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…

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…

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, adaptable, intelligent, skeptical, inventive, strategic…

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…

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…

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

Talents and skills not only make our characters stand out, they often help them attain their goals. So choosing them strategically can greatly enhance both the character and the story.

If this is something you’d like to learn more about, you can find the entries in their entirety at One Stop For Writers, where all our thesauruses are cross-referenced and linked for easy navigation. If you’re interested in seeing a free sampling of the Talent and Skill Thesaurus and our other descriptive collections, head on over and register at One Stop!

photo credit: Martin Staviar via photopin cc


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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3 years ago

I grew up in a city and never learned anything like this until I was in college and went camping for the first time to “rough it” with a roommate. I was hooked! And now I taught my kids what little I know and was looking for some new things and I actually loved the idea of living off the land and turning widely available plants into food and medicine (video here: It’s like having the whole world as your grocery store. And the entire time, my kids were imagining themselves living out in the wilderness and developing a whole storyline from the experience – was really cool to see.

Watching the video also made me realize that the stuff we would call emergency and end-of-the-world was considered normal life by folks in the pioneer days and what we call survival skills was probably called common sense back then. lol

Monday Must-Reads [04/14/14]
6 years ago

[…] Character Skills and Talents: Survival Skills | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS […]

:Donna Marie
6 years ago

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 😀

:Donna Marie
6 years ago

And my boyfriend introduced me to the show with Les Stroud: Survivor Man. Amazing stuff!

6 years ago

Thanks for another arrow for my writing quiver.

:Donna Marie
6 years ago

So do I 😀

Traci Kenworth
6 years ago

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