Written by Matt Cardinal.
Though it can be stressful at times, the search for employment is also a time of reflection. Think of the questions we ask ourselves in the process: What do I want to spend my time doing? What am I capable of? What am I willing to compromise? And what does this all mean for my future?
These are all questions we should be able to answer for the characters we write as well.
So, contrary to the title, the goal of this prompt is to pull you away from your own job hunt (if you happen to be on one at the moment) and get you writing. More specifically, it’s to aid in writing complex characters with rich personal histories.
Start by building a resumé for your character. As draining as that may sound, the finished document will leave you with a brief history of your character’s life. Being thorough with it, you’ll have to decide on details like how long they can stay in one place, what their level of education is, and whether or not they crave things like wealth, status or authority.
Writing the resumé should help you reflect on your character’s habits, regardless of whether or not they show up explicitly in the writing. Is your character docile or rebellious? Overly ambitious or underachieving? What are they passionate about?
Conduct a sort of interview with your character. Seek out their strengths and weaknesses. Be introspective. What might they omit from an application or lie about in an interview? What points might they exaggerate?
To take the exercise one step further, you could draft a response to a job posting from your character’s point of view. Write a cover letter in their voice or scroll through a job board and think about how they might react to one or some of the ads.
Once you’ve created this profile and history, your character’s actions should find their way onto the page naturally, regardless of where your plot begins.