5 Ways a Character’s Job Affects Your Story

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Character’s Job Affects Your Novel

When you think about a character’s profession or job, what are you looking for?

TaxidermistStand out. Usually, you want something that will stand out. Maybe taxidermist, taxi driver, armored car driver. The ch

Implications of the Job. Think carefully about the implications of the job. This might be considering the tools they use, the hours they work, the type of people they will work with and will serve. All these things are grist for the mill of your story. You’ll have to SHOW-Don’t-Tell the character at work, so you’ll need all these details. How will it work into the story? For example, a butcher deals with knives and housewives; are either of those important in your story?

Roles and Hobbies. Even children/students need an interesting job or role in life. This can come from their passion for studies, their family situation, or their hobbies. Maybe your character is just ten years old, but is already on the way to being a champion at tying fishing flies. Or, maybe they like photographing birds and can identify anything that flies by at a glance.

Plot. Think about when and where your stories events could happen because of this particular job. The list will be short: will those places/events work for your story?

Theme. Finally, think about the theme of your story, what is the underlying moral pinnings of your story? Are you telling a story of healing? Then look for medical jobs. Are you telling a story of revenge? Jobs that require some heavy physical activity would lead to a story of violence.

Of course, in all these things, you can go for the total opposite: a story of healing takes place in a jail (Character’s job: inmate). A story of violence happens in a nunnery.

Think carefully about the jobs/roles you assign to each character because it has implications for the whole story.

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4 Comments
  • Catherine Denton
    February 17, 2011

    You always challenge me! :D

  • Darcy Pattison
    February 18, 2011

    Thanks, Catherine. My readers always inspire me!
    Darcy

  • Sue Quint
    February 19, 2011

    It’s lovely to find your post, since I devote some of my own blog posts to trying to stimulate authors to stretch beyond the usual vanilla occupations for their characters. There’s so much variety out there that it’s a shame not to dip into it.

    You’ve helped validate me (and everyone needs some of that.)

  • Jared Gullage
    February 20, 2011

    I agree with you, except that the job can be an incredible source of irony. For instance, a butcher with a heart of gold; a dentist with a gentle hand or shaking hand; etc. But over all, I think you are right on. The search for a better job can always be a source of conflict and motivation for the character to change.