Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Choosing Careers for Your Characters

"Write what you know."

If there is a single, universal phrase heard by every writer, it's that one. But it's true. Nothing beats writing from your experience in a career. Interviewing an expert in your character's occupation is a close second. When neither of those options is possible, research through the internet and books. This keeper sits on my writing craft bookshelf: Careers for Your Characters: A Writer's Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann. The authors hope this book will give you the confidence to portray 101 professions well. You may not need another source. If you do, this book lists the best resources to aid your research. Information on each occupation includes:

The Lowdown: provides an overview to help determine if the career is right for your character.

Job Description: gives a general description about the responsibilities of the job.

Daily Life: shows a typical daily schedule with buzz words and clothing worn.

Education: provides educational requirements needed.

Job Conflicts: includes ideas to develop plot and character conflicts inherent in this profession.

Myths about the Job: exposes stereotypes. If you avoid stereotypes, you'll create more believable characters.

Jobs within the Profession: lists specific jobs within the field. Resources are provided for further research.

Additional Occupations: lists different, but related jobs.

Nonfiction Resources: lists books and documentary movies for additional research.

Fiction Resources: lists novels, movies, and TV shows to immerse yourself in the field.

Web Sites: provides the best web sites for additional research.

Book Excerpts: gives short excerpts from movies and novels about the profession.

Careers for Your Characters will save you time researching professions. Entries include broad description and fine details, including salary, hazards and jargon. The book is a wonderful resource packed with information to help you create believable characters with interesting professions. If you don't have access to an expert in profession, this book will let you fake it. ;-)

~Roxanne Sherwood

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