When my dad first started reading “From Scratch”, he asked why Sean wasn’t a firefighter.
I tried to explain that Maggie’s character would naturally need the support of a police officer in her situation, but being a retired firefighter himself, he wasn’t convinced that the hero in the story shouldn’t always be a firefighter.
Career choices for characters can evolve from many different places. For me, I am first introduced to the character and often after understanding the situation, then his or her career comes into play.
With Maggie (From Scratch), I knew her career needed to bring comfort. Based on her life, she would have sought a career to share love to balance the fear and loss she’d endured. (I also happen to be an avid baker so the phrase “write what you know” fit beautifully with a lead character who baked.J) Because of her past experiences, she was not likely to become romantically involved with just anyone. The combination of landlord – who she needed to keep her business moving forward – and police chief – who she would likely need for protection – was a good fit for Sean.
Ideas for different career paths come from a variety of places.
A few years ago I was attending a speaker and writer’s conference and one of the break-out sessions was around ghost writing. I was fascinated by the speaker and the flexibility she had created in her career. Sitting in the session I sketched out a character biography and high level story line for Ella Donavon – a ghostwriter who lands in the middle of a murder mystery – a story yet to be written. After one session, I tucked away the idea of ghostwriting as a career for a future character.
In “Life on the Porcelain Edge”, Tessa had lived a life just on the border. She was the perfectly behaved only child of Gibson’s Run’s favorite pastor, creating a life of trying to avoid the spotlight. Ghostwriting was an excellent fit for her. She was able to pursue her passion without the nasty fear of judgement. So, when her anonymity is destroyed through the leaking of her stories, she is forced to face her true self, but not before running home to try and hide. Thus, the beginning of our conflict. (Side Note – Ella Donavon ended up being one of Tessa’s best friends. Crazy small world my mind. J I do think her story still needs to be told, but that’s a blog for another day.)
Counter to Tessa, Ryland was living his dream in the very public eye when his world came crashing down with the death of his wife. Ryland’s return home is about finding healing and comfort in the career of his father – trading player for coach. (And thus helpful for Tessa and Ryland to be reunited...in high school.)
Career choices for characters are not too different from career choices for us real live folks. We often choose a path that appears to be the only or the safest choice. For Sean Taylor, becoming a cop was a natural fit. He was the middle brother always finding the justice and harmony. He found strength and family in Gibson’s Run. He, in turn, wanted to protect his family. Thus cop.
For Jane Grey, she wanted to find her passion and a big part of her story revolves around her trying to find her purpose through her career. But through that journey she discovers the job isn’t what is important – the people God placed in her life to love are.
For so many of us, our careers define how we see ourselves. Characters in a novel are no different. The choices they make... The paths they take, are often seen through the lenses of the careers they have chosen. Each choice has a purpose and is crucial for moving forward in life.
I’m certain one day a character will decide he or she is a firefighter. And my dad will be the first to know.
PS – Thank you so much for all of the great comments! Keep them coming. Hope those of you who have downloaded the eReader version of “Life on the Porcelain Edge” are enjoying Tessa’s & Ryland’s story.
PSS – Do you have a career you’d like to see a character pursue one day? Please share…