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Author has written 4 stories for DC Superheroes, Hellsing, Harry Potter, and Danny Phantom.
MartianGeneral here! Welcome to my page.
How's it going?
…Pretty boring here huh...
Well you could read my stories instead. I put a lot more effort into those than I did this page. Seriously.
My Reference to the Hogwarts Floor Plan
Personal Conclusions: How Many Talents or Skills Can a Character Have?
My Attitude Towards Skills and Hobbies in Fiction
I come across this issue a lot in fan fiction, both when I am reading, or when I am making my own characters. Just how many skills can a character have before it's considered unrealistic. How many things can he or she be interested be in before the reader can't suspend their disbelief any longer. Oddly enough the threshold might be higher than most people think.
I'll use myself as an example to explain. I loved to draw and doodle during my school years, and I got pretty good at it too. One of the pieces I made in art class was even picked for a high school art show, for club that I wasn't even part of (I still have no clue how that happened). I also have a pool in my back yard that I constantly swim in to the point where I can actually keep up with one friend who was on the swim team in high school. I also wrote poetry that made it into the newspaper once in fifth grade. I used to do gymnastics and I could walk on my FREAKING HANDS! I even used to be in my middle school choir and got a callback for a solo from a teacher who played favorites and HATED me! I'm also an avid video gamer and have been for fifteen years. Yes that is a skill. I also write stories, obviously.
So, while I can't walk on my hands anymore and my voice is now tragically out of tune and practice, I'm still a woman of many talents and hobbies. In fact I'm a very lazy person and I still managed to develop seven skills -eight if you count my insane reading addiction in high school-. A more ambitious and social person (I was a super recluse) might have probably racked up twice the amount of skills I did.
The true problem I see most often when reading about an Original Character is NOT the amount of skills/interests he or she has; it is the level of skill or proficiency he or she does it with and the total lack of time it took them to reach that level of skill. Did you notice something when I listed my own skills? Something strangely... ordinary about me. My art didn't win any awards, I didn't get the solo and I could never BEAT my swim team friend. I'm also not number one on any online leaderboards. I was good but there was always someone better than me, and that's not a bad thing! Your character doesn't have to be the world's greatest fighter or hacker or wizard or whatever it is they're supposed to be good at. Would it really be so terrible for your character to settle for being great instead of the best in the biz? At least work up to that and don't start your characters out at the top. Which brings me to my next point.
Skills and even talents take time and practice to hone and master. No one is naturally going to sculpt the a replica of the Venus de Milo the first time they try and sculpt. That takes practice and a lot of it. The more talented a character is, the more important it is to show them working for that skill. Readers don't roll their eyes because your OC, Angelica, is a world class gymnast, They're rolling they're eyes because it's halfway through the story and Angelica's never shown any interest or skill in the sport until now. Angelica has not put in the work. There's a saying that it takes ten thousand hours to master anything completely and while I've never tested it, I think it's a pretty good principle. Skill and prowess shouldn't be pulled out of a hat.
It should also be noted that if you're going to be specializing in one skill, then it wouldn't be so unrealistic for a character to pick up more skills related to and/or supporting the first skill or interest. Writers shouldn't be afraid to have characters pick up or learn more skills as a story progresses. We constantly pick up new skills in life and so should characters imitating real life (you know what I mean). For the sake of character development the opposite also needs to happen. As a character spends less time on a hobby, they'll become rusty and skill level will drop. Sometimes a character may lose interest or outgrow the hobby completely. Do you remember how to play the pokemon card game? I don't either, but I used to be awesome at it. While a character may not need to forget a skill completely, the same principle applies here.
I wrote this because I read a lot of fan fiction and a lot of that fan fiction contains an original character in some shape or form. A lot of reviews for those characters criticized them for this kind of stuff. This covers most of what I want to say about the subject for now. If someone wants to share their opinion about what I wrote and share their own view point, feel free to PM me.