Characters at Work

As authors, we want people to believe our characters are real. OK, not so much, but we do want them to be believable as people. People have jobs or careers. Our characters need jobs and careers as well. In life, not that many people are rich enough not to work for a living and fiction should reflect that as well. So in developing characters for our stories, we need to determine what they do to earn money. The type of work characters do should reflect their behavior in the story. Therefore, the choice should not be arbitrary even for minor characters. This may not be as important for shorter works, but in novels it can make the difference between a real character and a cardboard cutout of a character. We want real ones. So part of developing your character is to give it a way to earn a living. Then you can have them hate their work or love it. A job or career can also add conflict to a story so having characters with a jobs or careers can also add to the story’s conflict and tension. This is why we need to have characters heading out to work every day in the story.

You choose the career or job for each character based on the story. The circumstances in the story will dictate what your minor characters do for a living. These are the people who man the coffee houses, cafes and stores in the story. Your main character could be a cop, a mailman, or whatever you might wish, much the way people choose their careers in real life. What interests them? Give them a job to match their interests. Give them a job that doesn’t and have they hate it. That reflects life as well.

Characters need to be realistic if you want readers to care about them. You want readers to care about the characters so they will keep reading the story. Throw some career issues at your characters while they are coping with the story’s main problem. That rounds out the story and makes it interesting. Use a light hand though, too many problems won’t let the reader escape their own problems, even if they identify with the character, they may stop reading if the story doesn’t provide escapism. At least that’s how I feel about it.

You can have them stressing over the job in addition to the problems they encounter in the story. Have them starting out on a career and worrying about that. Maybe they are changing careers and starting over. Maybe they retired and are starting a new life as an artist. The possibilities are there. All you need to do is determine what your characters are doing for money and add that to the mix of conflict and problems they must face over the course of the story. That will make them more real to your readers and that is the goal. A well rounded, realistic character needs a job. It’s as simple as that.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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