Finding The Right Job For My Main Character

The Importance Of The Right Job For A Character

Adults spend most of their waking hours working. I think it’s safe to say that our jobs affect our lives at home. I know that I’ve had jobs that affected my home life in unexpected ways. Some jobs were so stressful that I was a pain to live with, making everyone around me miserable. Others, I found to be fulfilling and I felt empowered and excited to make progress. Finding that balance between the work and home life is something that I think has to affect characters because we can all relate to how that balance affects our daily lives. This is part of why I struggled with finding the right job for Declan, the main character of The Art of Being Vulnerable.

The Dreadfully Boring Job

Initially, I wanted his job to be one that he loathed. I thought this would help me move him from one emotional state to another a little bit easier. So I gave him a boring accounting job. (Excuse me, my stapler?) I figured that he could quit his job, or get fired, or even laid off unexpectedly and that would set his life on a course for change. But for weeks, I avoided writing those scenes. I found his job to be so dreadful and monotonous that I couldn’t think of anything I liked about it. It was like there was this voice in my head saying “I don’t wanna! Please don’t make me! This is soooo boring!” I took me a while before I realized that it was Declan’s voice in my head. I took the hint and scrapped the accounting job because if I was too bored to write it, who would want to read it?

The Dream Job

The next job I gave him was working in a library. He loved that job. He was surrounded by books and by people who loved books. He volunteered to run a book club for teens once a week, he made friends with librarians, he had a master’s degree, and he was soooo happy. Too happy. Sorry, Declan. I’m not here to coddle you. So I scrapped the dream job. In the back of my mind, I could hear him muttering about not going back to that accounting job. I agreed, and as a consolation prize, I let him keep the desire to be a librarian.

Infused With That Love

It wasn’t until recently that I stumbled across the perfect job for him at the start of the book. I was touching the spines of the sci-fi books at my local used bookstore, thinking about how I loved the smell of books, how being around them calmed me, and how I’d infused that love into Declan. I thought about the tiny used bookstore my mom used to take me to when I was a kid and how much I loved it there. If Declan had been created to love books the way that I did, and he knew he wanted to be a librarian, then the closest logical job for him would be to work at a bookstore. But not just any bookstore…

The Perfect Job For My Character

Declan works at a used bookstore in a rapidly depreciating neighborhood, the kind of neighborhood where crime is rampant and people often can’t afford books for their kids. This little bookstore has been a part of the community for more than 50 years and the old man who owns the store has been known to compromise profits to put books in the hands of children who want them. This is where Declan belongs. It fills his need to be near books, it fills his need to help people, and yet, he barely makes enough money to survive.

Why It Works

What I love about this idea for him is that he has some fulfillment, but he hasn’t quite reached where he wants to be. When he realizes that the store is closing, he has to take action or face some undesirable consequences.

Even though Declan’s job is only a minor event in the whole of the book, it lets me show his compassion for people, his love of books, the tension that comes from financial instability and the goal that he needs to push himself forward.

Finding the right job for a character is hard. I’m always looking for unusual ideas and ways for my character to make a living while still feeling like themselves in the story. Some characters need exciting jobs, some need gross jobs, some need jobs that require a lot of nerve.  If you have any suggestions for job opportunities for characters, leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

Post Author: Frances Wentworth

Writer, book lover, starter of many projects...INFJ Super Frances flies by the seat of her pants!