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 list of ideas 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: There are many different types of chefs, but in general a chef is responsible for food preparation; they may plan the menu, oversee and direct others in its preparation, select ingredients, order supplies, and manage the kitchen staff.
Chef-Owners are responsible for the restaurant’s success, and so oversee the kitchen (and restaurant) from a business standpoint. They may hire, fire, set prices, and have the final say over the menu. An Executive Chef oversees the daily operation of the kitchen which includes food preparations, ordering, and menu planning. A Sous Chef oversees the kitchen in the Executive’s Chef’s absence, is responsible for training new chefs, and ensures the food leaving the kitchen is of the highest quality and presentation. A Senior Chef is…
Necessary Training: Most chefs require an associate’s degree in culinary arts and certifications in specific areas. Their courses will include things like nutrition, butchery, grilling, pastry creation, kitchen safety & basic first aid, garnishing and plating, hospitality training, menu planning, and possibly business courses that look at kitchen operations and management. Training is both classroom based and…
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, baking, basic first aid, enhanced sense of smell…
POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, ambitious, analytical, centered, cooperative, creative, disciplined, focused, hospitable, imaginative, independent…
NEGATIVE: cocky, compulsive, extravagant, judgmental, know-it-all…
Sources of Friction: long work hours, demanding employers and customers, customers who insist on certain substitutions or exclusions that basically will ruin a dish, kitchen hazards (burns, cuts, back issues from being one one’s feet too long, dehydration from hot cooking conditions, scaldings, etc.), having to work weekends and holidays (missing out on family events), working for owners who have little knowledge of how a kitchen should be run and meddling with one’s system or…
People They Might Interact With: customers, kitchen staff, wait staff, management, owners, other chefs, cooks, delivery people, health inspectors, grocers
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: The long, difficult hours, being in an environment where one’s skills are not appreciated and customers are demanding or rude may lead a character to wonder if…
- Esteem and Recognition: A chef who is on the lower end of the kitchen hierarchy may struggle if he or she feels that their contributions are not being recognized…
- Love and Belonging: The long hours, weekend and holiday shifts, and exhaustion while home can make relationships difficult to keep. Family may come to resent…
- Safety and Security: A kitchen contains many hazards that could lead to an injury that would be life-changing (losing a finger while chopping, being scalded…)
Common Work-Related Settings: airport, big city street, birthday party, black-tie event, casual dining restaurant, cruise ship, kitchen, medieval castle (speculative), penthouse suite, ski resort, upscale hotel lobby, wedding reception, wine cellar, yacht
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.
OK, now I’m hungry! HOW am I supposed to diet with stuff like this? 😉
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Ingmar Albizu says
I have been enjoying these occupation thesaurus posts series, Angela.
I do have a question.
In regards to the useful skills, talents, or abilities section:
Are skills like enhanced taste buds and sense of smell something people are born with or something which they develop by constant practice in their profession?
That could be a plot element in character building.
Keep them coming, please.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I think it’s likely both, but the people who are truly gifted at it often have good genetics that allow them to have a strongly developed palate. It’s like a muscle though, so to do something with it, you would have to experience and study and expose oneself to different flavors.