This month’s meeting of the Whittlesey Wordsmiths will be looking at the growing trend in novels, to explore in detail the occupations of the main characters.
As well as the usual detectives, and girls who inherit properties from unknown relatives, I have come across a tree surgeon and a designer of stained glass windows.
A lot of recently published books include an acknowledgement to someone who has helped the author to research their chosen career. This might be a busy surgeon in a trauma unit, the owner of local kennels or a book illustrator. In every case the author mentions how interesting, as well as helpful, this proved to be.
I can vouch for how important it is too. In my current novel, Goodbye Bluebell (still at the third draft), I wrote about my artist character rushing to get an oil painting finished the night before an exhibition. It was only when local artist, Chrissie Turner, kindly read my script that I learned how long an oil painting takes to dry. It can be months before it can be transported. Similarly, I had my newly qualified teacher arriving at school a year before she would have been fully qualified. These are easy mistakes for the unknowing, showing the importance of getting some inside information.
So, if you have an interest in a rare skill, or are fascinated by someone’s job, put your character in that role and you have a ready made excuse to go off and learn.
Without giving away too much of my story, my next task is to go and chat with some fit young lifeboat men, some hopefully handsome coastguards and maybe a very attractive rescue helicopter pilot. It’s such a hard life being a writer.
Don’t forget to credit such people in your book. After all, the story might trip you up without their generous input.