I wrote a blog post for Rachel Firasek’s blog called The Professional Hero and Heroine. In it I talk about how important it is for characters to have careers—not just as background but as key parts of their characterization. No, not every novel calls for your characters to have exciting careers, but when the author knows what her characters do for a living—and knows what sort of tasks they would perform, whether it’s a business tycoon, a crime fighter, or a professional musician—inevitably the characterization is richer, deeper, and more authentic:

Characters without careers—or without a job that they care about, a life outside the front-and-center romance—run the risk of being flat and one-dimensional. I’ve read far too many unpublished manuscripts where the writer obviously has no idea what her character actually does for a living. The generic “tycoon” who never goes to work to earn his billions is particularly prevalent, yet implausible.

 Read the rest here. It’s sort of a companion piece to the deleted scene I posted here the other day, in which I describe how Jacob, from Temptation, makes a wooden box in his workshop. Once I knew what he did for a living, my story had an extra layer of conflict that I hadn’t anticipated. And I also had a rich trove of setting material to enhance my scenes, many of which occur in his workshop.

What sort of career do you see your characters having? How would you go about researching that profession? I’d love to hear some comments, either here or at Rachel’s blog.

2 Comments on Give your hero a job

  1. Samantha Ann King
    April 11, 2013 at 4:12 am (11 years ago)

    I can’t imagine writing a character who didn’t have a job. How would you do that? Might be an interesting exercise.

    • Kathryn Barrett
      April 11, 2013 at 5:33 am (11 years ago)

      I’ve seen it…mostly in unpubbed books. Or books where people have generic “tycoon” heroes who never go to work, oddly. Unless there’s an unusual circumstance (stranded on island or in a storm, vacation book, etc.) I get the impression the author actually has no idea what a tycoon (or whatever) actually does for a living and didn’t bother to find out. This is why I admire Nora so much–she does the research. Or else she makes it all up and fools me!


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