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Isn’t it great whenever you’re talking to a friend whom you’ve known for 20 years, and she says, “Yeah, I just received my certification for my 500th skydiving jump today.” You jerk your head around, squint at her, and say, “What! 500th jump?? I didn’t even know you had ever been skydiving.”

Don’t these experiences open up something new about your friends? I know they do for me.

I feel like I’ve just gotten to know them a little better. Here’s a weird one. I usually don’t tell people that I write. I’ll only spill the beans if they keep prodding, but I’m not much into bragging, and most people don’t care. After I tell them, they’re shocked.

I’ve had people say, “You don’t look like the kinda’ guy who would be into writing.” That said, it’s always interesting to find out something new.

This shouldn’t be any different in your writing. What gives your character the diversity that you want? Sometimes characters can be boring if all they do is…what they do. Let’s think of some scenarios.

A lawyer is boring.
BUT a lawyer who drag races could be interesting.

A bartender is boring.
BUT a waitress who owns a gun rack could be interesting.

A teacher is boring.
BUT a teacher who is amazing at poker could be interesting.

You may not even need to branch away from the story too much to incorporate the “extra” job. But what makes your attorney a fireball in the courtroom? His lust for the thrill. Where did it come from? The race track.

Why is your bartender not afraid to bad-mouth any of the roughest toughest guys who come into the bar? Because she’s always packing heat.

How can your teacher always know when her students have had rough days at home? It’s the poker face. She can read it all.

Warrior goes another route with the teacher idea. Brennan is a teacher who fights MMA at night. Now we’ve got a character.

Keep this in mind. You may not want to add a “hobby” to your character if you want him to be defined by his job. Tommy, from Warrior, was an ex-military vet and that’s what he was. There wasn’t a “hobby” on the side for him, but the writers wanted to make him out to be a brute. So by intentionally making him like this, Tommy wasn’t bland.

That said, a lawyer who’s just a lawyer, is dull. There needs to be something else in most cases.

How can you spruce up your characters?


  1. Ms. Nine

    As always, your juice is my juice. I appreciate your advice on adding spice to characters. Writers can also spruce up characters with unusual pets (think Stephanie Plum).


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