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: Shooting with incredible precision and accuracy. In most circumstances, this talent is applied to those shooting guns, because advances in modern weaponry makes it easier to hit one’s target. But with a little creative world building and foundational…
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: a steady hand, good distance vision, being able to remain still for long periods of time
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: patience, determination, calmness, self-control
Required Resources and Training: Practice is obviously important if one wants to learn to shoot well. Practice perceiving distances, anticipating and planning for the wind, shooting different kinds of targets, shooting in different kinds of light—distance shots are…
Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: assassins, hunters, military personnel, and Olympians. Sharpshooters are often portrayed as very detailed, nit-picky, OCD types who take their ability very seriously. To turn the cliché on its ear, consider adding traits that defy the stereotype: laziness, naiveté, playfulness, sentimentality…
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
- when hunting is necessary to one’s survival
- when the story resolution is dependent upon the hero hitting something very small that’s very far away (think Luke Skywalker vs. The Death Star, just…with sharpshooting skillz instead of mad Jedi skillz)
- when one would prefer to injure or startle an opponent rather than kill him/her outright…
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!
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Rosi Hollinbeck says
I just finished a new book by Michael Koryta called Those Who Wish Me Dead. I couldn’t help thinking about that book while I read your post. Koryta has a couple of great examples of sharpshooters in his book, and he really covered how important it is for a shooter to know the weapon well and how it will act during the firing. Thanks for another great post.
BECCA PUGLISI says
This is a good point; whatever weapon is being used, the user needs to be intimately acquainted with it—how it works, what it’s weaknesses are, etc, in order to be a good shot.
Julie Musil says
Patience for sure! My hubby and son enjoy a day of shooting, but it bores me to tears. I can’t imagine a sniper having to sit there all day watching through their scope. Very cool entry, ladies!
:Donna Marie says
Lovin’ this trait. All the stuff you gals put up is valuable! This brought me back years to when I was still married and used to go the shooting range with my husband (he was a police officer). I always loved target shooting, but due to my health issues, incl. fibromyalgia, I couldn’t stay steady when I held my arms out. Anyway, my father-in-law bought me a .22 caliber revolver ’cause it was lighter and had less kick. I’m glad I had the experience, including shooting a shotgun. I wasn’t prepared for THAT kick and man did it hurt!
Great post, Becca! 😀
Traci Kenworth says
Right on the mark!! My sharpshooters are proficient with bows, axes, spears etc. Just part of the daily survival skills.
Anthony Metivier says
One might also add that fear of the talent can also be very intriguing. A cop who shoots a little too well, for example, might have quit or been released from a job she’s damn good at, but is forced to face the job (and the gun) again because a serial killer is on the loose.
Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and especially Michael Man’s adaptation of the novel (called Manhunter) makes a similar play with a splash, suggesting that in order for Will Graham to catch Lecter, he had to become like Lecter (adapt his talent), something Will Graham did just a little too well. To hunt another serial killer would risk him crossing the line again, a risk that he takes because Agent Crawford pulls the right strings. By the end of the Manhunter movie, Will Graham is definitely over the edge again.
Now I feel the buds of a new plot blooming … Triple thanks for this!