Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jobs and Characters

Have you noticed that most characters' professions are directly tied to the story?

Of course, this isn't always the case, but even when it isn't, their jobs tend to somehow come into play as being tangentially helpful or important. In The Shining, for example, Jack Torrance had no professional experience as a caretaker, but his career as a writer certainly came in handy when he did all that research into the Overlook Hotel!

Outside of pieces where the character's job is directly tied to the story or subject matter (such as The Devil Wears Prada), I would love to know more works where the main character's career had literally nothing to do with the subject matter - where it didn't help him at all, or only helped him in the most creative of ways - or was completely useless in the story. A good example is TV's Chuck.

The idea just struck me earlier and the only works I could think of where the main character's job did not come directly into play in the story were those where his job literally did not matter - such as I Am Legend. Other instances usually feature stories in which the main character's career becomes the focus of the story - such as Stripes (which is on now) - and I am not talking about those.

See, in comic books, the lead character's "secret identity" job rarely ever comes into play in his adventures because they strive so hard to keep the two apart - and because a lot of them are rich playboys who don't have to work. Daredevil is one of the few titles where the main character's job often overlaps with his crime-fighting career. This is only sometimes used as the focus of their serialized stories, which is a real untapped goldmine for most comics characters.

But I want to find some stories where the lead character's job has literally nothing to do with the story - it doesn't get him involved, his skills set and resources are not directly applicable to the matter at-hand, and so on. I know they are out there, I just can't seem to think of any really good examples right off the top of my head, so I pose the question to you.

It isn't important or anything, though it may lead to other discussion. The idea just struck me earlier and I could not think of a good example of a story where the character's job simply did not matter. I can think of several movies, but even in those, whatever he knows as part of his career usually somehow comes into play to save him at the very last minute, etc.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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