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.)
Occupation: Emergency Dispatcher
Overview: When someone calls 911 during an emergency situation, the first point of contact is the dispatcher. This person takes calls, gathers vital information, offers medical advice when necessary (such as how to perform CPR), passes the information along to the correct agencies (police, ambulances, fire department, etc.), and records the information…
Necessary Training: Most dispatch positions require a high school diploma or GED. Required instruction includes on-the-job training as well as…
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a knack for languages, basic first aid, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others…
Helpful Character Traits: analytical, calm, centered, cooperative, courteous, decisive, discreet, efficient, empathetic, focused, kind, objective…
Sources of Friction: becoming emotional about a case while one is trying to work it, taking out workplace stress on people at home, technical difficulties or machinery malfunctions, hysterical callers who can’t be reasoned with, making a mistake that results in someone’s death or injury, freezing up at a critical moment (not knowing what to say, drawing a blank when needing to give advice, etc.), taking a call as a new dispatcher that one isn’t qualified or trained to handle, receiving a call from…
People They Might Interact With: people in crisis, other dispatchers, supervisors
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Safety and Security: The situations a dispatcher encounters can become traumatizing over time. After prolonged exposure to crime, victimization, and violence, dispatchers may worry about…
- Love and Belonging: An emergency dispatcher has to be able to walk a fine line of being empathetic enough to help callers while not internalizing and dwelling on the situations they deal with. In some cases…
- Esteem and Recognition: The stakes don’t get higher than they do in this occupation. One mistake or memory lapse, or not knowing what to do in a given situation, can cost someone their life. If something does go south, it can cause a dispatcher to question…
Common Work-Related Settings: ambulance, car accident, emergency room, fire station, hospital room, house fire, police car, police station, prison cell
Twisting the Stereotype: There tend to be more female dispatchers, so consider this occupation for your male characters.
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.