60 Things For Your Characters To Do When They Talk Or Think

One of the things that drives experienced writers and directors and actors and producers crazy is being given scenes that are all about what the characters in them are saying (or thinking) and not about what they’re doing.

Sitting and talking. Standing and talking. Eating and talking. Driving and talking. These are just about the dullest possible things that could be happening in a story, be it on the big screen, the small screen, the even smaller screen, or even in a book.

Fortunately, one of our favorite blogs, South Africa’s Writers Write, has a few suggestions for how to give your characters something to do that will make what they’re saying seem more interesting. Wait, did we say “a few?” Try 60. God, don’t you love it when writers writing about writing write so thoroughly?


by Kathy B

One of the easiest ways to show and not tell is by making your characters do things while they are talking or thinking about something. It could be anything including a chore, a daily grooming ritual, a hobby, or a group activity.

When you do this, you show who the character is by the things they choose to do or have to do. You also have to think about their body language, because the way a character does something says as much as the words they are speaking as they do it. [Read Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language}

Try to avoid the act of scrolling through cell phones. Even if many people do this, it is passive and does not allow for movement, thought, and changes in body language.

Choose activities that fit naturally into your characters’ lifestyles. Do not force them to do things unless you mean to make them uncomfortable.
If you are stuck for ideas about what your characters can do when they are thinking about something important or while they are having a conversation, I’ve put together a list of suggestions:
  1. Colouring in a book
  2. Shopping for groceries
  3. Working on a car or a motorbike
  4. Trying on clothes – at home or in a shop
  5. Taking a dog for a walk
  6. Playing a board game
  7. Playing a game of cards
  8. Giving a dog a bath
  9. Cuddling a cat
  10. Feeding pets
  11. Walking through a museum or art gallery
  12. Knitting, sewing, needlework
  13. Having a bath….

Read it all at Writers Write