I know we've talked about this quite a lot on here - writers are endlessly fascinated about how other writers write. I need to know what's going to happen, but I also change what I thought would happen as I write, because I get to know my characters better. I also get to know more about their jobs, and this was something else that Lord Archer talked about. For example, he said, gesturing at presenter Bill Turnbull, everyone thinks they can do your job, but how many people realise how much reading you have to do before every interview, just to prepare yourself for it? How many have any real idea of what it's like to present a live-on-air magazine-format programme?
I tend to choose jobs for my characters that broadly reflect my view of them – but when I start researching the job, I find out more about why they chose it in the first place. For example, researching the role of a sales manager at a big hotel chain, I was told that the bulk of their salary comes from bonuses on meeting targets, and that they are, therefore, extremely driven and ruthless in the way they operate. It doesn't matter how difficult they make life for others who have to deliver on the event they have sold. Discovering these facts added to my insights about Mannie, and lent colour to a couple of scenes.
Similarly, when I was researching wind farms last year, I spent a day on the hills courtesy of Scottish and Southern and had a great chat with one of their customer service managers. This gave me all sorts of information about what their work is like on a day-to-day basis, what it's like dealing with anti-wind farm lobbyists and building community buy-in. I also got a great idea for a scene.
I need to think up a novel with some really glamorous job now, so that I can persuade some pop star to let me come backstage on a gig, or a movie actor to let me come out on a shoot. Hmmm...
Of course, if you've been there, done that, the background is already known to you. Then you can write a book like Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women (by fellow blogger Mary Smith). Drunk Chickens has just made it through to the finals of the People's Book Prize! So many congratulations to Mary for a well-deserved accolade, and don't forget to vote for it when voting opens sometime in May.
How do you choose jobs for your characters?