The eight Writers in Residence are devoted to sharing their experiences in everything from reviews and scriptwriting to short stories and novels. We encourage and educate, let you learn from our mistakes, and offer the insights of other writing professionals.
Writing may be your obsession, but you might also have a hobby or passion that sometimes helps you over those dry times when a story isn’t quite gelling and you need to leave the keyboard.
Some “crafty” writers use their hobbies, like quilting, cooking, or bookbinding, as a launching pad for their writing. I set up a mystery panel once called “Murder on the Menu” which featured authors who write stories around cooking. Joan Del Monte (Death Has a Yellow Thumb) mentioned that for some reason, mystery writers eat a lot in their books, so writing about food is a natural. Check it out.
Dick Francis gave his heroes a hobby or profession that always played a part in the story. And frankly, it’s fun for readers to learn something new about a topic they know little about. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae.
So if you have a hobby or an interesting job, why not incorporate it into your story? You are probably an expert on the subject, and you sure know the terminology, so why not share that knowledge with the reader?
Years ago I worked for a miniature shop. We sold dollhouses, tiny furniture, and precious little knick-knacks. I made many of the things for the store. We also had a Christmas shop in the back with hundreds of ornaments, Santas, and holiday decorations. I became obsessed. I have over 3500 Santas.
As a writer, I thought of a story that would include a Santa Castle, a talking Polar bear, and of course, Santa Claus. I designed a castle on paper and eventually wrote the story. Years later, I built the castle, furnished the rooms and crafted the Polar bear and even Santa. The story hasn’t been published as yet, but the creative work is done.
I was on a jury many years ago. It wasn’t a terribly exciting case, but my imagination came up with a much better story about a former private detective who ended up on a killer jury. I used to be a P.I. myself, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to write about my heroine’s background. The book is published, Media Justice. You can even get it on Kindle.
Your hobbies and life experiences can find great places to grow in your books. At least they are a starting point for ideas. After going with my husband to the horseraces at Santa Anita Racetrack, I wrote my second Gin Caulfield novel. And remember, if you have a hobby, an interesting job, or have been to a cool place, you have firsthand knowledge. That ring of truth will add to the reality of your story and you have already done the research.