Character Talent & Skills: Mentalism

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. 


medium_6918558888Description: 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 …

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, focused, alert, intelligent, shrewd, persuasive, crafty, controlled, friendly, unconventional…

Required Resources and Training: understanding human psychology and emotions, having exceptional body language reading skills through exhaustive practice and some working knowledge of…

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…

Resources for Further Information:

Easy Mentalism Tricks

Psychology Mind Tricks

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: 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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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[…] Although screenwriting can give you a great feel for character and dialogue, Roz Morris reminds us that dialogue in prose is not the same as in screenwriting. To round out our characters, Angela Ackerman delves into the character talent or skill called mentalism. […]

:Donna Marie
6 years ago

You know, I’ve always found this particular trait creepy or bogus—actually both! Great to use in fiction, though!

Julie Musil
6 years ago

When you mentioned magicians, it reminded me of something that happened this summer. Our family of 5 was on a cruise, and at dinner, a magician strolled around doing fun tricks.

He asked one of my 14 yo sons to think of a card. My son did. Magician gave my son the opportunity to changed the card he was thinking of. My son did. Magician then stared into my son’s eyes. No actual cards had been involved yet. Then the magician GUESSED THE CARD my son was THINKING OF! I still can’t believe he pulled that one off, and I wish I knew how he did it. We’re all still baffled.

Julie Musil
6 years ago

What the heck??? That’s VERY similar. Cards did become involved AFTER my son had mentally chosen a card. Magician pulled out the deck of cards, set one card aside upside down, then asked my son which card he’d thought of. 7 of diamonds, if I remember right. Then he pulled out the card he’d set aside. Yep, it matched the one my son had thought of (without telling anyone, btw). Really cool stuff. Thanks for the vid link. I’m showing that to my boys!