Jobs really matter. Often the first question when you meet someone is: “So, what do you do for living?”
Profession is not the only thing defining us. But when reading a book, the character’s job adds a fascinating extra layer to their personality.
Getting glimpses of the professional side of the hero or heroine makes them more real, and grounds them to the world. This is especially important if you write fantasy or sci-fi in a setting that’s not the Earth.
Work can be a great source of conflict when it clashes with personal values, or there is competition from the colleagues. Bitchy boss was the plight of Anne Hathaway’s assistant character in the movie The Devil Wears Prada.
Boss trouble caused friction also to detective Jack Slater (played by Arnold Scwartzenegger) in Last Action Hero. Jack got constantly yelled at by his boss for breaking the rules.
Some genres rely on the character’s occupation, like legal thrillers and detective novels that feature P.I.’s or police officers. Interesting work places also work as a back drop for the story, like in Erin Morgenstern’s fantasy novel The Night Circus. Another bonus of the work place is the work mates who make great recurring characters for a series.
One of the masters of showing the character at her work is romantic novelist Nora Roberts. I have read almost 100 of her books and I can recall only a handful of repeated occupations. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons to her immense popularity.
Cool examples of character jobs
Bounty Hunter: Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s popular heroine, is plunged into the bounty hunting world totally unprepared after losing her old job as a lingerie buyer. A fish out of water element makes the first books of the series really memorable.
Magician/Thief: In Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts Roxanne Nouvelle and her family run a traveling magic show. And as a side business they steal jewelry from the rich. The thieving part isn’t very realistic but the magic tricks revealed are fun. This is one of my favourite Roberts books.
Wedding Planner, Pastry Chef, Wedding Photographer & Florist: There’s just something magical about weddings. I bet that wedding planner or something wedding related is high on many romantic women’s list of dream jobs.
Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet series features four childhood friends running a wedding business. The four books show you a lot of weddings and how they are prepared. Now, this isn’t Nora’s strongest series but even a decent Roberts book is still certain entertainment.
Masochistic Courtesan/Spy: Jacqueline Carey’s Phedre no Delauney is Chosen of angel Kushiel and pain is pleasure to her. In her homeland Terre D’Ange the strongest maxim is: “Love As Thou Wilt”, and courtesan is a respected profession. Phedre is trained as one and uses her bedroom skills and wit to ferret out a conspiracy threatening the throne.
Surgeon/Soldier/Slave/Bridge Carrier/Magician: In Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy novel War of the Kings, Kaladon, a trained surgeon and soldier, becomes a slave and is forced to carry bridges to cover chasms so that armies can pass and fight their enemies. This is highly fatal job as the other side shoots the bridge carriers with arrows. Unwilling to give up, he starts to train and inspire his fellow slaves to better their lives.
Musician/Magician/Swordsman/Kingkiller/Innkeeper: Kvothe in Patrick Rothfuss’ Name Of The Wind is a jack of all trades. His story has two layers, the present when he is an infamous hero hiding as an innkeeper, and the past as his life’s story he’s telling to a chronicler.
In the roleplaying circles Kvothe would be called a god moder or munchkin but Rothfuss’ writing is so good that he avoids becoming a Marty Stu. There are more than enough trials and tribulations in his life to evoke sympathy.
And on to you. What do you think of books that feature the character’s job? Do you find some occupations especially fascinating?
Writing blogs are a great way to learn about the craft and marketing our work. Enjoy the posts I’ve hoarded, some older, some recent.
How Do You Know If You’re Good At Writing? by Sarah Hoyt
How To Go From Writing 2000 Words a Day To 10 000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron
What Kind Of A Story Is it? (And What’s Similar) by Alexandra Sokoloff
Developing Your Plot Idea by Elizabeth S. Craig
How To Plot a Novel In 5 Steps by Rachel Aaron
Stuck With a Story? A List Of Favourite Elements Comes To Rescue by Alexandra Sokoloff
Visual Storytelling by Alexandra Sokoloff
Making Characters Memorable: MFA Symposium Panel by Kourtney Heintz
Iron Man Disassembled: Breaking Down The Would Be Hero by Cynric Whitaker
A Hero’s Strongest Ally Is His Worst Enemy by Cynric Whitaker
The First 50 Pages: Insights From Jeff Gerke’s Workshop (by Kourtney Heintz)
4 Ways To Hook Your Readers & Keep Them Wanting More by Jody Hedlund
Motivation Reaction Units For Pacing by Lori Devoti
Put The Pope In The Pool or Adding Fun To Boring Information by Lori Devoti
When Arguments Are a Good Thing: Conflict In Dialogue by K.M. Weiland
A Steaming Pile Of Should by Cathy at Rock Your Writing
Cliche Guilt – What If I Just Like Reading This Stuff by Gerard Houarner
Prepare For Long Apprenticeship by John Yeoman
Short Stories As A Marketing Tool by Monica Valentinelli
7 Reasons To Get an Editor by Sarah Baughman
Dear Editor: Will You Marry My Manuscript? by Julie Hedlund
Top 10 Things To Do At a Writing Conference by Julie Glover
Best Writing Tools: My “How To Write” Bookshelf by Kathy Steffen
Your Author Platform
How To Find The Perfect Audience For Your Book & Sell It To Them by Nick Thacker
How to Get Guest Posts On Big Name Blogs by Ollin Morales at Writer Unboxed
We Are Not Alone: Do You Have These 3 Peeps In Your Team? (reviving a Kristen Lamb series from October 2011)
- The Connector: Social Media Butterfly Extraordinaire
- Meet the Maven: Collectors of Data & Brokers of Information
- Salesman: Every Deal Needs a Closer
Everything You Need To Know About Word Of Mouth Marketing (PDF by Andy Sernovitz)
Plan Your Word of Mouth Campaign: The 5 T’s (PDF by Andy Sernovitz)
Talker Profiles: Why Would People Talk About Your Book? (PDF by Andy Sernovitz)
Topics Brainstorming Exercise: Give Your Talkers Something To Share (PDF by Andy Sernovitz)
Monthly Marketing To Do List For Writers by Rob Eagar
Reviews Can Create a Besteller by Aggie Villa Nueva
A Writer’s Guide To Book Blogger Etiquette by Linda Poitevin
5 Ways To Get More Book Reviews by Monica Valentinelli
How To Go Offline For a While & Not Kill Your Site by Monica Valentinelli
Top 10 Blogs For Bloggers 2012 Winners at A-List Blogging Bootcamps (check them out and see what you can learn)
7 Out Of The Box Blogging Ideas by Shari Stauch at Writer Unboxed
10 Lessons Learned in 10 Months Of Blogging by Carrie Mumford
5 Ways To Improve Your New WordPress Blog by Carrie Mumford
Engaging Readers (Not Other Writers) With Your Blog by Linda Adams
13 Blog Ideas For Novelists by Michael Hyatt
Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post by Michael Hyatt
12 Things To Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post by Oli Gardner
7 Tips For Turning Your Blog Into A Book (Writer’s Digest)
6 Social Media Platforms: Which Is The Best For You? by Lisa Hall-Wilson
Develop a Social Media Conversation Topic Calendar by Debbie Williams
Triberr, Using the Power of Friends To Promote Your Blog by Lori Devoti
5 Secrets of Highly Effective Twitter Users by Minda Zetlin
2 Technology Hacks For Dealing With Twitter Spam by Linda Adams
5 Successful Twitter Campaigns (Yeah, done by big companies with big budgets but the ideas are wonderfully creative. What creative things YOU could do in Twitter?)
20 Ways To Increase Your Twitter Followers (Web SEO Analytics)
How To Promote Your Books on Goodreads by Edie Ramer
10 Tips For Optimizing Your YouTube Videos (Web SEO Analytics)
7 Do’s and Don’ts of Pinterest Marketing by Kim Garst
Blog Treasures by Gene Lempp (May 19th)
Twitterific by Elizabeth S.Craig (May 20th)
5 Time Managament Links for Writers by Linda Adams
The Beast Within: What Vampires & Werewolves Say About Human Nature by Cynric Whitaker
Leaning Into the Leap by Coleen Patrick
Real Women by T.J. Brumfield
Deep stuff behind our thoughts (how do these apply to your characters?)
Invisible Scripts: Why You Act The Way You Do In Relationships by Ashley Arn
Icarus & My Fear Of The Sun by Marcy Kennedy
Female Character Agency by Ana & Thea from The Book Smugglers review site
Don’t Fear The Unicorn (are fantasy books too soft and girly?) by N.K. Jemisin
Random Thoughts Upon a Graduation Ceremony by Sarah Hoyt (I love her voice)
20 Ways to Make a Geek Hate You by Ellie Ann Soderstrom
Behind The Scenes: The Official Game of Thrones Cookbook by Marcy Kennedy
Female Protagonist Reactions To Getting Dumped (Bella Swan vs. Hermione, Princess Leia & Zoe from Firefly etc.)
Women in SF&F: Underloved Authors by Fantasy Book Cafe (I would add Holly Lisle to this list. Her books are awesome but I had never heard of them until I read her writing advice)
Must Read Sci-fi Novels Written by Women by Shara from Calico Reaction review site
Women in SF&F: Resources (great sites helping you to find more books written by women in these genres)
We Are The Authors Lyrics (sung to the tune of Queen’s We Are The Champions) by Monica Valentinelli
Level Me Up: Gamification of Your Life & Writing by Day Al-Mohamed