What is the right job for a heroine, or hero for that matter?
Compared with getting 50,000 – 100,000 words plus on to the page to make a book, that one sounds easy – just chose something and go for it.
Something that they can do without it interfering with the plot, that sounds interesting and they can do well? Plus that poor harassed author doesn’t have to go hunting too hard in the local library to find out exactly what a particle physicist does to earn a crust?
Maybe not quite so easy.
I remember attending a hilarious talk by saga writer Jessica Stirling, loosely entitled Ten Things I Hate About You, which dealt with some of the petty gripes that drag you out of a story. One of them was the heroine (or hero) who has a job, but never seems to do it. The air stewardess who never has to grapple with jet lag or work rotas and the lawyer who never opens a book. This one stuck in my mind, when I have forgotten the other nine, as it is one of my favorite petty gripes too.
Jane Austen didn’t have this problem as love, romance and husband hunting was the job for a woman when she was writing. The rest of us have to juggle with keeping the protagonists solvent while making sure they never miss the chance for that romantic tryst, search for buried treasure, hunt for serial killer, hot clinch on the beach, etc.
Self employment is an option, or the long suffering assistant who runs everything while hero/heroine is doing something far more interesting. (I think it’s time we had a book about how the long suffering assistant finally gets a love life.)
It’s easier if your hero/heroine is a policeman/doctor/private investigator where the job is an integral part of the story, but it doesn’t take much to keep me happy, and it can be done in subtle ways – maybe the heroine can be found reading the trade journal of her chosen profession, or someone calls the hero for some professional advice.
On the practical side, as a writer, including long chunks of description of a job is probably as much of a turn off as no mention at all. Unless the story demands it I tend to chose jobs that centre around things I like to do, like cooking or gardening or things to do with the arts, where I might have to research how a professional does the job, but I do know how to cook a steak or plant a pansy.
So – a suitable job for a heroine? Is there something perfect – and inheriting a fortune from Great Aunt Ethel doesn’t count. Actually don’t get me started on that one, as that is another of my pet gripes, the sudden inheritance/lottery win, right at the crucial moment. Life ain’t like that, or mine isn’t anyway.
As a reader is there a book where you have really loved the job that the hero or heroine does and learned something from it? As a writer is there a job you have chosen for your leading player that has worked really well, or turned out to be a real pain?