The Occupation Thesaurus – a review

I was privileged and excited to read an ARC of The Occupation Thesaurus. This is my rambling review and I’ll start with the crucial and deserved rating:

5 stars *****

The core of this non-fiction reference book is – as the title suggests – an extensive selection of Occupations with details on them all. I should mention the US emphasis, although the authors clearly state aspects like training/requirements for a job might vary between states and countries. As an ex-pat Brit, I was aware of this but never felt that aspect distracted from the immense value of the information.

The excellent opening sections on numerous aspects of job selection, motivation, and their value to writers, are essential reading. They are jammed full of ideas, observations, and suggestions on how to apply Occupations in your writing.

They triggered some interesting thoughts for me. Topics covered are: It’s All in the Details; The Motivations behind Career Choice; Careers that Characterize; Jobs as Sources of Tension and Conflict; Jobs Can Support Story Structure and Character Arc; Vocations as Thematic Devices; Choosing a Career for Your Character; Additional Tips for Writing about Occupations.

These sections alone make this book invaluable. Many of the comments felt topical in the light of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, society, and job issues. The authors reference how the trickle-down effect from such a crisis causes a wider economic crisis across multiple industries.

From the opening sections onwards, it’s “a matter of figuring out which ones [Occupations] will work for your characters…” Over 125 jobs are covered from Actor to Yoga Instructor with sections for each job on: Overview; Necessary Training; Useful skills, talents, and abilities; Helpful character traits; Sources of Friction; People they might interact with; How this occupation might impact the character’s needs; Twisting the fictional stereotype; Characters might choose this profession because they…

Plenty to set the grey cells sparking.

I could relate to so much in the light of my own characters’ occupations and my own diverse careers. Some occupations seemed absent at first – until I applied some lateral thinking. For instance, the female protagonist of my debut novel was a horse rider – not included. But as a Professional Athlete her traits were represented. There is enough variety in the detailed Occupations in other related fields presented. Plus, the Animal Trainer applies to horses – and other creatures including marine.

Just think sideways. I have a secondary character who is the PA to a Fashion Designer. No PA, but the Personal Assistant to a Celebrity has relevant elements.

Or to quote the authors, “explore ones with similar responsibilities, risk, or theme to get you started,” using the appendices especially.

Warning – with a wink – rabbit-holes galore abound here. Or triggers for lateral plotting.

For instance, “…even an innocent nosebleed that turns the entryway into a murder scene can create imaginative and embarrassing complications…” That snippet is now my favourite image – and idea rabbit-hole. Don’t ask what Occupation that came from. Real Estate Agent?

Anyway, I didn’t read every Occupation entry in detail, but I ensured I read ones familiar to me – e.g. Actor, Farmer, Police Officer, Reporter – my own profession – and Talent Agent. These all were accurate with aspects I would have forgotten but agree with.

Plus, I read ones I was intrigued by – e.g. Astronaut, Funeral director, Palaeontologist, Robotics Engineer, and Treasure Hunter.

I was tempted to read every entry. My secondary characters have jobs and so should yours. This book will always prove useful – and I’ve found more material for ongoing characters – like that Fashion Designer. And there are enough unusual professions like Dream Interpreter, Glassblower, Podcaster, Reiki Master, and Tattoo Artists, to set your ideas flowing.   

Even the familiar – or not – Novelists, ??!!***

My approach might skim the surface, but this is the way most will use this invaluable resource. Dipping in-&-out, researching for specific Occupations, marker on that key profession, these are some of the ways I use the other thesauri in the indispensable series.

There are also inspirational appendices to spark more thoughts and plotlines.

Appendix A: Occupation Speed Dating: Where you start by identifying a standout trait for your character, then using some graphics find an occupation match.

And Appendix B contains a Career Assessment that can help you put all the pieces together.

In addition, this is not a static reference tool. The list will be updated since “the Occupation Thesaurus at One Stop for Writers isn’t limited by page count, so you will find more of our entries there…”

Navigation in this thesaurus and others in the series is simple, with a clear table of contents including links to external resources. To quote a recent reply I made about the authors’ Emotion Thesaurus, “…I have a Kindle for PC version of ET, The Rural Setting T., and The Urban Setting T., as well – and all three are easy to use. In fact, the Kindle Index facility helps. I’m reading an ARC of the new Occupation Thesaurus as a PDF – also extremely useable.”

This addition to the stable is already proving another winner and an essential in this writer’s library. And as one friend suggested, it could help anyone struggling to figure out what kind of job they want in real life.

Or as another writer friend wrote, “What a totally brilliant idea and resource.”

What better why to improve existing characters or even spark story ideas.

Now to weave in “a part-time pastor or priest doing ethical hacking as a way to supplement his income” as Angela and Becca suggested. Or was it a Ghost doing my writing?

4 thoughts on “The Occupation Thesaurus – a review

  1. Reader is the cap I wear most comfortably. Reader and explorer of rabbit holes.
    I am currently pondering the additional depth that placing a character (major or minor) in an occupation for which they are not suited – but are forced to remain in could add to a tale…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roland, I LOVED this review, and I am so glad you were able to think sideways to other careers that would have elements of the career you were looking for. Truly the hardest thing was choosing which entries to include, and trying to get a good representation of diverse jobs. I am so glad this led to ideas and rabbit holes for later. Love me some good rabbit holes – you never know what will come of them. 🙂

    Thank you so much for being on our ARC review team and for all yoru help on the ST. ❤

    Angela

    Liked by 1 person

    • The review was fun to write. Angela – and a worthy challenge. Lateral thinking is something I’ve had to do a lot of recently- not least as the MC in my WIP uses a quirky version.
      Being on your ST is one way I can help support you & Becca in your sterling work for writers.

      Like

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