Made in America

Show Don’t Tell: Hobbies

One of the aspects of writing that can make any character feel more well-rounded is hobbies. Virtually everyone has an interest or hobby that they’re either passionate about or that gives them comfort and happiness in their lives. Giving one or two of these to your characters will allow your character to feel more realistic and will allow your reader to get to know them better. The problem is, given all that you want to include in your manuscript, it can be very tempting to simply tell your readers about their hobbies rather than show them. Here are some easy ways to show rather than tell your readers about specific hobbies that your characters may have.

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1) Artistic

If you have a character who has artistic hobbies, there are many ways to show rather than tell the reader. For example, you could have them stumble into a scene late with a few splotches of paint decorating their nose. You can also utilize dialogue, perhaps they get invited somewhere but they decline because they have a particular sculpture they’re working on that they can’t quite get right. Speaking of sculptures, perhaps their nails are constantly caked with clay because of their work in that area. Or maybe their arms are sore because they’re been commissioned to paint the wall of a coffee shop.

2) Athletic

Let’s say a character’s hobbies are more on the athletic side like running, working out, playing sports, etc. You could have them kicking a soccer ball around in one scene or simply dressed in workout clothes. You could also have your character bump into them post-workout when they’re sweaty and out of breath, which would make for some fun dialogue. If they’re a track star, you could use dialogue and have them make plans around a specific meet of competition they have coming up. You can also use their physique to show that they’re athletic when you initially describe the character to the reader.

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3) Theatrical

A character can also have more theatrical hobbies like acting in plays or musicals, this can be a fun hobby to show rather than tell. This is because you have some flexibility in how you show it. You can go with the more subtle route of having a playbill or script peeking out of their backpack or purse, you could have your character meeting up with them after rehearsal, or you can use dialogue to have them mention the need to learn lines. But, oftentimes, people who act or do theater also have big bold personalities so you can also make it fun by having them sing randomly in the middle of conversations or quote certain lines casually throughout their dialogue.

4) Nerdy

Those characters with a ‘nerdy’ or dorky interest can also be shown rather than told. This can come in many different forms as well. For example, one can be a ‘nerd’ for one particular interest or a genre with a variety of specific interests within it. For example, someone who says they like Star Wars isn’t necessarily nerdy, but then there are people who have a whole room with lightsabers, collectible toys, costumes, etc. And then you also have those who are into anime, which is a broad genre with lots of different shows within it that your character could be into.

Whatever their ‘dorky’ interest is, you could show it by having a character notice a variety of decorative toys on their desk pertaining to the interest. You could have them work it into a conversation, talking about going to comic con, or if anyone wants to come over and watch their new favorite anime. With any dorky interest, there are always specific quotes that go along with it which you can have them work into normal conversation, so if they’re a Doctor Who dork they could yell ‘Geronimo’ or ‘Allons-y’ (much to the confusion of the rest of the group).

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5) Music

As opposed to the theatrically inclined characters, those who have music as a hobby can be very different. This refers to people who either play an instrument or those who enjoy music, spending time everyday listening, and finding their new favorite songs. For those who play instruments as a hobby, you can have them carrying a case of their instrument of choice or talking about an ailment that accompanies their instrument (for example, violin players often get callouses). For those who simply love to listen to music, have a scene take place in the car where they DJ and the reader gets to see the wide variety of music taste they possess.

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