Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Ghostwriter

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.

The Occupation Thesaurus can help you find jobs for your cast that will enhance characterization and strengthen the storyline

Occupation: Ghostwriter

Overview: A ghostwriter is someone who writes for hire, taking a flat fee for a writing project but getting none of the credit for the work. They’re hired by someone as a freelance writer to produce copy for a fee. Ghostwriters may work on staff, generating content (speeches, Tweets, letters, blog posts, video scripts, website content, etc.) for a company or employer, or they may work on their own and be hired for a specific job, such as writing a novel. They also may be part of a content marketing agency, where individual ghostwriters are paired with clients seeking a writer for a specific project.

For many jobs, the ghostwriter will be paid an up-front fee for the job at hand. In other cases, they may negotiate for a smaller advance and a percentage of royalties. In most situations, the credit for the written work goes to the person or organization who hired the writer, but sometimes this is also negotiated, with the ghostwriter being listed as a co-author, contributor, editor, or developmental editor.

Necessary Training: Ghostwriters often have a solid backlog of writing credits to their name, which means anyone seeking employment in this field needs to have a lot of writing experience—and bylines—under their belt. Nonfiction ghostwriters who focus on specific topics might have training in that industry or area of expertise, giving themselves not only the necessary background to knowledgeably write the content, but also credibility in the eyes of a potential employer.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Exceptional memory, good listening skills, writing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, cooperative, courteous, creative, curious, disciplined, discreet, enthusiastic, focused, honest, industrious, meticulous, organized, passionate, persistent, professional, responsible, studious, witty

NEGATIVE: Withdrawn, workaholic

Sources of Friction: One’s ego taking a hit due to never getting the credit for one’s work, a client who doesn’t clearly communicate his needs or the scope of the project, one’s style not being appreciated by the client, a perfectionistic or controlling client who micro-manages a project, working on projects that aren’t stimulating or fulfilling, falling behind on a deadline, family members who treat one’s job as a hobby, people who see ghostwriting as an unethical career choice, tackling a job whose content proves difficult to grasp, difficulty finding or landing new jobs, former clients who don’t help with referrals or networking, a lack of discipline that leads to a blown deadline, an illness or injury that makes the job difficult (such as a broken finger, carpal tunnel, migraines, or chronic fatigue syndrome)

People They Might Interact With: clients, an employer, members of discussion and job-posting boards, other writers

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: Many ghostwriters choose this field as a way of making money while they focus on their own books. But if they have no time or energy for their own writing, they may become dissatisfied and lack fulfillment.
  • Esteem and Recognition: For writers whose esteem and self-respect depend on them being recognized by others, ghostwriting may lead to a void in this department.

Common Work-Related Settings: Backyard, library, living room, office cubicle

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: Writers are often portrayed as reclusive introverts, immured in their own worlds. To spice up your character, give your writer some unusual character traits or hobbies. Because writers often work more than two jobs, also consider your character’s primary (or secondary) career, and add some diversity there.

(Thanks to Gaby Triana for her input on this entry!)

You can view the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Ghostwriter

  1. JOHN T. SHEA says:

    Thanks for this. I was somewhat disappointed many years ago when I discovered ‘ghostwriting’ did not actually mean what I thought. No seances or automatic writing involved…

  2. :Donna says:

    I know I could never do this job if it was beyond writing copy, etc. Fiction? Never! lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.