on Writers Helping Writers:
Confession time: when I was a newer writer, I didn’t think much about my character’s occupation. In fact, if they needed one, I’d pretty much assign the first job that came to mind. I didn’t think hard about it because I didn’t think their job mattered.
And I was wrong.
Far from being an afterthought, a job or career is an opportunity to show readers who your character really is.
If you think about it, in the real world, work is a big focus for all of us. Consider your own job. How many hours a day do you spend working? Do you bring it home with you, obsess about it, spend hours thinking about it? Does the stress of the day impact your mood, interfere with your ability to enjoy activities, and cause problems in your relationships?
Characters are mirrors of us, so work will be a big part of their reality. Logically they would do as we would: choose a job they’re interested in, are good at, and it pays the bills, meaning when we choose a job with care, it will become a goldmine of characterization and plot opportunities.
Remember, show-don’t-tell is king.
Here are some things a job can reveal about your character: