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: To shape a piece of wood by chipping or cutting small pieces from it
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: good hand-eye coordination, dexterity, a steady hand and firm grip, the ability to sit for long periods of time without getting stiff or sore
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: imaginative, artistic, patient, calm, resourceful, meticulous, focused, obsessive
Required Resources and Training: Whittling is a time-consuming activity that takes much practice to master. It can be learned with little or no teaching; all you really need is a sharp knife, a piece of wood, and lots of time. It helps to have a basic understanding of wood types, so you can choose the type of wood that will yield the best result for the project. And while you can whittle with any knife, smaller ones work best, and different kinds of blades can help with different cuts.
Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: The most common stereotype associated with whittling is the country bumpkin (usually male) sitting on the front porch whittling sticks down to toothpicks. While it makes sense that an avid whittler needs access to wood, he doesn’t have to live in the actual woods. Items can be whittled from wood chunks or twigs found in a park, or even from lumber bought at a hardware store.
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
- for relaxation or stress relief
- as a way of passing the time when one has excess time on one’s hands
- coming up with a new product or technique that can be turned into a much-needed money-making venture for the hero
- when a small, secretive item is needed to help save the day (a lock pick, wooden coin, weapon, etc.)
- when it’s necessary to camouflage something important as an everyday object
Stories Where Whittling is Used As Part of the Plot Line
- The Shawshank Redemption—though Andy Dufresne whittled soapstone instead of wood
- Spindle’s End (Robin McKinley)
Related Talents and Skills: Carpentry
Resources for Further Information:
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.