by Lisa Jordan
Last week I requested career options for the hero in my next book on my Facebook author page. While reading through my fans’ posts, I was amazed by the diverse occupations they suggested-boat builder, hospital administrator, youth pastor, zoo manager, etc.
Meeting someone for the first time, one of the first questions you may ask is, “What do you do?” His or her response creates an instant impression-whether you want it to or not-and prompts you to ask follow-up questions. And if you continue talking with that person for an extended amount of time, you will see a glimpse into what makes this person tick.
The same goes for our characters.
Your characters’ professions offer first impressions and reflect their identities-who they are, how they see themselves and how they see others. Their occupations will shed light on what they value, what causes they champion and how they view the world.
When we create careers for our characters, we need to understand their identities before we can determine what they do for a living. Otherwise, we won’t know how to portray them on the page.
Giving a character a typical occupation is very easy to do, and it simplifies the writing process for us. But, by staying in our comfort zones, we risk boring our readers.
If your character’s career isn’t dictated by a specific genre, consider stepping outside the box and changing it up a bit.
Fire fighters and police officers are admirable occupations, but they’re overused in fiction. Additionally, occupations tend to be confined to gender-expected roles. What if you made your heroine the next city police chief? Or perhaps your hero owns and operates a childcare center.
Sometimes, though, your character’s career is tied directly to your genre or to your plot. A suspense novel will have characters in law enforcement. Then it’s up to the writer to be creative and not cliché with those roles.
Give your character a career that will teach readers something about that particular job and invite conversation after they finish reading your book such as a coral farmer or video game tester.
I use two resources when creating careers for my character:
• Careers for Your Characters: A Writer’s Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann.
• U.S. Dept. of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)
As writers, we need to create characters our readers can identify with, but we can challenge ourselves to create unique, creative career opportunities for them.
Your Turn: How do you create careers for your characters? What cliché careers can you twist and add to your novels?
Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such, Lisa Jordan is an award-winning author for Love Inspired. Her debut novel, Lakeside Reunion, won the 2012 Carol Award for short contemporary romance. Her second novel, Lakeside Family, is a finalist in the 2013 IRCA short contemporary category. Visit her at www.lisajordanbooks.com.