Character Skills and Talents: Survival Skills

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

shelterDescription: It takes skill, intuition and knowledge to be able to survive in less-than-ideal circumstances with few resources. When disaster happens, often there is no warning and little time to prepare, so understanding how to use what is available to provide necessities like food, water and shelter is very important. People skilled in survival can obtain fresh water, forage for food, build a shelter and defend themselves until help arrives. The willingness to protect oneself (be it flight or fight) is a necessity.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Survival is about putting emotion in the backseat so one can think clearly and prioritize what is most important. Being able to read a map, hunt and set traps, start a fire without matches, wield a knife, and build a shelter are all valuable skills. As well, knowing how to find water and filter it in both urban situations and in nature is a must-have skill. Another asset would be a working knowledge of local flora and fauna and how it can be used (food, medicine, protection). Tracking, scouting and the ability to identify potential threats in advance will also greatly improve one’s chances in a survival situation. Being physically strong and healthy, with good endurance, is also important.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, adaptable, intelligent, skeptical, inventive, strategic, rational, intrepid, patient and alert

Required Resources and Training: Some form of combat and weapons training can be beneficial, both to gain knowledge of attack and defense and for strategic thinking and self-discipline. Survival situations require rational, calm thinking, which can only be achieved through learning self-control. Exposure to the outdoors, be it through survival camps, scouts, guided excursions, camping, hunting and fishing or having a mentor who knows the outdoors will help a person learn how to live without the myriad of modern resources we take for grated each day. TV “survival preppers” shows, websites, and online videos are an education in itself, providing tips and tricks on using natural and common materials to survive.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • Governmental breakdowns or war
  • an apocalypse type situation (caused by a natural disaster, nuclear fallout, aliens, zombies, killer unicorns, you name it)
  • if one is lost in the woods
  • a car breaking down miles from any sort of help
  • if one must flee one’s home and stay off the grid

Resources for Further Information:

14 Steps To Surviving in the Woods

3 Ways To Make A Water Filter

Survival 101

9 Ways To Star A Fire Without Matches

Survive The Apocalypse Site

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

photo credit: Martin Staviar via photopin cc


Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Character Skills and Talents: Survival Skills

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [04/14/14]

  2. :Donna Marie says:

    This is why I wish my son had continued with Boy Scouts 🙂 I kept his handbook, but haven’t been able to find it in years! I have a feeling it’s in the attic *sigh* Great post, as always, Angela 😀

  3. Rosi says:

    Thanks for another arrow for my writing quiver.

  4. Oh, THANK YOU!! This is SO useful to me right now with the book I’m working on!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *