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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, May 19, 2008

Characters Must Have Jobs by Darlene Gardner

Welcome to guest blogger and Superromance author, Darlene Gardner. In the 22 romances she's penned, Darlene's characters have had an astonishing assortment of professions. Here's how she learned about such things as being a cameraman, a restaurant owner, an architect, an FBI agent, a marketing assistant, a lobbyist--the list goes on and on.

I should admit up front it amazes me that I'm blogging about character jobs.

My problem isn't so much deciding who does what for a living as figuring out how they go about doing it. How should I know what a typical day is like for a doctor? A lawyer? An Indian chief? (See accompanying photos of George Clooney from his ER days, Taye Diggs from his short-lived role as attorney Kevin Hill -- and Sitting Bull. Yes, Sitting Bull. Do you know how hard it is to find a photo of a hot Indian Chief?).

What amazes me even more is that I chose this topic. Why did I do this to myself?

Because I've discovered four magic words that make figuring out how my characters spend their work days a whole lot easier. Day. In. The. Life.

Go to your favorite Internet search engine, type in your character's profession, put quotes around "day in the life" and chances are you'll strike gold. Sometimes substituting "diary" or "typical day" for "day in the life" yields just as much information.

If that doesn't work, try searching blogs. Google has a search mechanism in place for exactly that.

Thanks to the Internet, information on how people do their jobs is everywhere. And people really like to write about themselves. I'm talking contemporary people, naturally. Unfortunately, I doubt this would work for historicals.

I'm not advising against traditional resources, such as consulting a book or picking up the phone to get specific questions answered. You can't beat first-hand research.

Want to simplify the process? Write what you know. For example, the hero in ANYTHING FOR HER CHILDREN, my May 2008 release from Harlequin Superromance, is a high school basketball coach. As a former newspaper sportswriter with two athletic kids, I know basketball. But I also found a story on-line where a basketball coach outlined his day to day schedule.

Ah, the Internet. It's making our jobs as writers a whole lot easier. One caveat: It's not perfect. You can't trust all the information you come across, so, whenever possible verify your information.

And I still haven't been able to find that hot Indian Chief.

How do you research your characters' professions? Any other tips?

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At 7:18 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Great post. I love finding new ways to take advantage of the internet. Thanks!

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I did a test of this, Darlene. I googled Social Worker "A Day in the Life" and got 60,000 hits!

Granted social work (my former profession) is very diverse but still what came up would be a gold mine for anyone choosing to use social work as a profession for their characters!

Almost makes me wish I was writing a contemporary!

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Hi Darlene,
Glad to see one of my favorite authors guest blogging here, especially when you're so busy.

I love the idea of "day in the life" search. Never thought of that as a way t limit the hits from just entering the profession.

I also seem to run across people in my chosen profession and ask them if I could email/call them with specific questions. They'll usually give me a business card and are quite flattered. So far that approach has worked for a jeweler and an accountant.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

cool. I just tried it and found out that my heroine might not be an accountant, like I suspected, but more of a virtual office assistant because of her level of education. and I found a blog that gives me a bulleted list of services and prices!!
Cool! Thanks for the tip :)

Hi Gillian and Diane :)

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Darlene Gardner said...

Blogs can be a rich source of information. In a previous Superromance, I had a young female character who needed a kidney transplant. While doing an Internet search, I ran across a blog written by a woman in her twenties who was on the waiting list for a kidney. I emailed her, and she became a great resource. (She also had her transplant and is going great!)

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Tori Lennox said...

What a simple but brilliant idea! I never thought about trying "day in the life" or even "typical day". I usually just type in the job and spend days reading. I like your idea better!

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

OMG, what a great tip!!

I took a hypnotherapist to lunch once. For a free meal and a chance to talk about themselves, I've discovered that almost anyone will meet with you. Except for the media, who are as elusive as eels.

Of course, the hynotherapist guy warned me that, since we had met on a social basis, he couldn't ever treat me. Luckily I don't smoke or have a fear of flying.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Fabulous tip! I can't wait to try it.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Wonderful tip. Never thought about using blogs as a resource.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Esri, too funny about the hypnotherapist. It is amazing how many people love talking to writers about their occupations.

This is a GREAT tip, Darlene. I, too, usually google my characters' occupations and end up reading way more than I need to.

I'm going to go try this, too. Thanks!

At 9:43 PM, Blogger doglady said...

This is a great tip, Darlene. I am curious as to whether it would work for professions in the past? I would assume a doctor's life or even a butler's life would be different in the nineteenth century as compared to those professions today. Of course there is a site and a series called the Worst Jobs in History that offers some really interesting information.

I did get in touch with some men in a British herpetological research lab about the history of the medicinal uses of snake venom. I am working out the bare bones of a story with a heroine who is doing just that because her brother is a hemophiliac. They not only gave me lots of information, but told me that the research started in England in the very time period in which I want to set my book!

At 11:10 PM, Blogger Darlene Gardner said...

Just did a search for "day in the life" and nineteenth century and came up with something posted on the Monticello website about a day in the life of Thomas Jefferson! So maybe it can work for historical characters, too!

At 7:19 AM, Blogger Prisakiss said...

Darlene, what a great tip! I'm a bit gunshy about approaching people in person or over the phone, but researching on-line will be a great way to gain some info, then when/if I'm able to talk to someone in the profession, I'll have a base of knowledge from which to ask questions.


At 8:11 AM, Blogger Rebecca York said...

Great suggestions. You’ve expanded my horizons. I tend to do professions I know. I do a lot of guys who are carpenters because I’ve had so much work done on my house. I do landscape architects or gardeners because I garden. I do spies and secret agents because I write romantic suspense, and I’ve do a lot of research in those areas. And I do paranormal because, um, I have a vivid imagination.



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