Discussion time! What do you think about characters with no hobbies?

I HATE when characters have no interests outside of the thing they’re doing in the book. It’s like they sprung up fully formed JUST for that book, and all they know is how to get through their plotline. This seems to mostly happen in books with a paranormal focus, for some reason. For example, Blue in The Raven Boys.1 She has no friends, no hobbies, no interests outside of paranormal stuff and school. All she does is hang around with her (paranormal) family, help out the raven boys with their paranormal thing, and ocassionally complete some homework. She has multiple jobs and must know a lot of people through them, but they take up maybe one paragraph total in the entire book. It’s WEIRD.

I mean, yeah, I understand that no-one would want to read about some kid hanging out on Tumblr or going to soccer practice when there’s weird talking time-travel trees or whatever. But it’s completely possible to include non-paranormal interests into a paranormal story without making it boring and slow-paced. For example: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan stars Kami, a teenage girl in a paranormal story who likes doing things OTHER than talk to the dude in her head. She has multiple friends! She actually pays attention to her family and knows what they do for a living. And those things are both integral to her character and (later) the plot! Her non-paranormal interests are included naturally in with the paranormal stuff, and it works out great.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie poster

Another example (non-book this time)! Buffy the vampire slayer, both movie and TV show versions. She was a cheerleader before she was a vampire slayer, and she wanted to keep being one afterwards. But she couldn’t! And that made for some compelling episodes/character development and her non-slayer interests were touched on in multiple episodes, though the overall episode was STILL focused on vampires and demons and whatnot. And THEN she used her awesome cheerleading skills to kick vampire butt. THAT’S the kind of thing that I’d like to read about– a character who has hobbies and interests outside of the supernatural whatsit they’re dealing with, and how using or losing those interests affects them/the story/etc.

Do you ever get annoyed by characters without hobbies?

(Part of this post first appeared as a comment over at Good Books and Good Wine. Hi, April!)

Footnotes

  1. I loved this book, but seriously: Blue. Shallowest character in the book. It’s like she got shoved aside for the boy characters– read my review for more about how I feel about THAT.

6 thoughts on “Discussion time! What do you think about characters with no hobbies?”

  1. THIS. Yes, that’s maddening to me. Especially if the character is supposed to be a star in his/her field, or at least fairly good at something, but never seems the least bit interested in that thing. That’s a thing I loved about Possession, how the characters in the present day were so passionate about their research. I now can’t think of a counterexample where this is done badly, but I’ve encountered it a lot and it drives me crazy.

    Oo, or some of Barbara Michaels’ books are a good example of this being done well. They’re basically romantic suspense/mystery novels, but if the protagonist is supposed to be interested in selling antique jewelry, she’s legitimately up on the vagaries of selling antique jewelry. Because Barbara Michaels is good at her job.

    1. Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters?! Really? That’s so cool! I know she wrote things other than Amelia Peabody, but I haven’t read any of them. Which of her non-AP books would you recommend I start with?

  2. Actually, I’ve never thought about this, but I agree giving them other interests definitely helps round them out. I just can’t think of a lot examples where I’ve come across that! What do you think of people who don’t have hobbies?

    1. There are real life people without hobbies? I can’t imagine it. They must have SOMETHING they like doing, like watching prime time TV or checking into places on Facebooks. (By “hobby” I suppose I mean something that you do regularly/you dedicate specific time to doing just because you enjoy doing it. Like if you watch American Idol every week and specifically carve out time to do it, that’d be your hobby.)

  3. YES! It is so absolutely annoying when a character does not have hobbies or interests.To me, it makes the character not seem very fully realized, which is not at all what I want in a main character. I love your example of Buffy! Also, this makes me want to read Unspoken.

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