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 …
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…
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…
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
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.