror tropes and 80s nostalgia. But one of the most fun parts of the show is how the four main kids who lead the story experience everything through their shared love of Dungeons and Dragons role playing games. 

Each one of these kids is obsessed with D&D, so it makes sense that when they encounter a terrifying monster that they’d compare it to something they all recognized. But it’s more than just what Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will call the monster (the Demigorgon), it’s how the way they respond to the terrifying unknown shows us how close they are as friends. And it also demonstrates a sense of innocence that they only way they can make sense of the horrifying things that are happening around them is to compare it to a fantasy game.

Pop-culture comparisons aside, sometimes a skill or a hobby can become the foundation for the entire plot of a novel or movie. In stories like The Last Starfighter or Ender's Game, the main character is able to do what is required of them because of their skill with a computer game. 

An important part of who we are as people comes from the things we enjoy doing. So take that element of the human experience and infuse it into your character’s design. Just make sure that it goes along with the story in some way. 

Say you’re writing a historical fiction novel, and your main character runs an inn in a small village somewhere in England. Maybe she inherited the inn as a family business, and her real interest is archery. But to keep the family business running, she only indulges in her archery habit in her free time. So what happens when her village is raided by Vikings? She could totally be sniping people from the church’s bell tower. 

What about a science fiction novel? Your main character could be the captain of a military space vessel that’s out on some distant exploratory voyage. And maybe he’s great at military tactics and strategies, but his first love is Shakespeare. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the captain of this ship happened to stumble upon a planet somewhere in a distant galaxy that is oddly reminiscent of the world in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The possibilities are as endless as the characters we can create. Whether you write contemporary romance or mystery thrillers, your characters need to be fully rounded in order to be believable. And the best way to create a fully rounded character is to give them interests.

Of course, if you’re giving a character an interest you know nothing about, you’d better do your research. Nothing will give away your own ignorance like writing a character who loves mathematical puzzles when you as the author hate math. 

Use examples from people you know in real life if you can’t think of any yourself. I mean, a great example is my own dad—who worked as a banker for years but was also an amateur race car driver! 

Every person you meet has more layers than you can see, and part of what gives them those layers is the unique interests and hobbies that shape their lives. 

What interests do your characters have? If you don’t know, it’s time to start asking questions. It will make all the difference in the world. Just be intentional about it. Who knows? Once your characters figure out what their hobbies are, they may solve you plot problems for you!

In case you’re wondering, here’s what’s left in our ten-step journey:



Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at

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