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November 07, 2016

Your Character's Occupation / Character ER + A Sale for a Fellow Author

Some stories revolve around the MC's job, such as a detective/cop. But sometimes you can get so sucked into your book’s plot that you forget all about your character’s job or even forgot to employ him/her entirely. Perhaps your character is unemployed. If that’s the case, make sure he/she is on the job hunt. Finding a new job can actually be a minor plot in your story. Maybe your MC stumbles across love while job hunting or at his/her new job.

If your character does have a job, do more than just mention it. Every day billions of people drag themselves out of bed to work. And they do it while dealing with all the dramas of life. Your characters can do the same.

Have your character go to work, interact with a co-worker or two, and deal with a work-related matter. You don’t have to write so much that it’s boring, but you can write enough to show your character as a professional. Nor will you have to write about him/her working every single day. Simply starting a scene with a transition to indicate a character worked will be enough.

Example: By the end of the day, Bob wanted to kick off his work boots, grab a beer, and watch the Sports Channel.

NOTE: I’m far from sexist. I believe men and women can both do jobs on the lists below. A heroine can be tough brass and have a job as a mechanic or bartender, and a man can be a model or baker. For some characters, you might want a career that’s more on the manly side or more on the feminine side. Many of these careers can work for both sexes and all sexual orientations.

"Masculine" Jobs:

- Construction Worker
- Mechanic
- Bartender
- Landscaper
- Architect
- Car Salesman
- Rancher
- Fisherman
- Crop Farmer
- Welder

"Feminine" Jobs:

- Nanny
- Fashion Shopper
- Nail Technician
- Model
- Makeup Salesperson
- Hostess
- Librarian
- Baker
- Flight Attendant
Pre-School Teacher

10 Best Careers Based on Earnings
(Researched, no particular order):

- Psychiatrist
- Software/Web Developer
- Physical Therapist
- Accountant
- Lawyer
- Veterinarian
- Social Worker
- Pharmacist
- Financial Manager
- Anesthesiologist

10 Most Common Jobs
(researched, no particular order):

- Truck Driver
- Secretary/Assistant
- Salesperson
- Nurse/Nurses Aid
- Cook/Grill Cook
- Office Clerk
- Cashier
- Customer Service Representative
- Waiter/Waitress
- Janitor/Housekeeper

Now send your character off to work, even for just a page.

QUESTIONS: What do your characters do for work? What have you done for work? What is your current job?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We have a Secretary's Day - guess we need a Truck Driver Day.
Most people spend forty hours a week at a job, so one should factor in!

Pat Hatt said...

So many jobs one can give them. Latest was a reality tv star and a lawn mower lol Don't think I've used jobs much otherwise, besides cops and such.

Lidy said...

The MC from my romance, Sharon, is a dream therapist, a psychiatrist who focuses on dream interpretation. 'Dreams carry much more weight and meaning than our conscious thoughts while awake. 80% of your dreams contain secret messages.'
Her BFF Kim is a restaurant manager and would like to own her own club one day.
The male MC in the story is an architect and his BFF Terrell is an accountant.
In the WIP I'm working on for NaNoWriMo the occupation of most of my characters are swordsman/swordswoman/warrior. But another female character is a seer while another male character is both a warrior and a trader.

Chrys Fey said...

Truck Driver Day would be good. We take our truck drivers for granted, I think. My dad was a truck driver for a short time.

Chrys Fey said...

A lawnmower is one I've never considered, which is odd considering how many people higher someone to cut their grass.

Chrys Fey said...

A dream therapist sounds like ages and fascinating job. Whenever I have a strange dream, I look up the meanings in a couple of books I own. I'd be cool to talk to someone about them.

Such interesteding jobs your characters have, Lidy.

Tena Stetler said...


Thanks for adding my sale on A Witch's Journey! I appreciate it!

Unknown said...

I always try to incorporate work somehow, because it's a big part of people's lives. We spend most of our time working or sleeping. :)

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome, Tena!

Chrys Fey said...

Good point. At least we don't write about our characters sleeping for hours and hours. ;)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

My characters have had many different jobs and careers. Not a one was primarily female or male oriented.

Birgit said...

Work is a huge thing is everyone's life even if they are not working. I have had clients who wish they could work and others who have been successful avoiding it. I would almost want to write about the people who do not work because of their health or they have a good system going on. I am a Credit Counsellor so I see all kinds. In Canada, it has become crazy, in my opinion, for people who are not working and can but choose not to. I had a client last week who has 3 kids, each from a different dad (none pay support which is typical) and she received $2,000 from Baby Bonus each month and $949 per month from Social assistance. She gets free Daycare and her rent is assisted by Assistance. This is a crime! She has no real incentive to work. I then had a couple with 2 children who make $600 more but both are working. They get no help from Daycare because they make too much money! Ooops, I am venting again...:) Oh, I also grew up on a Sawmill so that would be cool to read about

Carrie-Anne said...

My characters have a wide variety of jobs, such as farmer, factory-worker, banker, astrologer, clergy, doctor, professor, teacher, psychiatrist, military, sales, and retail. I'm still hoping to find work that pays better than being a full-time writer, or I'll have to move out of state. I'm now considering finally taking my favorite aunt up on her repeated invitation to move to Florida, since at least that state, and her area, has a much better job market than Upstate NY.

Chrys Fey said...

That's great! As I said in the post, the lists aren't meant to be primarily female or male oriented. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I can't work, nor have I been able to, because of my health. Which is why it's fun to write about different jobs. :)

Carrie-Anne said...

Also, regarding job-searching, if the story is historical, the help wanted ads were separated by sex until about 1968 in most newspapers. I was so shocked when I discovered there used to be sections for "Help Wanted—Male" and "Help Wanted—Female," even knowing about institutionalized sexism in other areas.

Chrys Fey said...

Astrologer would be a neat job. I live in Florida, and it's still tough to find a job here, but maybe it is a little easier than Upstate New York.

Chrys Fey said...

That's an interesting historical tidbit. Definitely if you're writing historical fiction, the times were different. Men did certain jobs. And women did a few certain jobs. Women especially weren't allowed to hold jobs that men held.

cleemckenzie said...

You're right about showing the character interacting with co-workers and the boss, if there is one. This is a great way to characterize. People act and talk differently in work situations than they do in private, personal ones.

diedre Knight said...

I've had a Geologist, a construction Superintendent, Pet Food Tester, Chicken Sexer (not what you might think), two Ranchers, a Herpetologist (Chrys, don't ask) a Bingo Manager and a Teddy Bear Repair Technician. Good thing they're all in separate stories, huh?
Good luck with your book, Tena! It sounds intriguing:-)

Chrys Fey said...

That is THE best list of jobs ever.

Chrys Fey said...

I know I talk differently to different people, so that's a good point.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

My characters generally have careers I understand because I've spent 10 years off and on research. LOL. My brother's a PI, so PI pops up a lot in my stories. My other brother was a cop. I was a EMT, my mother a singer. My dad... and so and so forth. Great reminder, Chrys. Thanks.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I did a summer temp job with filing. Been a writer otherwise. Always a writer. *Eyes go Large* You made a very good point about making characters look gainfully employed. Unless stated money doesn't fall out of trees in all fiction. Or magic. Noted.

Liz A. said...

For the story I just shelved, the MC started off as a shipping clerk, but she lost her job (in the best way possible). Now I'm debating whether to work on the story where the MC was also a clerk but loses her job (in the worst way possible) or the one where the MC is a waitress and loses her job (is fired). The job transitions are all plot points.

Anonymous said...

I usually put my characters in restaurant since I know that job very well. LOL

Chrys Fey said...

It must be nice having a PI and cop in the family to pester with questions. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad to give you this reminder. Sometimes, we just don't think of it, but we should. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Your characters are all losing their jobs! LOL It's good that the job transitions are part of the plot. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Writing what you know is a fabulous option.

Nicola said...

Great post, Chrys. So interesting. I'd disagree with many of those 10 best careers! YAWN!!! Maybe they bring in the best earnings - I don't know but I'm so glad I'm none of those. The list should definitely include, teaching and writing - so rewarding. Have a great week, Chrys.

emaginette said...

They work. They play. They learn.

Sure there are jobs to pay the bills, but there are going out to sporting events, parties, and sometimes going to night school or traffic school--if they have driving issues. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Chrys Fey said...

Best careers pay-wise, yes.

Have a great week, Nicola!

Chrys Fey said...

Having your characters go out period is good, since most of us go out. Well, except me. :P

Jeffrey Scott said...

I have it easy, my characters are students. But wait, that does not let me off the hook so easy. Being high school students, they are concerned about what they will do in the future. As such, I have hinted at a few jobs they are interested. In fact one entire chapter I have the characters interacting at a college / career fair. Each looked into prospective jobs. So yes, I agree with you: it is important to have a character have a job. Even if it's never talked abut in the story, it may come up again and it certainly adds more depth to your character as you write them.

Chrys Fey said...

You're far from off the hook. lol Many students have their first jobs in high school. And thinking about college is something they do a lot.

Nick Wilford said...

Great advice! It is easy to overlook it, but I think a job should reflect something about the character. In my book, the main characters are self-appointed leaders of their country after overthrowing the government. It gets a bit overwhelming for them and things certainly don't go smoothly, but they develop a lot through the experience.

Janie Junebug said...

I've noticed that more women are tending bar these days. I knew a young woman who was a bartender. She was required to wear high heels. She didn't stick with that job very long. Her feet hurt.


Chrys Fey said...

I think it's awesome to see a female bartender. I can see where the boss would want her to wear high heels (sex appeal), and I think it's dumb. I couldn't do that. Ouch!

Chrys Fey said...

Your characters' jobs certainly create the plot for your book. :)

Lisa Thomson said...

Great suggestions, Chrys. In many novels, the character's profession plays a major role in the plot so I'd be surprised to read a novel where an m.c. has no work. Of course, Jane Austen novels often have characters that don't work at all and their whole life is 'social' which was the way of the times. Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive list! It's interesting to know the most common or popular jobs.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I was reading through a rough draft recently and realized that there were very few scenes of my MC at work; the lack of work scenes in some books and TV shows always bothered me, seeing as how we all spend so much of our lives at work. So at least now I know what I need to go back and revise. :)

Romance Book Haven said...

Yes, lack of job does pull us out of the story. I'm reading Obsession by Nora Roberts and the heroine is a photographer. The details of her job makes the whole thing come alive on the page.

Chrys Fey said...

I've read some books where there's no profession, or if there is, it's just merely mentioned and not shown in a detailed way.

I found the lists interested, too. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Exactly. Our characters need to work. I'm glad this post helped you to realize what you need to revise. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Nora Roberts is great at introducing the character's job and putting her characters to work during the story. I've always enjoyed reading about her characters' jobs.

Birgit said...

I am so sorry to hear this because it's so hard when the mind wants to but the body says no. Please believe me, I also see many clients who are on a strict budget because of the monthly amount they receive which is often not enough.

Juneta key said...

Great post for information. Love the cover and name of Tena's book. Best of luck, grabbed a copy, sounds like my kind of story.

Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Chrys Fey said...

Awesome! Tena will appreciate that. :)

Chrys Fey said...

It is tough, for sure. What I get is far below what I need.