Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People


She Works Hard for Her Money

Does your protagonist like his/her job?  Are they considering a career change?  One of the duties of my former position with an aboriginal employment and training organisation was assisting individuals with making career changes.  So, yes, finding the right job or sticking my protagonist in a job he/she hates is important to me, because our jobs are a big part of our lives and affect us in good and bad ways.  As a former colleague said, “We spend more time with these people than with our own families.”

I always stressed to clients the importance of their jobs, whether a CEO or the custodian who cleans the CEO’s office.  Without a great custodian keeping the CEO’s office in immaculate condition, the CEO or the CEO’s staff would be burdened with cleaning during the day.

What about when the CEO leaves at quitting time?  She’s tired.  Hubby is out of town on business so he can’t start dinner.  She doesn’t feel like cooking either, so on her way home she stops at a drive-thru to pick up a quick meal.  There are people cooking that meal she’ll pick up.  How about the dry-cleaners who’ll clean her office clothes?  Then there are the mechanics who ensure her car is in working order for the commute, or the bus drivers who pick her up and takes her to work.  Her hairdresser keeps Ms. CEO’s coif in immaculate condition while providing an ear as Ms. CEO unwinds, babbling about work-related stress.

She needs these very important people doing very important jobs, just as they need her.  Without people filling these jobs, we’d be shit out of luck, wouldn’t we?  How about the wonderful hotel staff who keep business conferences running smoothly?  Without them, we’d be having potluck at the chair’s house.

So when I pick a job for my protagonist, I find what best suits or doesn’t suit this character.

In my WIP Fire and Water, Gabriel is making a BIG career change—even a life change.  He’s hanging up his microphone and finally putting his teaching degree to use by relocating from Southern Ontario to work at an under-staffed school in a remote Ojibway community in Northwestern Ontario.  He has no choice because his inheritance is being held by his mother and siblings until he commits to what his deceased father deemed a “respectable and real” job.  As for Jesse, the other protagonist, he is the primary grades teacher.  One can well imagine the culture shock Gabriel faces, while attempting to grasp his new nine to five position after only knowing music for thirteen years.  He has a three month probationary period to pass and needs Jesse’s help.

What about you?  How do you decide on a profession for your characters?  Is their job key to the plot or not?

6 thoughts on “Take this job and shove it

  1. Melissa says:

    I think about the character and what suits the personality — and moves the story forward. In Doubting River, Charm had to have a job he could leave easily, that didn’t require a college degree, and that would take advantage of his ability to sell ice to Eskimos. Marlie, on the other hand, was a farm wife whose dreams had been put on hold. She had to have a job that both enabled her to provide benefits (health insurance) and a consistent salary to tied them over during the lean months before crops were sold and allowed her to raise her child. She, too, lacks a college degree. When her son is injured, she can’t work enough hours to provide those benefits, and she doesn’t have the skills to easily get another job.


    1. That sounds like quite the interesting story, Melissa. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I can only think of about 3 or 4 characters that have ever had jobs mentioned in the story. Unless it’s vital to the story, it’s not needed, as far as I’m concerned. I know to make them more rounded they should have more life – something to think about in the future.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Annalisa. I’ve read a few stories when jobs weren’t mentioned that worked really well.


  3. Left-Brained Business for Write-Brained People says:

    I try to go the unconventional route. Having worked successfully for a number of years in an industry dominated by men, I got used to giving sarcastic and off-the-wall answers when I heard variations of “what’s a girl like you doing in…” Now I use that same for humor with my characters, giving kind of a twist to my stories by the way they interact with their jobs and the world view of such things.

    Good post. I’ve preached your same message many, many times before to other people. So I obviously totally agree with you that service people are just as important as the CEO, in that one can’t get everything done in life without the work of the other. So much about people and characters come down to lifestyle and attitude, doesn’t it?


    1. I LOVE the unconvential route. It’s my fave. I’d love to hear more about working in an industry dominated by men. Maybe one day you’ll post about it at your blog. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.


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