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: Human Test Subject
Overview: A human test subject is someone who agrees to be part of an experiment that either involves a clinical trial (taking drugs, vaccines, supplements, or having a medical device used) to see what the effects are, or they offer biological contributions (blood, saliva, sperm, urine, skin cells, dandruff, or whatever is being tested) or have dermatological studies of their conditions. The test subject may part of a social science experiment to analyze behavior. In these studies they may be asked..
A character wishing to be a test subject would have to provide consent to be part of the study. They exchange money for their participation, and are highly regulated to prevent unethical experimentation. There are risks to this job..
No training necessary, but one must fit the perimeters of the study. If the group is not random selection, the character might need to be within a specific high and weight range, be in good overall health…
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: charm, exceptional memory, good listening skills, high pain tolerance, multitasking, reading people
Helpful Character Traits: ADAPTABLE, ADVENTUROUS, CALM, COOPERATIVE, CURIOUS, DISCIPLINED, EASYGOING, FOCUSED, HONEST…
Sources of Friction: Being asked to do things within the trial that are uncomfortable, painful, or embarrassing, growing bored at repetitive tasks or long hours put in at the lab performing tasks and answering questions, being in a test group with people one doesn’t like or get along with, experiencing symptoms that may…
People They Might Interact With: other test subjects, researchers, administrative staff, psychologists, doctors, dieticians, medical students
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Safety and Security: some tests (especially clinical trials) could have lasting negative effects that may not show up for years or even decades and the character would have no recourse.
- Love and Belonging: Family members and close friends would likely not understand nor support the character’s choice to be a test subject, creating a lot of…
- Esteem and Recognition: A character who chooses to go down this road may not have sufficient regard for their own health, indicating some self-esteem issues. Or, if the character is only thinking of the quick money and not the full possible repercussions…
- Self-Actualization: If there is a lasting side effect as a result of the testing that disrupts a skill or ability, it may keep them from achieving…
Common Work-Related Settings: a laboratory, a bathroom, medical areas for drawing blood, change rooms, study rooms, waiting rooms
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.
Some of your scenes may take place at work, involve co-workers, or even highlight relationship friction between their work and personal life. To convey this accurately, you need to understand key details about what their job entails. Don’t worry, we’ve done the research for you!
Characterize. Add realism. Push the plot forward as the character’s career influences the story.