4 Questions to Ask About Your Character's Job

4 Questions to Ask About Your Character’s Job

Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway for two copies of Chrystle Fiedler’s latest mystery Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery.

The last time I visited Katie on her wonderful site, I wrote about using your passion to fuel your fiction (in my case, natural remedies). This time, I’m going to take it a step further: How do you translate that passion into your main character’s profession and the place they do business?

How Will Your Character’s Job Affect Your Plot?

What your character does for a living is perhaps more important in a cozy mystery than other forms of fiction because it’s often the setting where most of the action takes place. For example, when I decided to write a cozy mystery series about natural remedies, it seemed logical to make my lead character a holistic doctor and for her to run a health food store called Nature’s Way Market and Café, in my hometown of Greenport on Long Island’s East End.

I knew the building where the store would be housed had to serve multiple purposes: a place to live and to work. So I decided on three stories, one for the store, the second for the yoga studio, and the third for Willow’s living space and two offices for her masseuse and acupuncturist friends to work. Now, I’m thinking of adding an office where Willow can see patients on the second floor opposite the yoga studio. But instead of having to call a contractor, I just have to write it! Much faster and less expensive!

Other authors’ characters and fictional businesses evolve in a similar way.

  • Laura Child has an interest in tea and writes tea shop mysteries that take place in the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Diane Mott Davidson enjoys cooking, and her main character Goldy Schulz, who is a caterer, works out of her home in Aspen Meadow, Colorado.
  • Anne Canadeo, a novice knitter, writes about the Black Sheep Knitters, who meet in the shop of the same name in Plum Harbor, Massachusetts.

Basically, it’s the old adage: write what you know, or what you want to know more about.  

What your character does for a living also matters when it comes to character development and the plot of your story. For example, since my character Willow McQuade is a holistic doctor and health food store owner, it makes sense she would be interested in medicinal plants. So in my third book The Garden of Death, which I’m writing now, it’s logical that with her interests, she would turn the lot next door into a garden. Once she does, all kinds of things happen that relate to this project, including murder!

The fun part is that you can make your characters into whatever you want without having to get an education! The only limit is your imagination.

Questions About Your Character’s Job

Use these questions to help you start thinking about what your fictional character’s profession and fictional business:

1. What is your character’s profession?

Shop owner, doctor, lawyer, vet, elementary school teacher, detective, gardener, golfer, pastry chef? For more themes visit Cozy Mystery List. What appeals to you? Writing about animals or writing about holidays or hobbies like needlework?

2. What kind of fictional business does he have?

How does it intersect with others and the community?  What kind of business do you think will provide the most interesting setting for your plots? For example, in my cozies, Willow moves through different venues with ease. In Death Drops, the action is focused around Nature’s Way; in Scent to Kill, she provides services for a movie crew on location; and in The Garden of Death, the action centers around the garden.

All of these are opportunities for murders to happen, plots to develop, answers to be found, and characters to grow, evolve and mature. For example, in my first book Death Drops, Willow McQuade was a novice detective but by book #3 Garden of Death, she is a seasoned investigator. She’s also more confident and in control.

3. Where does the action take place?

Indoors or outdoors? In a sunny climate or in ice and snow? Is it a small town community or big city living? Is she a solo practitioner or does she work with others?

4. Given your character’s profession and business what are the possibilities for interesting plots and murders?

For example, if you choose a scientist who only interacts with algae, your plots might be a bit thin! You’ll want it to be someone who is in a community whatever that means and whose actions, beget action.

Use these questions to get you thinking!

Tell me your opinion: What does your protagonist do for a living and how does his work influence the plot?

4 Questions to Ask About Your Character's Job

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About Chrystle Fiedler

Chrystle Fiedler is the author of Scent to Kill (the second in the Natural Remedy Mystery series), Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery, the non-fiction title The Complete Idiots Guide to Natural Remedies, co-author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now! (currently in its fourth printing), the Beat Sugar Addiction Now! Cookbook, and The Country Almanac of Home Remedies. Chrystle’s magazine articles featuring natural remedies have appeared in many national publications including Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Better Homes & Gardens, and Remedy.

Comments

  1. I always ask my characters what they do for a living just because it’s such a big part of life, but I like these more in-depth questions that you’ve showed and how you focus on how a career affects the plot. Thanks for the prompt.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Chrystle!

  3. This actually plays a HUGE part in my WIP. He’s a baseball player in the minors so there is a ton of travel involved. Weather plays a part, location of off season living. Then there’s the fiance’s profession (starting in college) and how her profession will work with his and the plot bunnies that stirs up between them when they don’t necessarily mix. THEN, the antagonist’s profession that has to merge with the both of theirs in order to make the plot work and believable. It’s been quite a challenge, but I think I’m figuring it all out.

  4. Hi Alicia and Heather! Thanks so much for stopping by and thanks K.M. for having me “over!”

    I’m very happy that you’ve found my tips helpful! I think creating a profession and a setting are two of the most enjoyable tasks in fiction. You can really have a lot of fun with it! Chrystle

  5. In my next novel, entitled “Entangled”, the main character Graham Parker prepared and planned to succeed his wealthy father, Arthur Bosch, when the father retires as owner and president of Bosch Consolidated in downtown Philadelphia, PA.
    The drama occurs in the office between his half-brothers, Neal Bosch and Bryce Bosch, who also want to succeed their father. Yes, Graham is the illegitimate son. Fourth born of seven children. His father is on his fourth marriage. If that’s not enough, Graham is expected to propose and marry the Main Line Heiress, his father’s best friend’s daughter. To receive his father’s approval and acceptance, he was willing to do that because he does love Danielle. He’s just not in love with her.
    Until he met a new employee in the office….Jillian McConaghy. Graham has to choose what he wants most in life – love and passion or his father’s job.

  6. Thanks for the post! I think what a character does is very importan, it defines him or her. And as you said, it defines the setting too. My novel coming out next month is about parent´s expectations and the children´s resistance. So what I did was take it to the higher level I could think of. And I made the mother a Queen.

    Thanks again and I would love to win the copy of your book!

    Have a great weekend!

  7. Hi Chrystle,

    Great tips! I love what you said in point # 4.

    The place (specifically a home) was an important part of my current story, and I wanted my characters working closely together so I made her a restoration architect who sings. Singing tied her into another place (a jazz club) that was linked to the mystery and solving the murder.

  8. Hi E.M and Mel! Both of your books sound fascinating! I’m used to writing about character’s occupations and where they live and work in cozies but your stories take that to a whole new level! Thanks for stopping by! Chrystle

  9. Wow Eke – your character sounds like she leads an intriguing and interesting life! What you’ve done clearly illustrates question #4! I’m glad that you found my post helpful! Chrystle

  10. I meant to type Elke! Please ignore my typo! Chrystle

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