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: General Contractor
Overview: A general contractor is the person in charge of a construction project. Whether the project is residential, commercial, highway-related, or anything else, the GC oversees it from start to finish. This means that their job begins well before the first hammer falls. The GC is responsible for putting together proposals..
Necessary Training: No formal education is required for a person to set themselves up as a general contractor. But companies looking to hire GC’s often want…
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Basic first aid, carpentry, haggling, knowledge of explosives, mechanically inclined, multitasking,…
POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, ambitious, analytical, cooperative,courteous, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, efficient, honest, honorable, industrious…
NEGATIVE: Controlling, humorless, know-it-all, obsessive, perfectionist, pushy
Sources of Friction: Losing a bid on a promising project, prices that fluctuate during a project and drive up costs, falling behind deadline, receiving a shipment of incorrect or broken materials, someone being injured on the job, employees not showing up for work, not being able to find suitable workers for a job, unreasonable labor laws that make scheduling difficult…
People They Might Interact With: general construction workers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, stone workers, ironworkers, roofers…
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: This need may be impacted for a character who wants to excel and grow but finds himself unable to land the right jobs or move upward. A similar situation can arise if…
- Esteem and Recognition: A general contractor who chafes under the small-mindedness of those who look down on blue-collar workers may find his esteem negatively affected.
- Safety and Security: Every construction site has an enhanced possibility of danger. As such…
Common Work-Related Settings: Backyard, big city street, bridge, condemned apartment building, construction site, garage, hardware store, parking lot, salvage yard, tool shed, trade show, workshop
Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:
- Obviously, women are hard to find in this career field; when you see them at a construction site at all, they’re typically doing general labor. Consider giving your female character the boss job—and the construction skills to go along with it
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.
Jay Calhoun says
Excellent assessment. I’ve been in it for the last forty years and you didn’t miss much. All I would add is the likelihood of having to work with some extraordinarily rough and vulgar characters….some of whom are extremely likeable, honest, talented and funny, despite the crudeness. Then there’s the interaction with the architects, some of whom seem to view the constructors and contractors as various species of insects. How about taking over a job where some previous contractor has failed-horribly. Failed in communication, failed in understanding the clients’ wishes, failed in schedule and performance…this client will keep you under the microscope until the last day of the job….it never gets dull!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
These are great additions. My son works in the trades and you are right–personality conflicts and work ethic can cause a lot of problems. But it also causes people to problem solve because even if you can’t stand the people you work with or don’t respect their work, the job still has to get done. Thanks so much for adding these ideas, Jay!
BECCA PUGLISI says
Thanks for this insight, Jay. My dad was an electrical engineer who oversaw lineman crews for the power company, and he also talks about this dissonance in “hierarchy.” It’s totally there and would definitely be a cause for friction.
Traci Kenworth says
I love these occupation entries! They are so helpful when figuring characters out. I can’t wait for your Mystery Thesaurus! Thanks, Becca and Angela!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Thanks Traci! We are glad these are helpful. Hopefully it saves everyone a lot of research!
BECCA PUGLISI says
Have a great week, Traci!