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 an exceptional memory allows a character to make observations and recall facts better than the average person. Whether they have a photographic memory, eidetic memory or simply a strong ability to focus on and later relay what one has seen, heard and experienced, this skill can be applied to many life situations and be an asset at one’s work. With this ability, learning curves can be shortened and less time is wasted. People with this skill can also keep and share knowledge in a more accurate manner, especially in situations where the subject is broad and other ways of staying on top of information may be cumbersome.
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: This skill can have a genetic component, but is also be honed through practice. Often incorporating mnemonic methods (creating associations for the information to assist with retention) increases one’s memory abilities.
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: Strong focus, being observant, curiosity, open-minded, self-controlled, calm, analytical
Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions:
Many tie memory to intelligence, but the two are separate.
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
- Navigation in confusing environments and avoiding getting lost
- Discerning lies by recalling past information and the accounts of others
- Personal improvement (for work, a sporting activity, a pastime, or even for survival)
- Leadership (learning from past mistakes & analyzing information)
- Retaining generational information (passing down stories, etc.) that might otherwise be forgotten in time
- Teaching or mentoring others
- Supplying facts and figures when needed, or bearing witness
- Adapting to change (using memory to navigate the dark) or dealing with the loss of a sense (blindness, for example)
- Remembering names, dates and studying for exams
- Gambling (counting cards)
Resources for Further Information:
9 Types of Mnemonics For Better Recall
20 Memory Ticks You’ll Never Forget
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: fribbleblib 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.
Anita Diggs says
That’s a fantastic idea, Angela! You’re right on about creating a unique and memorable character. An author knowing their character also makes them great. Would this character find a $20 bill, see someone drop it, and give it back or would they put it in their pocket? Would this character read a hard-luck story in the paper and send $5 to a fund to a family who needs it? These are things that you don’t even necessarily need to know for your book, but knowing these things could make the character seem real on the page or not real because it’s all in your head and it will seep into the writing.
Heather McCorkle says
This post come with perfect timing as I am plotting book two and three in my new series and am developing my characters deeper. Thank you!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Woot! Glad to hear it, Heather!
Thanks everyone for the comments! Sorry I haven’t been around lately–son graduated and turned 18 and it’s been a hectic yet fun and happy week. 🙂
:Donna Marie says
Congratulations on your son’s graduation, Angela 🙂 Such an exciting time (and hectic)!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Thanks! It was a happy/sad sort of moment. He’s grown up so much, and that’s wonderful to see but also reminds me I’ll have him here at home only a short time longer. *mom tears*
:Donna Marie says
Yep! Exactly : / Very bittersweet. I did it back in 2003 and remember it well. This is your weaning process—the whole “away at school” and intermittent times “back home” ’til the day he’s finally out on his own. Trust me, you’ll adjust! You’re a busy writer mom! 😀
:Donna Marie says
This is an excellent to skill to have in REAL life, too! 🙂 I had one a VERY, very, VERY long time ago—at least 45 or more years—IF my memory serves me well 😉 Actually, your first bullet point:
Navigation in confusing environments and avoiding getting lost
…immediately reminded me of a character in a book I’m now reading. Because of his amazing retention and recall, he was able to find his way out of a maze that had more than a hundred turns. The book, btw, is THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY. I’m REALLY enjoying it!
Thanks for the post, Angela 🙂
Rosi Hollinbeck says
At my age, an exceptional memory is merely, well, a memory. (sigh) I like your many scenarios where this is useful. Thanks for another great post.
Traci Kenworth says
A skill I wish I possessed, lol. Good one!!
Julie Musil says
Oy, how I wish this was my own skill! I have a terrible memory. My husband is good at remembering funky little details. I’ve never thought about making it a character talent or skill, so thanks for the tip.