Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Bounty Hunter

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.

Occupation: Bounty Hunter

Overview: Bounty Hunters apprehend fugitives who are running from the law. While a suspect awaits a court date, they’re often released on bail. If they can’t pay the money themselves, they get it from a bail bondsman. If the suspect doesn’t appear for his court date, he becomes a fugitive. The bail bondsman may hire a bounty hunter to find the suspect in exchange for a portion (usually 10-20%) of the bail amount. Bounty hunters may work directly for a bondsman or do freelance work on their own.

In some ways, bounty hunters have more freedom than official police officers because they can enter the fugitive’s home without a warrant and cross state lines to apprehend the fugitive. Their work might include such activities as interviewing family and friends, canvassing the fugitive’s neighborhood, staking out certain locations, tracing phone records and license plates, and confronting the suspect when he’s found. Because of the inherent danger in this job, most bounty hunters work in teams or pairs.

Necessary Training: In the U.S., you must be 21 years old and hold a high school diploma or GED to pursue this career. While many bounty hunters have a background in the military and law enforcement, no official training is necessary. Because they must be licensed in most states, they’ll have to pass an exam that covers the laws and limitations for their trade area. Someone new to this profession would likely apprentice with an experienced hunter to learn the trade.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Basic first aid, blending in, charm, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, haggling, high pain tolerance, knife throwing, mentalism, parkour, reading people, self-defense, sharpshooting, strategic thinking, super strength, survival skills, swift-footedness, wrestling

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adventurous, alert, bold, cautious, decisive, discreet, focused, industrious, just, observant, patient, persistent, persuasive, protective, resourceful, responsible, sensible, uninhibited, wise

NEGATIVE: Callous, confrontational, humorless, manipulative, nosy, obsessive, pushy, rebellious, rowdy, suspicious, vindictive

Sources of Friction: Trying to get information from uncooperative sources, being confined by the law, being tempted to circumvent the law to catch a fugitive, not being able to find the fugitive, receiving incorrect information from a source, a job requiring going over budget or schedule, an important contact going out of business (one’s primary investigator or bail bondsman, for instance), conflicts of interest (the fugitive being a person one knows, having a family member who was victimized by the fugitive, etc.), suffering a physical injury that makes it difficult to do the job, being wounded or taken captive by the fugitive, working with an impatient bail bondsman, working a case that multiple bounty hunters are also working, do-gooders questioning one’s methods, having to enter dangerous neighborhoods and talk to volatile people to get information

People They Might Interact With: bondsmen, law enforcement officers, people associated with the fugitive (family members, friends, neighbors, former bosses, etc.), “regulars” in the areas where one frequently works (shop owners, wait staff, etc.), administrative personnel

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A bounty hunter who chose the profession because he was unable to pursue the career he really wanted (such as one in the military or law enforcement) might soon become restless and feel unfulfilled.
  • Safety and Security: The danger associated with this job, the fugitives involved, and the neighborhoods they frequent could easily cause safety or security problems for the character.
  • Physiological Needs: Most careers wouldn’t impact a character on this level, but a bounty hunter could easily lose their life in this line of work.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airport, alley, backyard, bar, basement, big city street, casual dining restaurant, cheap motel, coffeehouse, convenience store, courtroom, diner, emergency room, fast food restaurant, garage, gas station, hospital (interior), hospital room, hotel room, indoor shooting range, living room, nightclub, park, parking garage, parking lot, police station, pub, public restroom, small town street, subway train, waiting room

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:

Bounty hunters are often portrayed as rough and grubby, which helps them blend into the environments where their subjects are hiding. To switch things up, consider a bounty hunter who takes on only high-profile cases and must share the upscale looks of the fugitives he hunts.

Visit 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.
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3 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Bounty Hunter

  1. :Donna says:

    lol…every time I think “bounty hunter” I think “Midnight Run” 😀

  2. Dylan says:

    I once watched a video where kids talked and asked questions to a Female Bounty Hunter. She said to the kids that the legal/technical term is “Recovery Agent”. You should add, having the character as a woman, as twisting the stereotype

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