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DO YOUR HOBBIES INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?

December 9, 2020

            For once, this idea just popped into my head this morning as I sat here thinking of something to write about. Often, these ideas come from whatever is trending on the Facebook forums. Not this time.

            Throughout Fred Central, I’ve alluded to the influence of hobbies and other interests and their influence on your writing indirectly and directly, but have never summed it up in one place before. So now, here it is.

FIRST OF ALL…

            I’d first like to define the difference between a passion and a hobby.

            A hobby is something you do for fun, like tennis, or dancing, coin collecting, or macrame. It’s something you may do once in a while, a lot, or something you do in spurts. Then it may fade for years, or you may quit it and the gear or “residue” from it may sit in a closet only to be sold at a garage sale years or decades later.

            A passion is a lifetime interest. It’s not something you throw money at, only to end up, inevitably, with that closet or garage full of gear, but something that consumes your life. It’s something you live and breathe, and even if there are lulls due to unforeseen circumstances, you take it up again at the first opportunity. When you look back on it decades later, it’s a lifetime thing.

REGARDLESS

            Now that the definitions between a hobby and a passion are out of the way, for simplicity purposes, I’m going to call them both hobbies from now on. To that point, with you deep into your passion over a lifetime, or deep into a “hobby” at the moment, do you reflect that in your writing?

MAKING IT OBVIOUS?

            One would think the way characters or situations are drawn, an author makes it blatantly obvious their hobbies and interests come through in their writing.

            For example, in a murder mystery, the protagonist has a thing for tennis. Therefore, the story features scenes where the hero plays it at least once in every book (assuming a series), or mentions it often. One would assume the author is a big tennis fan. You go to the back of the book and sure enough, right in the bio the author states they play tennis every weekend.

            What have I said before here at Fred Central?

            It doesn’t hurt to write what you know.

NOT SO OBVIOUS

            The characters in the series always end up in some kind of cave for at least part of the story. One would think the author might be a spelunker, right?

            Bad buzzer.

            The author, while having a mild interest in caves, has no desire to crawl underground. When he or she was a kid, sure, they were all full of adventure and the thought of diving deep into a cave was a great idea until they actually did it. Then the flashlight went out. All the fascination went out of their great and fantastic idea of the great adventure. Decades later, while not particularly scarred for life from the experience, they’d still rather be an armchair spelunker, a mild interest in the subject, and not a real-life cave diver. You’ll never see that in their bio.

REFLECTING WHAT WE KNOW

            There’s nothing wrong with…in fact it’s great to reflect your hobbies in your writing.

            The key is that when character building, or in fact, story and plot building, those hobbies need to be relevant in some way to character, story and plot.

            In my Gold series, my interest in rock and metal plays a minor but significant role in the “coloring” of the series. Several other of my interests do as well. As for my fantasy series, Meleena’s Adventures, I confess that my mild interest in caves do as well as several other things, though that metaphor I used earlier is not my reason for not being an amateur spelunker. While that actually happened to me a few times, it was just a matter of squeezing through tight spaces, scaling drop-offs, and a general lack of enthusiasm for the overall thrill. Spelunking is a great passion or hobby for some people, but not mine. Besides, now I’m way too old to be crawling around in the dark.

            Quite often, the general subject matter of plots in stories are reflections of the interests of the authors. Given spelunking, for instance, I’ve read several thrillers where the author was a spelunker as well. I’ve seen cozy mysteries where the plot was centered around a knitting circle and the author was a big knitter. Same with quilting. I’ve seen authors who were painters and the plot had to do with painting.

            It’s great to use your personal knowledge from a hobby as part of your story. In that way you can be assured you get the details correct!

WHEN IT’S NOT

            This is where it can get tricky.

            When you use a hobby that you’re not familiar with. You come up with this brilliant idea for either a character quirk or a plot device, but you don’t have a clue about the particular hobby.

            You can read up on it, research and go for broke.

            The best way is to talk to someone who is deep into it.

            Chat them up and learn some quirks and details that the books may not tell you. Or, they can clue you into details you may not notice because you don’t even know to look for them.

            If a reader deep into that hobby notices something off, your bad. Therefore, if you can drop in a few intimate things that only an expert would know. That makes it even more realistic.

            Examples are the proper or slang names for gear. What happens to your hands when you do certain repetitive motions. Sounds, smells, reactions of passerby.

            Little things.

LESSER KNOWN HOBBIES

            Some authors use lesser known hobbies. This can be tricky because when you do, very few people can relate to them.

            I’m a deep sky visual observer and telescope maker. To the world, that’s known as an amateur astronomer. I don’t particularly like the term “amateur astronomer” because what I do isn’t astronomy, per se. Why? Because I’m allergic to math and I don’t do any science. I have a large telescope, I look through the eyepiece and I observe galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. I also record my observations for my own pleasure. I sometimes even draw them. I have no interest in taking pretty pictures of these objects. I do nothing to advance science. However, like writing, this “astronomical” thing is a lifelong passion I’ve had since 1967.

            If I used that in a book, how many people could relate to that? Maybe a handful across the entire country. How many of them would even read my books?

            Most of the country could not even tell if a telescope was set up correctly in a movie scene. That’s not slamming anyone, that’s just a fact.

            It’s a rare hobby, or in my case, a passion.

            Have I used it in my stories?

            Sure, but in small doses. I not only don’t want to overwhelm my readers with jargon they won’t understand, but I don’t want to alienate them with a hobby (or passion) they cannot relate to.

            Consider that when you have a hobby that is out of the mainstream.

SUMMARY

            It’s great for an author to write what you know, and hobbies are another way to add color to your story. That’s especially true if it’s a popular one. If not, I’d have second thoughts about letting it dominate character color, story or plot.

            Happy writing!

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