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.
Description: having heightened powers of observation and exceptional body language reading skills that allow one to deduce things that others cannot, leaving many to believe some sort of psychic ability is involved.
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: because the key to mentalism is the ability to see past deception and facades, appearing good-natured and nonthreatening will encourage others to put their guard down. A background in human psychology gives a mentalist insight into human behavior and motives, which allows them to make judgements about who they are and what they believe in. Armed with this knowledge, they will be able to deduce facts in a way others cannot. Having a way with words will allow the mentalist to ask the right questions to elicit a “tell” that can then be harvested for information. Sharp eyesight will allow them to notice micro-gestures in the split-second that they appear, which acts as breadcrumbs of true emotion. Mentalists are also skilled in mind tricks (the power of suggestion, reverse psychology, leading questions, misdirection, etc.) and utilize them to appear to read minds or somehow access information in a way that seems impossible.
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, focused, alert, intelligent, shrewd, persuasive, crafty, controlled, friendly, unconventional, creative, curious, charismatic, mysterious, charming
Required Resources and Training: understanding human psychology and emotions, having exceptional body language reading skills through exhaustive practice and some working knowledge of hypnosis and/or the power of suggestion will all hep a mentalist hone his craft.
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
- magicians who use mentalism in conjunction with sleight-of-hand can become very effective at manipulating audiences through illusions
- police or other law enforcement personnel in the course of interviewing suspects and determining what is truth and what is not
- those who practice psychological torture, where secrets must be uncovered
- politicians who must persuade and inspire in order to retain support
- lawyers during jury selections, and then later at reading the jury during the trial, allowing them to revamp their strategy if needed
- anyone in a position of leadership or power, where retaining control is difficult and may depend on being able to uncover enemies before they attack (criminal organizations, for example)
Resources for Further Information:
Mentalism School: Areas of Study
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.