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: Midwives have been a pillar of women’s health for thousands of years, and while techniques and perceptions have changed, the midwife’s role remains largely the same: providing prenatal medical support, assistance during labor, and care for both the mother and infant in the postnatal period. They also provide advice on…
Necessary Training: There are different midwifery certifications that vary from country to country in regard to the necessary levels of training. Some midwives must obtain a higher level of education, such as a graduate or …
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Basic first aid, empathy, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, herbalism, hospitality, multitasking
Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, affectionate, alert, analytical, calm, confident, courteous, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, empathetic…
Sources of Friction: Prejudice from other healthcare officials or hospital administrations who harbor misperceptions about midwives and the midwifery career, unforeseen circumstances during a delivery that cause complications, failing a recertification, having to keep up with new certifications and course work, trouble at home fueled by long hours on the job, the death of a baby, being unfairly blamed for…
People They Might Interact With: pregnant women, women seeking gynecological care, the patient’s family members …
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Esteem and Recognition: Outdated perceptions and stereotypes about midwifery still exist in some places. Someone who is accused of quackery or being “less than” other industry professionals will lack the esteem…
- Love and Belonging: Midwives are typically passionate about their careers and their patients. Combine this passion with the odd hours and level of responsibility required in this profession, and some midwives could find it difficult to maintain the healthy work/life balance…
- Safety and Security: This need wouldn’t typically be impacted in the midwifery career, but for fictional purposes, certain scenarios could be created that would create a void in this area. For instance, if the patient was secretly carrying the child of a dangerous person (such as a mafia don, unstable stalker, or powerful politician), agreeing to treat her could put the midwife in danger as well.
- Physiological Needs: Again, extraordinary circumstances can be fabricated to put a midwife’s very life at risk…
Common Work-Related Settings: herbalist’s shop (speculative), hospital (interior), hospital room, living room, medieval village (speculative), nursery
Twisting the Stereotype:
- Midwives are, almost without exception, female. How about a man working in this field?
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.
Yet another great occupation entry 😀 And I already got me Emotional Wound Thesaurus TODAY! 😀 😀 😀
Robin E. Mason says
oh! so timely, Becca! my current MC is a newbie midwife, in 1913 even – and is she ever timid, and doubts her own abilities! this is a saver and keeper, and goes in my file for current WIP!!
thanks so much for a great piece!
BECCA PUGLISI says
Oh, I’m so glad! A midwife delivered my first child, and my sister-in-law is a midwife, so this one is near and dear to my heart :).
I love this! Have you ever seen the PBS show “Call the Midwife?” I was literally picturing specific episodes while reading this post. 😀
BECCA PUGLISI says
I’ve heard about it but haven’t seen it. It’s on my list!
Carol Baldwin says
Loved the picture, Becca! Interesting observation.
Jay Calhoun says
Thank you for this in-depth overview. I’m sketching a midwife who will appear much later in an historical fiction WIP. I’ve been putting off the re-search for her. So far I’ve only been thinking about her look and dialog, her home, tools, patients, etc. Thank you for highlighting her emotional person…encourages me to think up a more multi-dimensional character. I’d love it if all my characters were brightly and roundly drawn. Even those who pass in and out of the story quickly. This nudge encourages.
BECCA PUGLISI says
Dimension is a good thing in every character, imo. As you mentioned, even the unimportant, “in-passing” ones can be interesting, have depth, or surprise readers in some way.