Hey, first things first, I love your blog and got so much helpful writing advice here, so thanks for that!

I have trouble finding interesting protagonist jobs in fantasy. I’ve read that interesting jobs can make characters more interesting and can influence the choices they make, the way they perceive their environment and so on. A great example might be Kaladdin the surgeon in Stormlight.

But from what I’ve found, it seems that jobs in fantasy either are overdone (farmerboy-hero, royal adviser, noble, warrior) or boring (seamstress, washerwoman). To complicate things, my female protagonist lives in a rural area where there aren’t many jobs in the first place.

Do you have any advice for me? Or are jobs overrated? :)


Hey Maria, thanks for writing in! 

What kind of job to give your character depends a lot on what you’re trying to accomplish, so there are several ways to approach this. A few common reasons include: 

Giving Them a Reason to Solve Problems

Your protagonist needs to be involved in the main plot, and it’s often easier to arrange that if solving the relevant problems is their job. If you’re writing a mystery story, you could create an elaborate justification for why Jane the Accountant has to investigate, or you could just make the story about Nora the Private Investigator. Same goes for other genres. If the story is about negotiating a peace treaty with the elves, your most obvious protagonist is the kingdom’s chief diplomat. 

Explaining Why They Have Skills

Heroes often need specialized skills or knowledge to complete their story, and their job is an easy way to explain where that comes from. Do you need a hero who’s really good with a bow and arrow? Say they were an archer in the royal army. Does your plot require a lot of research? Then an arcane librarian is the job for you! 

Giving the Character Novelty

Spec fic heroes tend to have jobs like fighter, pilot,* knight errant, battlemage, etc. This is often for good reason, as we’ve looked at above, but it does get a bit same-y after a while. It can shake things up to give the hero a less common (for spec fic heroes) job, which usually goes hand in hand with a less common social standing. Seamstress and washerwoman are both good picks here. In fact, the farm boy turned hero used to provide exactly this kind of novelty, because who would suspect a lowly farm boy of greatness? This doesn’t work anymore because we’ve seen it so often. 

Giving a Character Sympathy

Finally, a lot of characters have jobs that create problems for them, something audiences tend to sympathize with. Often, these jobs are arduous, unpleasant, and underappreciated. Again, seamstress and washerwoman would both qualify. But you can also have a more prestigious job if it puts major demands on a character’s shoulders. Being prime minister wouldn’t normally be sympathetic, but it could become so if the character had to work unhealthily long hours to solve a major problem their country is facing. 

Most Stories Mix and Match

When considering what job (if any) your character should have, you’ll often have more than one reason. In Way of Kings, Kaladin’s job as a surgeon gives him critical skills that he’ll need later when he’s keeping his crew of bridgemen alive. That same job also gives him a boost in novelty, as not that many fantasy heroes are surgeons. Of course, Kaladin has a second job of being the bestest soldier that there ever was, which is a lot more conventional. Oh well, can’t win ’em all! 

For your situation, making your protagonist a seamstress or washerwoman could help create both sympathy and novelty. It’s less likely to give them useful skills or justify why they’re the one solving big problems, so you’d have to do some extra work in that department. Or you could always create a plot where clothes and sewing are super important, maybe as part of the magic system. 

If that doesn’t interest you, there are plenty of traditionally cool jobs to pick from, rural settings or not. Outside of cities, you see a lot more hunting and trapping, especially in fantasy stories. Even small villages need a blacksmith, or your character could be a grizzled veteran who’s retired to their family farm, certain that adventure will never call on them again. If sexism prevents women from having those jobs in your world, you might have to get more creative, or you could consider whether you really need that sexism in the first place. 

And, of course, your character’s job doesn’t have to be an important part of their story if you don’t see anything interesting to do with it. Just remember that you’ll need some other source of the qualities we’ve looked at.  

Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!

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