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. 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: Funeral Director
Overview: Funeral directors oversee end-of-life preparations (either to pre-plan a funeral, or after death) and will have a variety of responsibilities including body pick-up, preparing legal documentation, working with surviving family members to arrange for funeral services (the burial and cremations arrangements, casket and flower arrangement options, music and slideshow options, attending to the obituary and creating pamphlets for the service, transportation, etc.). A director also coordinates with a church and minister (if used), volunteers, caterers, florists, and any other agencies required. They also…
Necessary Training: Required education may vary depending on the state or location one practices in, so if this factors into your story in a real-world locale, do some research for that area. In general though, most directors will have an associate degree in mortuary science, if not a batchlor’s degree. A funeral director also needs..
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Basic first aid, blending in, empathy, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills…
Helpful Character Traits: calm, centered, courteous, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, efficient, empathetic, focused, honorable, hospitable…
Sources of Friction: a difficult body collection (the body of a child, a loved-one, or someone who died in a very horrible manner, a person who is the same age or is similar on some way to the director), conflict between relatives over funeral arrangements, a break in the chain-of-custody, making preparations for those who have no one to make their arrangements…
People They Might Interact With: grieving family members, church management, volunteers, pastors and ministers, florists, caterers, community hall organizers and staff, representatives from the military (the the deceased was in service) or a..
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: If a character is in this profession because it is a family business, they may feel it is an obligation career that holds them back from things they might find fulfilling (pursuing higher education, following a passion…)
- Love and Belonging: A character in this industry may struggle to find and maintain loving relationships due to the demands of the job and …
- Safety and Security: A character could fine themselves caught up in a dangerous situation if they are working on a high-profile client (a criminal, a mobster, or a person of interest in a federal investigation).
Common Work-Related Settings: car accident, cheap motel, church, community center, construction site, courtroom, flower shop, funeral home, hospital (interior), hospital room, house fire, morgue, nursing home, parking garage, parking lot, police station, underpass, waiting room, wake
Twisting the Stereotype: Morticians are often portrayed by men, so why not assign this profession to a woman?
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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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Haha I just went to suggest this and it’s already here! Whoops! Great info! I’ve got an undertaker character and I love her to death but I have a hard time writing jobs that I don’t know anything about. Thank you for this! I can’t wait to use it with her
Carol Baldwin says
Really appreciated this post since a mortician plays an important role in WIP. Local and historical information needs to be sought out too–practices vary from state to state. I recently met a woman whose mother was a mortician and she was convinced that every family would live in an apartment above the funeral home. She was surprised to find out that wasn’t the case for my character’s family in the 50’s in Charlotte, NC. Details count! I also liked what you included about character traits and flipping some of the stereotypes.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Yes, often if the Funeral Director owns the business, they live onsite, and it totally makes sense considering the hours. I don’t imagine it is an easy career, but in all the articles I read from directors, there is some incredible beauty and honesty in death too. It opened my eyes to the process of grief and how it can bring about a huge gift to those remaining: clarity about what is important.
Thanks for posting this one. I’m interested in having a heroine as a funeral director. I know a female funeral director (lots of deaths in the family) and gotten to know her. She’s filled me in on quite a few details and is someone I’d love to base a character on because she did this while juggling a family.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I think it is an interesting occupation, especially for a female. There’s a book by Dan Wells called I Am Not a Serial Killer where the Mom & Aunt of the protag are funeral directors if you want some further research to look into. 😉
Cynthia A Litchko says
Okay, I’m hooked but where can I buy the Occupation Thesaurus? I couldn’t find any links on this site and it wasn’t on Amazon.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
This is a thesaurus we are still developing, so not a book yet. 🙂 You can find all the entries here, though: https://writershelpingwriters.net/thesaurus-collections/
Deb Salisbury says
In the small town where I grew up, the undertaker family played a family of clowns at every holiday parade. Wonderful people!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
They say that a strong sense of humor is necessary for any occupations that bring you close to death – first responders, funeral directors, coroners, etc.