As you develop your main characters, you’ll probably put a lot of effort into working out the skills they require, whether it’s a spy’s tradecraft, the roping and horsemanship of a rodeo rider, the knowledge of ingredients a pastry chef requires, the facility with numbers and reading trends of a stock broker, and so forth. For example, James Bond needs to be able to shoot, fight, drive fast, and adjust his tie whilst falling from airplane. Whoever you’re writing about, you’ll develop a clear picture of what they can do (or need to learn) in order to address the story conflicts they’ll face.
But people are all greater than the jobs they do or the role they play in your story. A rich, believable character has a life beyond the page, and that includes things they do for pleasure or to unwind. For instance, how does Bond spend his time when he’s not defusing nuclear missiles? Perhaps he knits, or does découpage.
So ask yourself what your character gets up to when they’re not fighting aliens, romancing that cowboy or cowgirl, dodging zombies, or amateur sleuthing? Their unexpected skills or interests can not only reveal added character depths but may provide a surprise strategy for tackling a thorny plot problem. The gift of an unexpected skill can make your character more enjoyable to write and more interesting and fun for your readers. I mean, just imagine what James Bond’s découpage projects must look like.
About Bill Cameron: Bill is the author of gritty, adult mysteries featuring Skin Kadash. His short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Killer Year, Portland Noir, First Thrills, Deadly Treats, and West Coast Crime Wave. In 2012, his novel County Line received the Spotted Owl for Best Northwest Mystery. His latest book, the young adult mystery Property of the State, was named one of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016: Teen. He is currently at work on a mystery set in the Oregon High Desert. You can connect with him online at or follow him on Twitter @bcmystery.

Bill Cameron has generously donated a first chapter critique OR character sketch consultation.
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Bill Cameron is offering a buyers choice of a first chapter critique or character sketch consultation (up to 5,000 words) via email.
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