Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Auto Mechanic

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.

A character's occupation can say a lot about who he is while contributing to the story's momentum. This week's entry: Auto Mechanic

Occupation: Auto Mechanic

Overview: Mechanics inspect, repair, and maintain vehicles. Some have a general knowledge of all vehicle engines and parts while others specialize in an area, choosing to focus on a certain type of vehicle (cars and trucks, big rigs, boat engines, imports) or specific parts of the engine (air conditioners or transmissions). Mechanics can own their own shop or work as part of someone else’s organization.

Necessary Training: While some shops require their mechanics to receive post-secondary education and become certified through various programs, not all of them do. Completing these programs does, however, improve one’s chances of being hired and making better money. Educational opportunities can be found at trade schools and community colleges, specialized mechanic schools, and through the military. The apprenticeship or on-the-job training model is also very common in this career field.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Hot-wiring a car, mechanically inclined

Helpful Character Traits: Alert, analytical, curious, focused, honorable, independent, industrious, meticulous, observant, resourceful, responsible, studious

Sources of Friction: Being unable to correctly identify the problem with a vehicle, missing a problem that results in an accident, inattentiveness on the job that leads to an injury, old or sub-standard machinery in the shop, irate customers, difficulty keeping up with changes in the industry, falling behind in one’s training or certification, not making enough money to support one’s family or achieve desired goals, being pigeon-holed at the shop into a certain area of work when one really wants to be doing something else, wanting to start one’s own business but being unable to do so, constantly being asked by friends to diagnose their cars’ problems for free, being accused of dishonesty by customers who buy into the stereotype that mechanics are swindlers, weather conditions (such as extreme heat or cold) making the job difficult

People They Might Interact With: Car owners, other mechanics, the shop owner, vendors, inspectors

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A character might become dissatisfied with his career if it began as a temporary endeavor or has turned into something he never intended. Perhaps he wanted to work on race cars or own his own shop, but his plans never materialized, and now he’s stuck doing something he doesn’t enjoy.
  • Esteem and Recognition: While everyone would agree that a mechanic’s job is important, there are those who view people in manual labor fields in a negative light. A character experiencing this kind of prejudice could struggle in the esteem department.
  • Love and Belonging: If the character is struggling financially, it could put a strain on their relationships.
  • Safety and Security: While industry standards require a minimum of safety requirements, a shop owner or employees who are stingy or cut corners could create an unsafe work environment where injuries are more likely to happen.

Common Work-Related Settings: Break room, car accident, garage, gas station, salvage yard, waiting room

Twisting the Stereotype: As with so many other professions, this one is predominantly male. Throw in a female mechanic (think Mona Lisa Vito from My Cousin Vinny), and you’ve got an interesting twist. The field is also a blue-collar one, so what about a mechanic from a white collar family pursuing the career? And when you think about the temperament of a mechanic, likely, the same character traits come to mind. Consider some unlikely possibilities (nurturing, romantic, flamboyant, etc.) to turn the stereotype on its ear.


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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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One Response to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Auto Mechanic

  1. :Donna says:

    You know, I always wanted to take a course in auto mechanics so I could work on my own car with the basics and know what was going on. I still wish I could, but can’t handle any of the chemical smells!

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