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Profession v. Personality

One thing I’ve noticed in the land of characterization is that oftentimes, a character’s profession and their personality are pretty tightly entwined. Sometimes, it seems like character is extrapolated backwards from a profession. For example, ‘they are a scientist, so they are analytical.’

While it’s perfectly reasonable that many people select jobs based on what’s suited to their personality, in fiction there seems to be a rather flat and unvaried idea of what types of characters are suited to what types of jobs. 

For example- as an art student, I can tell you that there are very many different ‘artist’ personalities. If you take a bit of time to inspect different fields of art, it’ll be very apparent that abstract painting, performance art, and graphic design are all going to attract very different types. Even within the fields, there is a wide range.

Likewise, I feel like a lot of stereotypes around scientists make for a really monochromatic group of characters. I live with a pack of them, and they’re a lot goofier and more fun than most people are lead to believe. One of my favorite things to do with non-sciencey people who think that scientists are all serious, careful, and boring people is to list off the kind of shit that Richard P. Feynman, physicist and Nobel Laureate, would get up to.

So, in short- if you’re writing a character to be of a certain profession, it might be worth your time to 1) Be specific with what they do, and 2) Get to know more about what people in that field are actually like. Read some autobiographies, do some research, or maybe make some new friends and study them. Have fun with it, and make some more varied and interesting characters.


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