Realistic Character Occupations: My Experience as a Motel Chambermaid

To win readers over we need to write characters so authentic they feel like real people. How do we do this? By brainstorming a character’s backstory, personality, needs, desires, and their day-to-day world. Lucky for us, one aspect of their daily life is a goldmine of characterization: the type of work they do. 

Think about it: a job can reveal personality, skills, beliefs, fears, desires, and more, which is why Becca Puglisi and I created The Occupation Thesaurus, a writing guide that profiles 124 possible careers and the story-worthy information that goes with each. To supplement this project, I’m sharing my experience as a Motel Chambermaid, in case this career is a perfect fit for your character!

You can find the full list of Contributed Occupation Profiles and check out The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers at Writers Helping Writers.

OCCUPATION: Motel Chambermaid

OVERVIEW
As a chambermaid I was responsible for tidying occupied motel rooms (making the bed, emptying the trash, recharging linens, and toiletries) and turning over rooms after checkout. This typically involved cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, replacing the bedding and supplying new linens and toiletries. I usually worked alone but in high season I was sometimes paired with another worker so we could process rooms more quickly. I also had to track supplies and note any room damage or problems.

NECESSARY TRAINING
No formal education was needed for this job, but I did have a background check and I was mentored by another chambermaid to learn the ins and outs of turning over rooms to be consistent with everyone else. Because I had to clear a large number of rooms per shift I became very efficient and would proactively stock my cart well to avoid unnecessary trips for more supplies.

USEFUL SKILLS, TALENTS, OR ABILITIES
BLENDING IN, HOSPITALITY, MULTITASKING, ORGANIZATION, STAMINA, STRATEGIC THINKING, SWIFT-FOOTEDNESS

SOURCES OF FRICTION
Guests who return while one is recharging the room
Guests who make unreasonable demands or requests
Cleaning up after guests that are unhygienic (unflushed toilets, hair everywhere, clogged sinks, etc.)
Someone calling in sick and having twice the work for the same shift
Working with someone who is lazy or does a subpar cleaning job but has seniority (or is related to management)
Being harassed by a guest
Management that unfairly blames the cleaning staff to smooth things over with a complaining guest
Discovering a guest is stealing (towels, a robe, etc.) during the stay
Being looked down on by family and friends for the work the one does
Difficulty paying the bills
Exhaustion and back pain from the workload and being on one’s feet all day
An accusation (that something was moved, stolen, etc.)

WRITERS SHOULD KNOW…
Hotel guests run the gamut. Some are respectful and clean and appreciate the work a chambermaid does. They might even leave a tip. Others seem to almost go out of their way to be sloppy, careless, and disrespectful. This can wear on a person’s self-esteem and leave them feeling jaded toward other people.

Have any questions about this job? I’d be happy to answer. Just leave a comment below!

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