Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Get a Job

For some reason today I started thinking about the different jobs I've had. The first I remember, I had to be in eighth grade or so, I worked at Carmen Manor Convalescent Home in Chicago. My duties were taking trays to the patients' rooms. One patient, who had Parkinson's Disease, I spoon fed. I had no idea that many years later I'd be doing the same for my own mother when she fell ill to the same disease.

During high school, I worked at House of Chan in Wilmette, Illinois, with my good friend, Barbara Chinn. We made egg rolls, won ton, even pizza. We packed rice into containers. We took phone orders and brought the food to the customers and counted change the old-fashioned way. During the evening hours, I always got great meals as part of the job. Much later, Bob Chinn, her Dad, started Bob Chinn's Crab House, an extremely popular restaurant in Wheeling, Illinois.

As part of my tuition at Immaculata High School, I remember dusting the music room with all its metal chairs I had to go over with a cloth. Very dull work. I was glad to get through each day.

Also in high school I worked for Tony the Tailor in Chicago. I took in clothes and phone orders. I sewed hems on men's trousers. I don't know how I did that right, since I can't do it now. Tony would custom fit clothes for men and women. One day a customer came in and he was doing a fitting for her upstairs. For some reason, I thought she had left and I made some remark about how I'd never liked that woman. How mortifying to realize she was still there!

In high school, I took shorthand and typing and dreamed about being a secretary, which I did become. I still am, many years later. It's the day job that pays my bills. Writing is my current dream, which I do out of love, not as a job.

That's a bit about my jobs.

When you write a novel, make your character work. Pick jobs that reflect how you want readers to perceive your character. Even if you're writing a romance about a person with a large inheritance, a job in some way is still involved, such as living up to expected standards and performing and/or attending certain functions.

If you're writing a comedy, think of a job that lends itself to funny mishaps, such as a cab driver, a waitress, a wedding planner. If you're writing about a serious character, you may wish to make him or her an engineer, a lawyer, a CEO. Or, you can bend a serious job into a funny one and vice versa for contrast.

Another option is to have your character lose a job and go on unemployment. Or, that character may be someone who enjoys living off the system. That's a job in itself just to survive.

So, if you haven't already, get a job for your character.

Morgan Mandel


Nancy J. Parra said...

My first job was babysitting, then a paper route, then I worked for Mrs. Barnhill who owned an apartment complex. I cleaned her apartment and the baseboards and floors of the common spaces. To this day I hate cleaning baseboards. :)

Debra St. John said...

In college I worked in the costume shop of the theatre. I did my fair share of babysitting as well in my earlier years. High school and beyond found me at an insurance agency, couresty of my mom. I worked there forever, until I got my "real" job!

Morgan Mandel said...

I didn't do much babysitting, but I get my share now just watching over my dog, Rascal.

Morgan Mandel