July 20th is just around the corner and so we thought we’d tee up one of the entries inside the newest volume in the Writers Helping Writers Descriptive Thesaurus series.
About this book…
Characters are as complex as people and revealing their inner layers without chunky blocks of pace-stopping description is a challenge. The Occupation Thesaurus can help you unlock one of the best tools in your show-don’t-tell writing kit: a character’s job. Find out more.
A firefighter is a rescuer who extinguishes and prevents fires that threaten life, property, and the environment. They also respond to car accidents, chemical spills, natural disasters, and engage in water rescues. Many firefighters are certified EMTs, administering first aid until paramedics arrive. They complete inspections, educate the public on preventing fires, and conduct investigations, particularly if arson is suspected. When they’re not responding to an emergency, they work on call at a fire station, maintaining vehicles and tools, staying physically fit, conducting drills, and keeping up to date with industry changes. Because shifts can last 24-48 hours, they often eat and sleep at the station.
Firefighters need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some choose to complete a two-year degree in fire science, but it is not always a requirement. They receive training at a fire academy, where they must be interviewed and pass written, physical, and psychological tests.
USEFUL SKILLS, TALENTS, OR ABILITIES
Basic first aid, empathy, enhanced hearing, enhanced sense of smell, equanimity, high pain tolerance, knowledge of explosives, stamina, strength, strong breath control, swift-footedness
HELPFUL CHARACTER TRAITS
Adventurous, alert, analytical, bold, calm, cautious, compulsive, confident, confrontational, cooperative, courageous, decisive, disciplined, efficient, fanatical, focused, fussy, humorless, intelligent, objective, observant, persistent, protective, pushy, resourceful, responsible, sensible, unselfish
SOURCES OF FRICTION
Sustaining an injury due to someone’s incompetence (a firefighter, volunteer, reckless member of the public, etc.)
A fellow firefighter dying in a fire
Strained personal relationships due to the inherent danger of the work
A challenging fire investigation
An accusation of misconduct or poor decision-making by higher ups who were not on scene
Long and unusual working hours, including 24-hour shifts, holidays, and weekends
Living in the firehouse with people who have clashing personalities
Private firefighting companies competing with traditional firefighters for jobs
Showing fear in front of other firefighters
Managing post-traumatic stress
Repeated exposure to trauma
The physical demands of carrying heavy gear or working in extreme temperatures
The weight of responsibility as a rescuer
Having to fight for government funding year after year
Losing someone in a fire and feeling responsible
PEOPLE THEY MIGHT INTERACT WITH
The fire chief, other firefighters (paid and volunteer), members of the public, police officers, paramedics, fire inspectors, fire investigators, public servants, reporters, psychologists, search and rescue training specialists
HOW THIS OCCUPATION MIGHT IMPACT THE CHARACTER’S NEEDS
Self-Actualization: In high-intensity situations, firefighters might struggle to problem solve. They may be faced with difficult moral decisions, such as saving one person over another. The lack of control in some situations may be hard to square with, especially if a firefighter is highly empathetic, and leave them wondering if this is the career for them.
Esteem and Recognition: Lives may be lost while a firefighter is on the job, resulting in guilt, shame, and possibly post-traumatic stress, all of which may lower self-worth.
Safety and Security: Firefighters work near traffic accidents, buildings with compromised structures, swift-moving water, and active fires, making this is an extremely dangerous profession.
Physiological Needs: Firefighters place their lives on the line in many of the situations they face, so this is a need that is definitely threatened on the job.
TWISTING THE FICTIONAL STEREOTYPE
- Firefighters do more than serve the federal or local municipalities; they also work at ports, airports, for the armed services, and for chemical, nuclear, and gas and oil industries. Why not switch up your character’s workplace to bring a fresh twist to the page?
- Firefighting is an overwhelmingly male occupation. Consider crafting a female character who can meet the demanding physical, emotional, and mental requirements of the job.
- The public inherently trusts firefighters. You could keep this in mind and craft a character that defies stereotypes and surprises the reader.
CHARACTERS MIGHT CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION BECAUSE THEY…
- Grew up with a family member in the same profession
- Want to make up for a perceived past mistake where they failed to rescue someone
- Desire to serve the public in a meaningful way
- View camaraderie with other firefighters as a substitute for family
- Are drawn to exciting activities and want a job that keeps them active
- Want to channel their adrenaline-junkie tendencies into a healthy outlet
- Are fascinated with fire
The Occupation Thesaurus has 124 different job profiles like the one above, giving you a range of diverse, contemporary options for your characters along with a deep dive into this important (and yet often under-utilized) area of characterization. On July 20th, get ready to unlock the storytelling power of occupations!
So…what do you think?
Are the wheels turning on how a career can power up character building, story plotting, conflict, and more? I hope so. As with every guide of ours, we lead you through why this job information is so valuable and how to use it effectively in your story.
Unfortunately, we do not have a preorder for this book. I’ll skip the long, tragic tale about how a certain e-tailer messed up our last preorder by triggering a book refund and telling people (falsely) that the book wouldn’t be published. Let’s just say Becca and I still have PTSD over it and we don’t want to risk a second debacle. The official book release is July 20th, and if you would like a notification when it’s available, just add your name here!
Early ARC reviews from Goodreads
“The Occupation Thesaurus is yet another priceless author resource released in this series…”
“[Angela & Becca’s books] have helped me throughout my successful children’s writing career and when I made the jump to Indie and Romance. This one, The Occupation Thesaurus has to be one of my faves…”
“I’m a retired therapist and I’ve never realized until I read this book that a person’s job, even an insignificant one, carried so much weight in a story and that readers subliminally pick up on it…”
“Angela and Becca go into great detail on the many, many professions presented in this book. Each entry is incredibly well thought out and well researched…”