Imagine you’re at a party. People are drinking, laughing, and chatting all around. You walk over to the punch table and serve yourself, when someone approaches you.
“Hi. I’m Derek. How are you?” The tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed man facing you is grinning.
“I’m Amy. Nice to meet you.” Now that the preliminaries are over with, what else can be said?
The hunk touches your arm. “So, Amy, what do you do?”
Isn’t that always the way it is? Well, maybe not EXACTLY like that, but as people we tend to judge a person by their career. Wouldn’t it then stand to reason that as readers we do the same?
Have you put much thought into what your characters do for a living? Does their job have much to do with who they are? Is their career important to the story? These are some questions you should think about before you write because you need to understand who your characters are and what made them chose their line of work. Maybe they followed their parents’ path. Maybe they allowed their parents to choose their career for them, in which case they might hold a lot of resentment deep down. Or maybe they picked this particular career because it’s their passion. Whatever the case may be, you need to understand the whole situation. It’s not enough to know Shar’s a home stager. I had to figure out what compelled her to become self-employed. Why wasn’t she happy as a realtor? Not only that, but I needed to do a little research so I could understand what exactly a home stager does. To put it simply, they help sellers stage their home in the best way possible to attract the most buyers and the highest bids.
While doing my research, I came across a very useful resource. Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann wrote “Careers for your Characters: A Writer’s Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper”. The book includes professional jargon and buzz words, educational requirements, salaries, benefits, perks, expenses, a daily schedule, and the difference between the public’s perception of the job and the actual job itself. This book is a great tool if your character’s career doesn’t jump out at you.
How do you choose a career for your main character? Have you worked in that environment and therefore are an expert in the field? If not, how do you ensure your character comes across as authentic?