Authors juggle a lot of elements to build a story that they rarely ever consider the detailed and complete accuracy of their character’s occupation.
Who reads stories about protagonists juggling a nine-to-five and their social life’s burdens? Or, a story about a struggling doctor or firefighter always facing life-and-death situations?
While plots like these aren’t foreign in children’s books, they’re naturally more catered to an audience who these characters resonate with. Readers who can relate to their struggles and the challenges they have to overcome will likely be more drawn towards these plots than a nine-year-old who’s too innocent and naïve about the troubles constantly pressing in adults’ minds.
Naturally, when writing to more mature readers with better comprehension and social awareness, the authors’ responsibility in ensuring their books aren’t written around inaccuracies becomes heavier. They can’t be caught lacking by an audience more sensitive to minor details. Otherwise, they risk losing a following or, worst, declining their reputation and credibility. Writing a book becomes more than an exciting story building of throwing different characters and creating exciting scenes with them. Instead, it becomes a task woven between researching and fact-checking.
Although this makes creative writing less creative and more factual, this doesn’t always take the fun out of novels. It simply adds more reliability and accuracy to their stories.
A Story’s Accuracy Down to the T
As writers, how much of the story do you plot?
Do you plan from the beginning until the last sentence’s period, detailing every scene and character arc as much as possible? Or, are you the type to write depending on what comes to mind when you face the empty canvas? Either way, there’s no right or wrong manner of outlining (or not) a story. After all, authors write best when they’re given complete autonomy to do so.
However, what’s improper is writing characters that aren’t error-free, those who don’t stick to characteristics they’re supposed to embody. Imagine reading a character who loathes someone only to have them change their behavior mid-story without proper explanation and a decent transition. These characters make readers go, “Huh?” creating dissonance and a space of confusion in the story.
No author wants that. Instead, they want stories profound enough that readers question whether they’re true rather than question the validity of every scene.
When novels last for a couple of chapters, how can authors ensure to create consistent, solid, and well-crafted characters whose values and behaviors don’t change from one chapter to another?
Setting the character’s occupation is an excellent way to ground its traits, abilities, and motivations. Depending on their career, their personality can be molded, easily remembered, and portrayed regardless of how long the story drags out. And when authors dig deeper into the character’s occupation, they may even find traumas, fears, and strengths that fuel the character’s behaviors and reasons for being how they are.
Is a Character’s Occupation Really That Important?
A perfect example of how crucial nailing the character’s occupation is can be read in On Call by Rotha Dawkins, a book composed of stories from a firefighter’s life. Obviously, the book’s focal point is every firefighter’s journey and daily routine. Imagine if Rotha were careless about the occupation’s responsibilities and the characters’ essential traits and behaviors; how realistic would the story be?
Far from it.
Without honoring the accuracy of every character’s occupation, the story becomes drastically unrealistic and unbelievable, running out of enjoyment. This is why choosing a character’s occupation shouldn’t be mindless and slapdash. Instead, it should be carefully planned and carefully considered, as it can profoundly influence the character’s personality and how they react to the world. If one is writing about a lawyer, one won’t make the character unreasonable. With every obstacle that comes their way, they would remain calculated and observant, never rash and careless.
Authors can think of it this way: their character’s occupation is the stable foundation of their profile. It provides a core to their figures, revealing and molding their priorities, traits, abilities, and passions, each influencing the story. Hence, if authors aim to never-erratically and carelessly change characters, they must plan and consider their occupations more than anything. If possible, they can have a varied job selection to create excitement and variety in traits.
Its Accuracy Also Provides a Sense of Inclusion
Aside from its direct influence on the story, an accurate portrayal of occupations in novels will also be positively received by people with similar jobs. This can only mean two things for authors: an increased following, and readers count, and a more positive reputation from this crowd. Accurately describing and narrating a character’s occupation provides these individuals with a sense of acknowledgment and respect. Especially for jobs that aren’t popular or those who don’t get quite the same appreciation as other jobs, accuracy in novels can make them feel seen and appreciated.
Researching certain occupations doesn’t take long with everything found on the internet. Authors also don’t need much effort and time to weave these details into their stories.