Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Career Choice as a Characterization Tool

Last fall, the delightfully smart and funny Danica Favorite made a comment on an author's loop and I pounced on it! I thought, this isn't an opinion... it's a blog post for Seekerville! So after I begged, cajoled and promised to always respect her love for chickens, she agreed to hang out with us today and talk about how authors can use a career choice to deepen their conflict/personality/setting. So without further adieux, I'm turning this over to Danica... with a fresh pot of coffee and a delightfully warm, cinnamony French Toast bake!

When you’re looking at a character and deciding what career to give him or her, you can’t arbitrarily assign a job to that character. Everything a character does is a reflection of who they are as a person and the total of the life events that shape them. Including career choice. An example: my father-in-law is one of the most brilliant men you’ll ever meet. I asked him one day why he didn’t become an engineer. He told me that he always wanted to be an engineer, but he didn’t think he was smart enough for college, so he became a mechanic instead. He has a good life, and enjoyed being a mechanic, but I’ve always wondered what amazing thing he would have invented had he had enough confidence to become an engineer.

Another example: A friend of mine is a manager at fast food place. Why does she work at a fast food place when she’s a smart, capable woman who could do a thousand other things?  In her case, it’s because the franchise owner is a family friend who lets her make schedules for herself that allow her to work only during school hours so she can be there for her kids. Not a lot of jobs let you do that. She is a wonderful, confident woman who values being there for her kids more than she values having an exciting career. She is willing to go to work at 3 a.m., mop the floors, scrub the toilets, and get everything ready for the day. She goes home to take her kids to school, drops them off, and returns to work, doing a job that most people make fun of. But she’s always got a smile on her face, and she’s happy to be there. Yet we all know the people who resent that they have to work at a fast food place, and when you walk up to the counter, you know it.

Think about how this impacts the kind of character you’re writing. What is the self-esteem of someone who is doing a job they hate but feel like they aren’t smart enough to follow their passion? How would that low self-esteem impact how the character interacts with others in the story? How would someone who thought he wasn’t smart enough for college interact with a genius? How would a fast food worker who was grateful for the perfect job to be there for her family interact with customers differently from someone who couldn’t get a better job?

When you dig deeper into a character’s career choices, you learn things that can help you understand more about your character. Sometimes we don’t go deep enough in asking the questions, and in doing so, we miss out on potentially important character clues that can add depth to a story. Think about the examples above and how having that information about a character could add new layers and potential to your story.

In my current release, For the Sake of the Children, my hero is willing to take whatever job he can get if it means supporting his daughter. Though his job isn’t a big part of the story, it tells a lot about the kind of man he is. Silas has a lot of reasons why taking the job he’s offered may not be the best idea, the biggest being it puts him in close proximity to the woman whose heart he broke years ago. But he does it because it is the best option for providing for his daughter.

In my other current release, The Scent of Romance, part of the Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley collection, my characters’ jobs are vital to the story. The heroine helps run her grandmother’s farm and is doing her best to keep it intact. Why? Because the farm represents safety and security to her, but more importantly, it is her passion. Contrast that with the hero, who is representing the company that wants to turn the farm into a golf course resort. Why is this job so important to him? Because he believes it is his chance to win his father’s approval.

For these characters, the jobs they have point to something deeper in who they are as people. I could have just made my hero a lawyer because that’s what I needed in my story, and a lot of writers are willing to settle for that. But when you go deeper and understand why he is a lawyer (he thought it would win his father’s approval), then you know more about him and can have him interact in more meaningful ways. Now the conflict isn’t just about doing a job, but about making his dad love him.  What do we as readers care more about? A man who wants another successful contract under his belt? Or a man who is still that little boy who wants his daddy to love him? 

Do you see how knowing a character’s reason for having a job, even if it isn’t a huge part of the story, can deepen the characterization? It’s tempting to make a character have a particular career because you’re filling out a form or giving them something to do, or you think it isn’t vital to the story. But you’re missing out on some great details that can make your story even better.

Your turn: What is your hero or heroine’s occupation? Do you know why he or she chose that job? Are there additional details about that job you can use to help your readers understand or relate to your character? 

If you’re not writing a book, I’d love to hear examples from books you’ve read or movies you’ve watched where a character’s job gave you more insight into the character.

And writer or reader, Danica has graciously offered a copy of "For the Sake of the Children" to one most fortunate commenter! Join in the conversation about careers, characters, choices and how they connect with you the writer... or the author!

About the author:

A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She and her family recently moved in to their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado.  Danica loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun.
You can connect with Danica at the following places:


About Danica’s Releases:

For the Sake of the Children:
The Nanny Agreement 
Widower Silas Jones needs a mother for his daughter, and marriage could help his former sweetheart repair her tattered reputation. Yet he can't blame Rose Stone when she refuses a marriage of convenience after he once broke her heart, marrying another woman to save his family's farm. He's blessed Rose agrees to be his nanny. If only she'd look at him again with the warmth she shows little Milly… 
Rose's tarnished past hasn't quelled her spirit. She's building a good life in Colorado with her infant son—and the glimmer of a future with Silas. But when his in-laws try to claim Milly, Rose must decide if the makeshift family she and Silas have forged can reopen her heart to love.

The Scent of Romance:

A high-powered lawyer must convince a woman determined to protect her family’s legacy to sell the family farm to his father’s development company, but finds his heart leading him away from everything he’s spent his life trying to accomplish.

111 comments :

  1. Welcome back to Seekerville, Danica.

    Excellent, excellent post.

    You know our pal Vince Mooney taught me similar and I haven't forgotten it. I layer it in with dialogue, action and POV and it really nails characterization. Wish I'd learned this lesson long ago.

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    1. I think we keep learning the lessons at a deeper level each time. It's a constant process that I don't think we ever master, we just get better. :)

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  2. Hi Danica, welcome! I just got done reading a book where the hero becomes a British officer in the Revolutionary War, not because he wanted to (he wanted to be a parishioner), but because he wanted to keep an eye on his younger brother who joined & keep him out of trouble. More for his mother's request than himself. He abhorred war and because of his preferred profession, abhorred killing. He cared more for his brother than himself & I saw glimpses of this characterization in his personality & family loyalty. It helped endear me to him!

    What a great insightful post! I never thought about how we readers can connect deeper with the characters due to their professions and reasons behind why they choose something they don't really like. I've always said character depth is most important to me in any book & now I know another reason for it. I learned something new :-) Love it when that happens!

    I'd love to be in the draw for a copy of "For the Sake of the Children"! Thank you so much :-)

    P.S. I subscribe to your newsletter & the last one you had (Christmas) asked at the very end if there were any book bloggers or reviewers willing to help you promote your books. I had responded to that & sent an email, but I didn't get a response. So I was wondering if you were still looking or if you have your fill. I'd love to as a book reviewer if you still have room. :-)

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    1. Ooops....the hero wanted to HAVE his own parish, as in he would be the clergyman or Pastor. A parishioner is a member of a church...haha!! I sure got that mixed, didn't I??

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    2. Hi Trixi, thanks. Definitely a good piece to know about the hero to make you connect with him.

      I'm having email issues, so I will get to your email when I can. Sorry about that.

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    3. Absolutely no worries! I just didn't know if my email even made it to you. I hated to ask here, but I saw the opportunity to connect with you and took it. I don't ever want to be presumptuous!

      I really did enjoy this post! I love learning the different ways authors make us readers fall in love with their stories. Like I said above, character depth & development is so important to me :-) If you can endear me to them, then you've gained a reader for life!

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  3. Hi Danica, I love this post. I think careers tell so much about a character. In my Christmas novella the hero was a pastor and the heroine a vet.

    The book I'm currently working on has a heroine who is almost out of law school. She chose the career thinking it would provide a good income. Security is everything to her. The hero is a public defender. Not much money but he wants to help people. Same career but totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

    Loved your post!

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    2. Terri, I love this because normally it's the woman who wants to help people in stories. Love to see a man in this role.

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    3. Terri, that's a conundrum romance from the get-go... Talk about separate mindsets!!! Go you!!!

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    4. Thanks Terri! I like that a lot. It's always good to have their core motivations be at odds, because then they really have to work for that HEA!

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  4. Hi Danica:

    There's a saying that 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I feel like that just happened!

    I am currently reading, "A Temporary Family" by Sherri Shackelford in which almost every element in the book emanates from the hero's choice of career! I mean everything.

    The hero is a severely traumatized Civil War veteran. (Today we would say he has PTSD). He can't take too much distraction. He is subject to going out of control and becoming dangerous. So he takes a job in a recently abandoned ghost town as the lone employee of a stage coach rest stop.

    The hero is there alone with the horses and a room to feed passengers as the horses are changed. A stage may only come through twice a week. This gives him maximum time to be alone. (The symbolism of living in an intact ghost town in the middle of nowhere with an empty hotel and other building is very powerful.)

    A woman with three kids must leave the stage because a child is too sick to travel. Next stage is a few days away. How can the hero cope with this? Then a gang of robbers takes the hero, woman and kids hostage until they can holdup a gold shipment coming through the station. This could be days away.The woman and little kids are in danger. How can the hero cope all this stress and distractions? (I don't know yet as I stopped reading to write this post.)

    However, I think it would be hard to find a more explicit example of your post theme than this!

    I also agree with you 100%. I've written here how career choice can also be a 'marketing vitamin' which can draw many more readers to your story as can location, hobbies, events, and even pets. If you can, select an interesting career that many readers would love to learn about. This will help sell books and help the marketing people, too. : )

    Now for a romance I'd like to see written which is also almost 100% career centric:

    A female NASCAR driver is in love with a competing driver who is a handsome devil but who just won't commit. Not only does she want him to commit for her HEA, so do several million NASCAR fans who are following the romance. (Romance under a microscope.) This scenario is highly marketable and very much career driven.

    Please include me in the drawing. I like LI Historical.

    Vince

    P.S. "The Price of Victory" is highly career centric and is also one of my favorite romances.

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    1. Very fun, Vince!! Love the NASCAR angle. I wonder if you could take it even deeper. How has that career choice shaped them into being those people? The woman who wants a man who won't commit, and a man who won't commit. Are those things linked the career?

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    2. Hi Danica: A career where you might be killed at any time, even during a practice run, would probably mitigate against having children or leaving a widow. I think it is somewhat common for drivers to not marry their long time girlfriends. Of course, the fans want a wedding! Junior married his long term girlfriend on New Year's Day. (However he was suffering from a concussion that prevented him for racing.) His dad was killed in a practice run, btw. There is a lot of motivation, conflict and danger here. Harlequin had a NASCAR subgenre a few years ago. I thought is was very good.

      Vince

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  5. Most character careers give you an insight. I think this is especially so if they do their job begrudgingly.

    Count me in thank you.

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    1. So true! You have to wonder why someone has a job if they do it begrudgingly.

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  6. Great post, Danica! Job seekers and those who find their career choice unfulfilling are often advised to do what they love. I worked with numbers for twenty plus years and I couldn't stand math while in school. One of my characters is working in a professional that's a constant reminder of what's missing in her life. Thanks for visiting today.

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    1. You're welcome Jill! It's funny how we change from what we didn't like in school to what we do now.

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  7. I've long believed that the hero/heroine's background and personal choices (lifestyle, career, faith or lack of faith) all intertwine in an intricate dance of building character within the character. We're such a composite, and the more an author can keep those characters in character, and keep their choices likely... with sometimes a VERY NOTABLE exception (Think "As Good as it Gets" and Jack Nicholson befriending the small dog he hated)... because those notable exceptions give the reader a glimpse into the character's core.

    Danica first mentioned this on our author's loop, and I jumped at the chance to book her for Seekerville... because this makes such simple sense to me!

    Danica, welcome!!!

    Let me also say, that the parameters of working for Love Inspired have been the best teaching tool for how to get the most bang for a shortened length... and working with Melissa Endlich has taught me how to see these characters from a reader's perspective, and not just Ruthy-Fixes-The-World.... So bearing that in mind, this characterization tool is vital.

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    1. Hi Ruth:

      Those mean editors! I want to read that "Ruthy-Fixes-The-World" Book. Is it an Indie? It would make a great cookbook.

      "Ruthy's Recipe for Fixing The World" ... and it's not all about Chicken Soup!

      It would just have to sell. You write the book, I'll write the ads!

      Vince

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    2. Absolutely, Ruthy! I think a lot about my friend who works fast food. So many people mock it and say they'd never do it, but you think about all the middle aged and older! people working there. What would make you do that job? The one you'd never do? Sometimes it is more interesting to get a character in a career they wouldn't do, not because it's their only option, but because it's in support of their dream.

      I remember seeing a mailman who looked like a total rockstar, but in a mailman's uniform. So I wondered, is he mailman by day, and rocker by night, and the mailman gig is just to support his dream? Think of all the writers who have jobs that they will quit to be full time writers... sometimes the job is what supports the passion.

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    3. Your post on the loop struck me because I've done everything, every hairnet and nametag job there is, and I learned new things on each one... and I did them proudly. So when I see a waitress... or a grocery clerk or stock boy or deli gal or baker or babysitter or teacher's aide, I know that inside there might be the next great Joanna Gaines, Danica Favorite, Marilyn Monroe, etc.... I love seeing the common line inside the famous person!

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  8. I BROUGHT COFFEE, TEA, HOT CHOCOLATE AND SODA!!! MORNING BEVERAGE OF CHOICE, MY FRIENDS!

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    1. Where's the cookies? I want snickerdoodles. :)

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    2. How did I forget??? SNICKERDOODLES!!!! YES!!!!

      Hey, I'm also going to try a very berry crumble... how can that be considered bad????

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  9. Good Morning Danica, Its great to see your smiling face again. I so enjoyed meeting you in Denver. Great post. Thanks for joining us here in Seekerville.

    Career choice is so important and I so agree with you. It helps with character development. I personally like to use careers that haven't been done before because then there are some interesting things to write about as you see the career in the character's actions.

    Love your Love Inspired cover. Thanks again for joining us today. Have fun.

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    1. thanks Sandra! So great to meet you too!

      I love unique careers as well.

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  10. Good morning, Danica! Great post! Careers are a good jumping off place as to how your characters see/think of the world when you're in their POV. An ex-military woman who's seen war and the world is very likely going to think, interpret and use different words to describe something than would a woman who's experiences are closer to home. So career and life experiences can really help in developing and illustrating that characterization.

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  11. Good morning, Danica! What a great post!

    In my WIP, the heroine is an English professor. She grew up loving stories, and it's completely different than her family's desire for her to join the family hardware store.

    The hero is a 'retired' Navy SEAL who is running a boat business and hostel on a lake. He thinks he's ready for peace and tranquility. The day he rescues the heroine, he begins to realize he's made for action.

    Danica, congratulations on your new releases! Thanks for sharing with us today!

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    1. Thanks Jackie! Definitely think about how you can show how those careers or those backgrounds shaped them as people and made them who they are. You can do so much and go deeper with it to really make those characters shine.

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  12. DANICA, ANOTHER tool for my toolbox.
    Tina does this in "Rocky Mountain Cowboy," where Becca is employed by the company that made Joe's prosthetic arm.
    Belle Calhoune does this in "Reunited at Christmas," where Ruby's profession (search and rescue) is directly linked to her accident and temporary amnesia. We are what we do, whether we like it or not.
    KB

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    1. Hi Kaybee:

      Exactly...and I loved "Rocky Mountain Cowboy". Tina did amazing research on that computerized prosthetic arm. It was so interesting and yet the 'arm' did not get in the way of the love story. I like romances where I learn something I didn't know as well as get an HEA experience.
      Vince

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    2. Absolutely. And think about how those tie in to what kind of people those characters are. It's not just the circumstances their jobs put them in, but how it helps them develop into their personalities.

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  13. Good morning, Danica. Your ideas have me looking deeper into my characters' motivation. The hero is a museum curator who chose this occupation to move away from his small town. The heroine is a big-city gal who works for her father's successful property management firm. I can add to the conflict by going deeper into their motivations. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    I just picked up your newest LIH book, so don't put my name in the giveaway. I've just started the Arcadia Valley collection. This idea for a series is so inveighing ...food, faith and romance! Great!

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    1. Oops...."so INTRIGUING." Trying to type while treadmilling is not always successful. :(

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    2. You're welcome! Thanks for getting my book!

      And yes, the deeper you go, the more you discover who they are as people, and I think that's where you find the good conflict nuggets.

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  14. Hi Danica. I have a question for you. I know you write historical romances (quite good ones IMHO) and I try to write them as well. In a latter 1800s setting, are there any believable career choices for women besides a school teacher? It gets very tiresome for a heroine to not have a career while shes going through all the conflict before HEA, but in reality, most women of that era did not work. Correct?

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    1. It can be tricky to find an actual career, because they didn't think about it in those terms. But think of all the wives who helped their husbands run their businesses. Or, since we're talking romance here, they can be widows or daughters. Women may not have worked in the traditional sense as we see it, but many were involved in family businesses, so anything that could have been a family business, IMO, is fair game if done correctly. And, you can have women bucking the system, which especially happened in the West, where the women had to move into men's roles because they had no other choice. Keli Gwyn did a great job of this in her most recent book (I forget the title, sorry) where the heroine was a draftswoman, and a huge part of the conflict is that she wanted to be taken seriously in a man's world. Remember that the late 1800's is when a lot of suffrage movements were getting some footing. I can't remember the date, but Wyoming saw a lot of female political leaders in that time.

      I think the mistake we make, and I really took my daughter to task on this because her history teacher was all about how oppressed women were in this time period (which is not true, BTW), is that we look at what we think are women's traditional roles, but we miss the clues that they were doing other things. Just as we aren't overt about sex in our books, it's obviously happening because there are babies!! So sometimes it's about looking at clues that point to, hey, it doesn't SAY women did this, but based on the context and what else is happening, it's clear women were somehow involved here.

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  15. Hi Danica:

    Career is so potentially interesting that have you considered the power of your career choice on the secondary characters? Both for good and not so good?

    I'm reading Julie's "Love Everlasting" and I'm finding the secondary character's job as a pastor to provide strong competition for my attention -- even though the hero is a doctor! I think Chase's career as a pastor has a far greater influence on his behavior than Dr. Love's! For example: I'm as highly interested in whether Chase can capture the heart of the wild twin as I am in the hero's goddess girlfriend. I hope Chase gets his own book. Note: I'm not saying I want the heroine to get her own book.

    I found the same thing in Glynna's book, "The Pastor's Christmas Courtship". In this romance the one-time town bad boy goes into the military and later becomes the local church's fill-in pastor! He was the hero in book three but while I was reading books one and two I was also looking forward to reading his book!

    I think it just might be wise to consider the power of career on your secondary characters. In a series, maybe the most powerful career interest should go first...or maybe the best attractor should be saved for last. It's something to think about.

    Vince

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    1. Honestly, I don't think the job itself is the key attraction. It really needs to be something organic that's a part of who the character is. For example, if you read a book about a group of cops on the same police force. The draw really is about that bond between the police officers and the relationship. I don't think, oh, I'm going to make this secondary character a cop because I want to read a cop. Rather, it's about seeing who that secondary character relates to the others, and how does the character's job impact that relationship? Staying with the cop example, how does it change a relationship with two best friends if one is a cop and the other is on the wrong side of the law?

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    2. A cop and a bad guy? Stuart Woods 'Stone Barrington's' long running series has a police Lt. married to the top mob guy's daughter! This changes the cop's relationship with everyone he deals with. It's an amazing situation. The pages can't refuse to turn by themselves!
      Vince

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    3. VINCE SAID: "I'm reading Julie's "Love Everlasting" and I'm finding the secondary character's job as a pastor to provide strong competition for my attention -- even though the hero is a doctor! I think Chase's career as a pastor has a far greater influence on his behavior than Dr. Love's! For example: I'm as highly interested in whether Chase can capture the heart of the wild twin as I am in the hero's goddess girlfriend. I hope Chase gets his own book."

      Your wish is my command, Vince, because I am writing (as we speak) Cat and Chase's book now, His Steadfast Love, which I will say has me more excited than any book I've written in a long time. The parallel between Christ's steadfast love and that of a Godly character who loves a wild girl no matter what she does is driving me like few books ever have. So you may be right about Chase's pull, especially his strength in not giving into Cat no matter the attraction because he knows deep down it's God's steadfast love she needs, not Chase's physical love, no matter how much she tempts him to get it.

      I will say this -- this book is almost writing itself, it's flowing that naturally and easily, so I'm really excited to try in some small way to convey God's own steadfast love for each of us.

      Thanks for reading LE! Let me know if you post a review, okay? HUGS!!

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    4. Hi Julie:


      You wrote this about Chase:

      "His Steadfast Love, which I will say has me more excited than any book I've written in a long time. The parallel between Christ's steadfast love and that of a Godly character who loves a wild girl no matter what she does is driving me like few books ever have."

      I think the Christ parallel is even stronger that this. Chase was willing to give up Shannon because she wanted Sam even though Sam himself said that Chase was a better man than he was and that Chase would make a better husband for her than he would.

      Yet even though admittedly Chase was better, Sam wanted Shannon anyway. Sam was flawed by his hard childhood which is okay. Sam needed Shannon more than Chase did. Chase is more like a Romantic hero who would sacrifice himself for his beloved. (Camille, Madam Butterfly, Violetta.)

      I'll let you know when I finish EL and do a review. I'm just trying to figure out how to cover that hot kissing scene where Sam and Jazz had to take a cold shower to cool down enough to go out in public! If I was an 'edgy' referee, I'd thrown a flag on that one! :)

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  16. Good morning, Danica! Great post, and I love how the career choice adds another layer and great opportunities for sub-plots. When a person spends so many hours at work each week, it has an impact. It can be so much fun to examine/exploit this in our fictional worlds. :-)

    Of course, in Seekerville, we have to mention You've Got Mail. :-) Kathleen runs her bookstore because of the connection to her mother and because she cares about what children read and how it shapes them. Joe runs his bookstores for profit. It makes for some terrific dialogue. "...we're the Price Club. Only instead of a ten-gallon can of olive oil for $3.99 that won't even fit into your kitchen cabinet, we're selling cheap books. Me a spy. Absolutely. I have in my possession the secret printout of the sales figures of a bookstore so inconsequential and yet full of its own virtue that I was instantly compelled to rush over and check it out for fear it would drive me out of business."

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    1. LOL!! Love it!

      And YES!! When you spend 40 hours a week doing a job, that impacts who you are and how you see the world.

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  17. HEY, DANICA -- WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE!! It's really good to have you here, ESPECIALLY since this post is JUST what I needed today!

    I just started my 3rd book in my Isle of Hope series and am just now digging deeper into the heroine. She is the sassy, sarcastic, and bold twin sister who feels she never measures up to the shy, sweet, and brilliant twin, so she doesn't come off as likable a character as her sister, which is something I need to change.

    I'll do it according to her spiritual arc, of course, but I want an attachment right away, so you helped me to zero in on her career, which is a teacher. Taking your advice, I can now see how I need to sow her insecurities and dreams into a caring teacher who deep down wants to help troubled kids like her.

    So THANK YOU!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Awesome, Julie! I'm so glad it was helpful! And yes, I love that motivation for becoming a teacher.

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  18. Danica, I love this post. I can see where it would be vital in developing our characters.

    I noticed something in real life about how a career choice has made an impact on a family member. He has now become a man who reposses vehicles. You can see his whole face light up in the joy of this job. The whole family was together the night before my mom's graveside service. We reserved a room at Golden Coral so all the family could chat since most of us were from out of town and staying in different motels. Well my nephew who lives in that town drove his truck and illustrated to us how he would repossess a car. It was fascinating and yet his life is at risk. Since then I have been thinking how this would make an awesome job for a character in a book.

    By the way I love the Arcadia Valley series and can't wait to read all the books as they are released. I have already pre-ordered the February release.

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    1. My husband used to help repo occasionally when he sold cars. Very dangerous work. And if any trouble breaks out, you're the one at fault with the law. At least that's how it was when he did it.

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    2. It is amazing the technology they have now on the trucks. he has to be really careful no one sees him.

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    3. Awesome, Wilani, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      And yes!! That's a great example. There's probably something in that job that give him meaning and makes him feel like he's making a difference. So important!!

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  19. Hi Danica!
    Great topic. Love the idea of choosing that perfect profession for our heroes and heroines. I have a dear friend who loves to clean houses. She likes to take something unkempt and turn it into a lovely, clean, tidy setting. I encouraged her to expand her passion into a business. Not sure if my prompting helped or if she always had the dream, but she no longer does the cleaning and now manages ladies who work for her. She a heroine, for sure!!! And a success story!

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    1. What a great story Debby! And yes!! I think we all have gifts in different ways, and clearly she's using hers. I'm not gifted there, so I appreciate people who are.

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  20. Great post, Danica. And a great reminder. I love deep characters and their career is certainly a huge piece of their lives. I'm in the planning stages of a new novel and his career is something I've been mulling over, so this post is perfect timing. :)

    In my WIP, Caleb was on track to become a lawyer. He felt called to it, and his parents and potential parents-in-law were keen on the idea as well. They wanted him to be successful.
    Then he failed the bar.
    When the Civil War broke out he saw the perfect opportunity to create a new career and escape his failure, so he joined the ranks hoping to make military his career. Until his best friend is court-martialed and begs him to represent him.
    So Caleb's shifting career is a large part of the story.

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    1. Thanks Amber!

      Definitely a nice conflict. It's fun when our jobs make us face our insecurities.

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  21. Often the military heroes in my Military Investigations series entered the military to find their way, so to speak, after a troubled childhood. They longed for structure, for organization, for putting their lives on the line for a higher cause. Who they were growing up certainly played into the heroic men they became.

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    1. Definitely! I know a lot of people who credit the structure in their lives to the military.

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  22. I love your examples w/your father-in-law and friend.
    I think it was Dave Ramsey who gave an example of a man who became a doctor because his father and grandfather had. He hated it, but he felt he had no choice. His real love was building things so he started building houses and kept his physician duties on the weekend part-time.
    I've been discussing career choices w/my 17 yo daughter. I'm telling you, I take out all the fun for that girl. She only sees the glamour parts.

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    1. LOL Connie!! We're having the same conversations with my 16 year old. She's so afraid of making the wrong choice for college, and I'm like, it's okay!! You get to make a mistake and change your mind.

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  23. Welcome, Danica! This is a great post on story characters and career choices. It isn't always easy finding exactly the right career fit for hero and heroine--jobs that complement each other but that also generate the necessary story conflict.

    I also appreciate your reminder to consider WHY the character chose a particular career path, and how the choice can reveal even deeper layers of the character's personality. That's definitely something I'll be thinking more about in future books!

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  24. Danica, what a great post! I love the example you gave about your characters and why they chose the occupations they did. You've got me thinking about why my characters have the jobs they do. I love the idea of them choosing their occupations as a result of something in them...a need for approval, or security, or something else. I'm going to be thinking about this both for my characters in my current MS and also in the next one.

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    1. Definitely! I do think our choices (or choosing not to do something, which is still a choice) reflect a lot of all of us, if we look deep enough. :)

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  25. Thanks, Danica for a great post! Perfect timing for me as my current WIP lacks a strong career choice for my heroine. In this case the hero's decision was easy...I'll be re-thinking my stubborn heroine's options. And the always fascinating "why"---was it a choice or an expectation?

    I remember processing a career choice with my son when he was still in college. One summer on our ranch he spent about two hours teaching my nephew, who has spina-bifida, how to drive our little tractor. I was amazed listening to my son's patient explanations and his unhurried calm as my nephew worked to accomplish the task.

    I was working in the garden and called him over. I said, "Son, have you ever considered teaching? You've got a gift."

    "Mom, there is NO money in teaching!"

    That was the end of our conversation for a few years as he experimented with different jobs. Finally, he applied and was accepted at his old high school and has been happily teaching and touching young people's lives for over eighteen years now...and... he's a VERY successful football coach!!

    It's such fun to explore career choices for our character's too...but you really have to KNOW your character...or find out about them as you go!! LOL

    Have a tea-lightful day everyone!

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  26. Several of my main characters don't have jobs (unless school counts which my dad says is MY job right now) because they are still teenagers, but in my WIP my main character IS a mercenary. But she didn't exactly choose it. She was kind of raised into it.

    For the fantasy genre it's kind of hard to for your characters to choose their jobs because they don't live in America where a person is free to choose what they do with their lives. They really just stick with what their families did and what they were born into.

    But I do have one character who is a knight for a lord as a way of repaying the lord for sparing his life when he was to be hanged for being a thief, but he's not really all that main of a character.

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    1. Actually, though, you bring up an interesting thing to think about, even in fantasy, and even in cultures that aren't American. Do they really stick with what their families did or what they were born into, or do they have different aspirations? Just because they don't have a choice doesn't mean that doesn't play into who they are as people. Maybe the character is raised into being a mercenary, but is that what she wanted for her life? Does she have other dreams or ambitions? Does she want to be the best mercenary she can be to prove to her family that she's worthy of them? There are still deeper layers, and I encourage you to explore them, because I think there's a lot more there. Especially in the choice realm, because I think people have more choices than they think they do, and their reasons for choosing (or not choosing) a certain path can be really enlightening.

      My teenage daughter has a story world she's been creating characters in for about five years, and it's very interesting to see even where the characters (who are also mercenaries) make choices about their jobs and career path in small ways where it would otherwise appear they have no choice. So think about that, and how you can use that in your writing.

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    2. You are right. I meant more in the cases royalty and bloodlines- like being a lord or a prince or princess.

      My mercenary does change her career somewhat. She started out by working for the person who had raised her and the Castrelean (the fantasy land she was raised in) court, but later chooses to leave/run away and choose for herself what she will do. She eventually returns to being a mercenary because that is what she was trained as and is best at but she does spend some time trying to figure out who she is and trying different vocations including being a barmaid.

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  27. Kathryn, that's so cool about your son! Glad he found his teaching niche.

    It's sad, though, that the world is probably missing out on many good teachers because it came down to a choice between teaching and supporting a family. It's a shame and an embarrassment that teachers aren't paid better.

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    1. That must be a southern thing... our teachers are paid quite well, with full benefits and retirement and their pay goes up annually... We have many teachers making over 70K/year after 15 years.... So they start out in the 30's but it goes up quickly. And the work year is 190 days, 186 with kids, 4 pre-and-post school. Are the wages that different in the south or west?

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  28. Okay, going to try this again. Again. Having computer issues, so bear with me. Kind of a crazy few days and I have no idea what day it is. Actually I do, but it sure doesn't feel like it. :) My Grandbaby was born late last night/early this morning and I've been on the phone with relatives, plus I had to do some work meetings, so I feel like I've lost my grip on today. One of those everything that can go wrong kind of days, but the main thing that needed to go right, did, because I have a happy healthy grandbaby, so that's all that matters. :)

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    1. How wonderful--a new grandbaby! Congratulations, Danica!

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    2. Congratulations on the new grandbaby!

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    3. Congratulations on the arrival of your new grandbaby! Blessings and prayers for all! Grammy is the best job of all! :)

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    4. Oh my goodness, what a joyful time!! Congrats to the family! Do you live close enough to visit?

      We have an almost three year old grand-girl and we were in the birthing room with our daughter when she was born. Oh my, such a nerve wracking wait while my daughter went through all the pain, I hated that part! But what joy it was to watch my grand-girl be born, from the very first breath she took to her first feeding. I'll always hold that dear to my heart :-)

      Such a wonderful blessing grandkids are! I hope you get to spend time with him or her.

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    5. Isn't this wonderful news???? Danica, does she have a name yet???

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    6. Grandbabies are wonderful! Congratulations!

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    7. She does have a name. I don't share names publicly out of respect for their privacy, but it's a cute name and I like it. :)

      Unfortunately, they live in Maryland, so we won't see them a lot, but we've already got tickets to visit for Spring Break. :)

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    8. Wow...congratulations on your new Grandbaby!! Nothin' better!!

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  29. DANICA, great to see you in Seekerville! Thanks for the important reminder that what our characters do is part and parcel to who they are. Or should be.

    Janet

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  30. One of my heroes was a farmer and hated it as he was avoiding what he was meant to do but didn't feel worthy of--being a preacher. Lots of layers to story people! :-)

    Janet

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    1. So true! I love that, because our feelings of worth play a lot into what we do or don't do. If we don't feel good enough to follow God's calling, we don't. I know so many people who think that way, and it makes me sad, because in my mind, if God called you, then you ARE good enough.

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  31. Gosh, I've dropped by so late, I don't have time to read all the comments, Danica...maybe this weekend.

    Anyway, my male character left home at 15 and headed for the gold fields near Virginia City. After a decent strike, he realized he could make more money selling beef to the miners and became a trail boss, driving herds from Texas to Montana Territory so that someday, he could have his own spread. The reason he left home at such a young age is that he was the youngest son on a huge ranch. He loved his mother and the relationship she had with his father, but she died, and within a year, he had a stepmother and two younger step-brothers. Resentful of his father for remarrying, he took off to make his mark on the world.

    Also, I can identify with my mom and dad. They were both children of the Depression. My mom dropped out of school after the 6th grade to help the family logging trees for railroad ties. It wasn't until the end of her life that I learned she had always wanted to be a nurse. When we were sick, her hands and care had a magic touch.

    My dad left school after the 8th grade to drive a truck and take care of his parents. He was the youngest son, and his father had lost his dairy farm because of the Depression. Dad eventually became a mechanic and wanted to work on airplanes, but since he'd broken his back during the war, he was excluded even though the company wanted to hire him.

    The result was my parents' emphasis on their kids' education, especially my mom with us girls. My sister and I were the first in our family to graduate from college and enter professions...mine journalism/book editing, my sister teaching.

    A character's profession is an essential part of their growth/motivation in a story.

    Thanks for stopping by Seekerville, Danica, even though you were dragged here. lol

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    1. Barbara, a lot of great stuff! Fodder for stories for sure!

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  32. Danica, this is a very interesting post. As a reader, I can see how an occupation can add to the story.

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  33. Welcome to Seekerville, Danica! I really like this post. One of my favorite things is picking careers for my characters. I especially like picking unique careers for my heroines.

    I have one heroine who owns a construction company. When she was a child, she was abducted and left in an abandoned building. Her specialty is turning abandoned office buildings and warehouses into high-end condos.

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    1. Oh that's fun! A neat twist to what a child would do after a traumatic event.

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  34. I am writing a book about a town that is destroyed by a tornado. A main character is the meteorologist for the local TV station. His professions is crucial to the story. He is on the air giving the storm warnings while the storm hits, with no idea if his family is OK. His coverage is credited with saving many lives. This gets him noticed with the chance to move up in the business. This puts him at odds with his wife, who does not want to leave their community.

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    1. Sandy, that sounds really interesting. Is there a deeper motivation to this character to show why moving up is important to him? What about his wife?

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  35. Danica, Thanks for the post. I was writing a book and I was almost done with the first draft when I realized there was no way the heroine could have the career I had written for her to have. During my subsequent rewrite, I chose a new career based on her personality. I wish I'd read this post a lot sooner! In my current WIP, the heroine is a marine vet who loves the beach and animals.

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    1. Tanya, it is frustrating to realize it so close to the end, but how great that you were able to change it and make it more meaningful to your character.

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  36. In Becky Wade's book Her One and Only the main character Dru Porter works for a protection service. I felt it gave me insight into her daring character.
    Becky B.

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  37. Danica, I'm sorry to drop by so late! This was such a great post. I love the idea of digger deeper into my character career choices rather than just settling for what fits into the basic story idea.

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    1. Hi Missy:

      The first thing I read this morning was your: "rather than just settling for what fits into the basic story idea" and immediately it hit me: career choice is a great way to get the 'different' in the advice to write 'the same, only different'. Immediately I can think of two highly memorable heroes if not the books themselves: Mary had a landscape painter in the old west and Janet a doctor who sold medicine from a wagon who the heroine accused of being a 'snake oil salesman' when it was real medicine and he was highly educated.

      Selecting a unique career is a sure wayt o get your 'different' on. : )

      BTW: keep coming late to the party as that always gives me something new and good to read the next morning!

      Vince

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  38. Hi Danica. I really enjoyed this lesson. In my current WIP, my protagonist clung to a job that offered security and style--until she was fired. She is forced into a temporary country setting, which cultivates great conflict and a venue for self-reflection. Career choices are such a fun part of story creation. Many thanks...and I love the cover of "For the Sake of the Children". Blessings to you!

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    1. Thanks Rebecca! I love how a sudden change of plans (like getting fired) makes you rethink your life.

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  39. hi Danica
    I so love this post. It will be a great "refer to" one as I make progress on my writing.

    I so wish I could have a dream home in the Colorado mountains, but - alas... I'm on the East Coast in Virginia Beach, longing to make it back to my home State.

    Looking forward to picking up some of your books!

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  40. I worked with the public for 22 1/2 years as a public librarian and I learned how to be a better customer because of this. I have the utmost respect for waitresses and I always try to leave them a little extra tip. Hungry people can be very demanding and often unrelenting in their criticism. I have a friend who is brilliant and she could have chosen many occupations. She has a degree in accounting but she has made her career as a manager at McDonald's. I think many people feel she has wasted her talents and her abilities but I see her choice as a fulfillment for her personally. And yes, as a reader, I appreciate when a character's job choice is explained and used to develop the plot.
    Thanks for an excellent post!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. You're welcome Connie! And yes! I think serving others is a great way to learn how to be a better customer.

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  41. Well done, crazy chicken lady :)

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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