At first hobbies/preferences and habits/routines are minor details. They offer very little insight about the character, but over time those details can build on each other to create a more well-rounded character. Habits and preferences help to reveal different sides of a character, and build character relationships, as well as enrich scenes with minor self-contained subplots.
7. Hobbies & Preferences
When people first meet they look for common ground, either in life experiences, knowledge, or personal interests. A shared hobby or interest is a quick and easy way to bring two characters together, and a strong foundation for a scene. A casual activity, such as a game, can help build relationships between characters, as well as establish tone or foreshadowing.
In Harry Potter, when Harry and Ron first meet, they barely know each other, but their shared interest in collectible cards helps kick start their friendship. The two characters also share an interest in chess, playing numerous games throughout the story. This helps set the stage for a challenge the two face near the end of the story.
A character’s personal interests rarely say a great deal about a character, but they do offer hints. A character who likes chess may enjoy it for many reasons, but when combined with other character details they can become a puzzle that audiences try to solve, creating engagement.
8. Habits & Routines
Humans are creatures of habit. We fall into patterns, either by choice or by chance. They help create a sense of life before and beyond the scope of the story. They provide additional threads for audiences to follow.
First the audience learns that a character regularly attends church. That suggests the character is fairly organized and disciplined. Next it’s revealed that the character attends church as a form of atonement. Then audiences learn the character is atoning for living with a woman out of wedlock. Nothing happened between them, but the character still feels the need to atone.
At first there’s a broad range of possibilities, but over time that range gradually narrows, giving audiences the opportunity to imagine what the answers are before learning the truth. This creates a strong sense of progression.
Character’s Past 103-05