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.)
Overview: A paralegal is a qualified person retained by a lawyer to perform a variety of research and preparation tasks for legal cases. Duties might include investigating areas of the law that pertain to the case, working directly with the client to understand and catalog the case’s facts, booking and organizing meetings, researching and helping to interview …
Necessary Training: Paralegals can take a two-year certificate course, but they may also have a degree. Because of the wide range of duties they perform, most paralegals will have strong computer, writing (and grammar), organization, and …
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, blending in, charm, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others…
POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, confident, cooperative, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, efficient, empathetic, focused, honest…
NEGATIVE: obsessive, perfectionist, stubborn, workaholic
Sources of Friction: Having too large of a workload because the firm refuses to hire more help, being underappreciated for one’s work, being mistreated by big personalities and fragile egos when things don’t go well, working with a disorganized lawyer (creating a rush for the paralegal to research, collect any data and experts, and file documents on time), long hours, working weekends, problems at home…
People They Might Interact With: lawyers, other paralegals, legal assistants and secretaries, bailiffs, judges, filing clerks, court reporters, criminals, expert witnesses (detectives, psychologists, accountants)…
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: A paralegal is limited in what she may do despite the growing knowledge, experience, and skills he or she gains. This lack of a career path may squash the character’s feeling of self-actualization, even if they love what they do because…
- Esteem and Recognition: It is not uncommon for paralegals to not be recognized properly for the tremendous (and important) work they do, which can lead to feelings of lower self-worth
- Love and Belonging: Relationships may suffer because a paralegal is very much at the beck and call of the lawyers she or he works for, meaning that things get done on the lawyer’s schedule, not the paralegal’s. Not being around…
Common Work-Related Settings: airport, big city street, boardroom, elevator, juvenile detention center, library, office cubicle, taxi, therapist’s office
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.
I love the occupational thesaurus, but I’ve notice the list of occupations are modern jobs and careers. Will we see occupations from different historical eras and from other countries?
Thanks for all the help you give us authors,
BECCA PUGLISI says
Hi, Tammie! One of the challenges with this thesaurus is the never-ending list of possibilities. There’s no way we could compile a cumulative list, so we’ve had to narrow our choices. For this reason, we’re most likely not going to be adding any historical occupations. When it comes to jobs from other countries, if they’re not ones that are common to the US and Canada, we just wouldn’t have enough knowledge to write credibly about them. Sorry I don’t have better news. We’re always having to make touch choices with our thesaurus collections, and this one was no different.