All of us have hobbies and interests, so why shouldn’t our characters? Creative Writers do their best to have interesting people do interesting things. One way to do this, so that your characters are real people who are themselves unique is to give particular pastimes to them. This should be done so that these hobbies say something about the character.
For example, Tom Buchannan from The Great Gatsby owned and rode polo ponies, while The Shawshank Redemption’s Andy Dufesne was a rock hound. Like a rider, Tom thought himself above everyone, and Andy had a meticulous nature that suites someone who shaped stones. In my novel PRINCE I tried to use this principle, so allow me to lay out a few examples.
My main character, Charlie, is into baseball, books, and cherries. Baseball serves two interests. First, it has a deception about it suitable for Charlie. Baseball has the appearance of a gentleman’s sport from the good old days. In truth it can be somewhat violent, or very violent if done right (or done wrong based upon your perspective). Hard tags, hit batsman, double play break-ups, charging the catcher, and spikes-up slides are a regular part of the game, not to mention the occasional bench-clearing brawl. Charlie has the capacity for violence without the mean streak one might find in a villain.
Second, baseball is the only sport where you can only score on defense. Charlie, in his effort to come out ahead, is always on the defensive. Even his effort in the end of the novel to overcome his father, my antagonist, is a defensive act, while his father, Philip is clearly on the attack. Stage one of success for Charlie is don’t let Philip kill him.
Charlie is also a bookworm. This shows that he is more like his mother than his father, and it is from his mother that he learns decency and self-sacrifice. Charlie is also quite intelligent. Is he smart because he reads, or is he smart therefore he reads? It is probably a bit of both. There is also a bit of charm and class to books. This combines the false appearance of the gentility of baseball, now made reality, with the defensive aggressiveness Charlie needs to survive, or a he puts it in one place, a person can be both sophisticated and violent.
Language is the primary means by which anyone assimilates any given culture, and it is by reading that one acclimates to a language in its most basic way. Hence, Charlie as a bookworm gives insight into his capacity to understand the world around him. So when he clearly shows a misunderstanding, it’s an emotional reaction. He can go between the two, seen in his good and bad decisions.
It seems Charlie always has a bag of cherries with him, especially when he is angry with his father. Philip has gout, and Charlie knows that cherries contain some component that can naturally treat gouty pain. So when it is the most appropriate, Charlie enjoys telling Philip that every cherry he eats is one he knows Philip cannot have. So to Charlie, he eats cherries in order to increase his father’s suffering. They serve as the perfect type of his hostility toward Philip.
In contrast to these hobbies of Charlie is the pretense of Philip as an art lover, even claiming to be an artist himself. The only proof of his claim is a portrait of his mother he painting as a child that he still keeps in a desk drawer in his home office. Philip is chiefly a businessman, and the odd thing is that he claims that his business practices are works of art.
His business is harsh and hurts other people while he grows richer. There is nothing pleasant or beautiful about Philip’s business practices, so it would be hard to call it art. So as Charlie’s pastimes show us something about him, Philip’s demonstrate what he thinks falsely about himself.
Our characters need to be individualistic. Also, they need to be doing things, since the fire of fiction is its action. This goes beyond the major action of the plot narrative, but the poetry and magic of scenes can be the hobbies and interests of all of our characters, not just heroes and villains.