Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Below is a sample version of this entry to help you see how an occupation can reveal your character’s beliefs, history, goals, and more.
To view the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers where it resides within the largest fiction-based descriptive database ever created. (Free Trial available.)
Overview: An interpreter is someone who orally or through sign language translates one person’s words into a different language. This is different from a translator who does essentially the same thing but with words in a written format, such as in books or documents. Interpreters work most often in hospitals, schools, and courtrooms, but they also can work at conferences, in political arenas…
Necessary Training: Most interpreters need a bachelor’s degree and all of them must be proficient in at least two languages. While further language training isn’t required, the more experience one has with a given language, the better; so having spent time immersed…
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a knack for languages, charm, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, good listening skills…
Helpful Character Traits: charming, confident, cooperative, courteous, decisive, diplomatic, focused, friendly, honest, honorable, just, objective…
Sources of Friction: Impatient clients who expect immediate and perfect translations, showing up for a job and being asked to interpret a language one isn’t as comfortable with, not knowing the context of the conversation being spoken and being unable to interpret it accurately, a sickness that makes it difficult to focus, noisy environmental distractions that make it difficult to hear, hearing something that gives birth to a moral conflict (hearing something that would be in one’s best interest or …
People They Might Interact With: other interpreters, administrators within the firm where one works, people specific to each job’s…
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Love and Belonging: Someone in this field would likely have a love for the language(s) of their preference, and if a spouse or significant other showed no interest in learning that language or exploring the culture, it could cause friction. Problems may also arise …
- Esteem and Recognition: This need could take a hit if the character’s level of skill in a certain language is surpassed by a co-worker’s…
- Self-Actualization: As with any career, self-actualization becomes compromised if the job is no longer fulfilling to the character. Ask yourself: why did they…
Common Work-Related Settings: courtroom, hospital room, principal’s office, boardroom, juvenile detention center, police station, black-tie event, limousine, airplane, office cubicle, government buildings and offices, embassies, hostage situations
Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.
How will your character’s occupation help reveal their innermost layers?
Much of your character’s life will revolve around their work, and whether they love it or hate it, their job is a great way to show, not tell, their personality traits, skills, work ethic, worldview and beliefs, and more, so we should choose it with care.
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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Kassandra Lamb says
My husband is a linguist/translator and you nailed this one! The toughest type of interpretation is simultaneous (what is done at the United Nations, for example). The interpreter has to think in two languages at once, and remember what was just said while listening to what is currently being said and while interpreting what was just said. Person needs to pretty much be bilingual from childhood.
Can’t wait for this thesaurus to come out!!
BECCA PUGLISI says
Oh good! I’m glad I wasn’t way off base, lol