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: Mail Carrier
Overview: Mail carriers transport mail (letters, circulars, small packages, bills, etc.) from a distribution center to homes and businesses. While most of them use vehicles…
Necessary Training: Mail carriers need a high school diploma or equivalent and must pass a written exam. They also must have a driver license, have a good driving record, and be able to pass …
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, exceptional memory, predicting the weather, swift-footedness
POSITIVE: Alert, courteous, disciplined, discreet, efficient, focused, honest, independent, introverted, meticulous, organized, patient, professional, responsible
Sources of Friction: One’s truck breaking down, being threatened while delivering mail in a dangerous part of town, customers not receiving their mail (because it was stolen or was delivered to the wrong address), customers issuing complaints about one’s service, working in miserable weather, hand-delivering mail to someone one suspects of being unhinged, labor strikes, feeling pressured to join a union, being injured on the job (slipping on ice and falling, being bitten by a dog, etc.), suffering an injury that makes it …
People They Might Interact With: Other mail carriers, a manager or supervisor, other postal service employees, union representatives…
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: There’s only so much possibility for advancement in this position; someone who is looking for upward mobility within their career may soon feel like they’re stuck…
- Esteem and Recognition: Many people view college degrees and the careers that come with them as being more important, valuable, or desirable than ones where a degree isn’t required. If a mail carrier has…
- Love and Belonging: In the beginning, the hours are long; this can take a toll on personal relationships. And in many cases, a carrier is isolated, spending the majority of their day alone. This decreases the opportunities to…
- Safety and Security: In certain situations, delivering the mail can be dangerous. This will depend on the neighborhood one works in, the kinds and heaviness of traffic one encounters, and the dangers inherent when …
Common Work-Related Settings: Alley, big city street, break room, country road, public restroom, small town street
Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: Mail carriers tend to be background characters: quiet, introverted, and invisible. But characters in this occupation can be anything you want them to be. Just look at Newman, from Seinfeld. Give your mail carrier an unusual trait or two to bring them to life.
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.