1. Slappydappy
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    Slappydappy Member

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    Coming up with jobs for characters in a fantasy world

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Slappydappy, Mar 17, 2012.

    When I write characters in a fantasy world, I have a hard time coming up with occupations. Seems like mostly everyone in the ancient world was a solder, farmer, fishermen, carpenter, hunter, etc. So I have all these characters, and I need them to have jobs. It's hard to come up with interesting stuff.

    Also, even harder to create quirks and vices for such characters. The only things they had back then were sex and booze. Is there an exercise (like free association) or something I can do to come up with ideas? I want these characters to stand out and not be cookie cutter.

    The closest world I can think of to mine is the one in Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    From memory there are loads more who were varying degree of servant:

    travelling salesman
    blacksmith
    valet/personal servant
    yeoman
    tailor/clothier
    carter
    weaver
    bedmaker (beds were very expensive)
    cordwainer (cobbler)
    wheelwright
    ship/boat builder
    candlemaker
    apothecary/herbalist
    gardner
    potter
    reeve/overseer
    artist/minstrel
    accountant/book keeper/chancellor/clerk/scribe
    bow maker/fletcher
    moat digger/ditcher
    spinster/spinner
    painter/decorator for castles
    money lender (usually Jewish)
    physician
    chaplain/priest

    Go to youtube and type in Walls Could Talk Lucy Worsley. It is a BBC programme by the head curator of the royal palaces about the evolution of the rooms in the house and it gives lots of information about medieval past times and daily life.

    Is it steampunk like Nausicca ? (I've only seen the film)
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know anything about Nausicaa, but if your world resembles our ancient world, you're pretty much stuck. There weren't many different occupations back then. People led similar lives. They didn't have airline pilots and professors of computer engineering and advertising executives. There were lots of slaves, though, serfs and peasants and barbers who doubled as highly-skilled surgeons and Archimedes. Mothers, prophets, shamans, and, of course, sex-industry professionals.

    Your characters will probably have to be differentiated more by their personalities than by their occupations.
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    The list provided by Elgaisma demonstrates that in fact there were an awful lot of jobs in the mediaeval ages - see Terry Jones' documentary 'Medieaval lives' for more ideas.
     
  5. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    Hiya. This here's called being narrow. Yup.

    Okay, so you want a simple exercise? Here you go. Think of your individual needs. You need clothes, so where do those come from? Farmers, weavers, textilers, ranchers, tanners and seamstresses. And salespeople. Therefore your society requires all of those things. You need shelter, yes? So you're going to need carpenters, masons, brickmakers, laborers, miners, quarry-keepers, stone cutters, and possibly artists depending on how fancy the home is.

    And so, you need entertainment. Let's assume you're a king and can get whatever form of entertainment you want. Singers, storytellers, dancers, artists, musicians, mimes, clowns, acrobats, flame eaters, sword swallowers, jugglers, actors, writers (for the plays and songs), seamstresses (for costumes), mask makers, shoemakers, painters, sword makers, yo-yo makers (yo-yos have existed for centuries), horses (for exploring or horse acrobatics), and a whole ton of other stuff.

    You also require intellectual stimulation. You therefore need philosophers, travelers, religious texts, different languages, riddlers, chessboard makers, writers, teachers, book printers, printing-press makers, and paint makers.

    It's like that. Just pick a need and figure out what it takes to fulfill it. And do some research on what people had in the past. Or, conversely, make up your own hobby for them. Like maybe they collect different kinds of animals and make music from animal songs, or go and tell lies to foreign countries just for the fun of it. Ireland back in the day had an entire system of cattle stealing between the clanns, including unspoken rules like "don't take so many cows that they starve in winter".

    People are interesting, even in the past. It makes me really sad that you would say a thing like that about them.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Elgaisma's list is extremely short. Mine, of course, is much shorter, but was intended as a bit tongue-in-cheek. Also, you have to take into account just how "ancient" we're talking about, and what specific culture we're discussing. As I said, I don't know anything about Nausicaa. :)
     
  7. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    "Jobs" exist to fulfill mundane needs, and thus tend to be mundane by their very nature.

    A farmer, granary worker or chef don't seem very interesting, but society couldn't function without them.
    A soldier, policeman/woman, judge, etc. don't seem very compelling, yet are indispensable to civil order.
    Shaman, apothecaries and blood-leters don't seem all that exciting, but were (at least perceived as) invaluable to the health of the people.

    Very few jobs possess both the "awesomeness" and plausibility factor. There's nothing wrong with erring on the side of realism, even in fantasy. It can be only the more compelling.

    Good luck.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can make it much longer. There were a lot of jobs we don't have today.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm sorry. You are thinking of a very different time and culture than I am. My only real fantasy work (as opposed to alternate-history or science fiction) involves some characters from a primitive hunting culture, so I tend to think in those terms. The culture is sort of similar to the old Inuit culture, except it's warmer - nearly everyone is a hunter and they're all responsible for making their own weapons and tools. There's no metal where they are, so there are no blacksmiths. So in my world, there are very few actual jobs.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm just basing it on a medieval earth however Nausicca at least the film is futuristic/dystopian, and contains flying ships, wind raiders, fire arms etc

    A hunter/gather society is different, but even with those communities there was artistry and jewellery, religion, heirarchy, there appears to be evidence for trade etc There was the skinning of animals, making of pottery. It was just contained within the family group. It has to be very remote for there not to be interaction with other tribes.

    Sex and booze weren't the only things to do round a camp fire ;)
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If your fantasy contains mythical creatures, you could have jobs based around their care needs. Same with controlling the consequences of magic gone wrong.
     
  12. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    There are really infinite possibilities for creating interesting characters, even if they have mundane jobs. Look at what Discworld, particularly the nightwatch stories. Most books give no regard to the lowly men of the watch. However, Pratchett digs around and lets the reader get to know them. What exists in your world? Enchanted weapons, exotic perfumes, exquisite jewelry? Someone had to make that stuff. What's the state of perfume making in your world? Is there a lot of competition between perfumers? Is there a guild? Spying? Intrigue around the seasons newest scents? Who is on top of the industry? What is it like to be their apprentice?

    And there are more vices than sex and booze. People have used drugs for thousands of years. What kind of drugs exist? Is there gambling? Are there prohibitions on certain behaviors, like eating certain foods or in certain places? Certain types of sexual behaviors? Anything that is prohibited or frowned upon can easily become someone's vice. Smoking, drinking, poker, sniffing lady's shoes, snorting jello, chocolate, marijuana, eating raspberries after sunset, they could all be someone's vice. And there you have possibilities for more jobs. Who caters to vice?
     
  13. Salama
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    Salama Member

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    Real history will help you here.
    If the city was Civilized enough, you should read about Daily routine of Rome citizens.
    Or you can use the existing research that has been done by real Anthropologists and such. They LOVE to study things like the daily social lives of ancient civilizations.
     
  14. Mordred
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    Mordred Member

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    Here is a listing of "professions" for a Medieval/Fantasy setting:

    Alchemist
    Animal Trainer
    Armourer
    Arrowsmith
    Baker
    Banker
    Bard
    Barkeeper
    Bawd
    Beggar
    Blacksmith
    Bladesmith
    Body Guard
    Bouncer
    Bounty Hunter
    Bowyer
    Brewer
    Bricklayer
    Butcher
    Cabinetmaker
    Carpenter
    Cartographer
    Cartwright
    Charlatan
    City Guard
    Coachman
    Cobbler
    Coppersmith
    Cook
    Cordwinder
    Druid
    Dyer
    Entertainer
    Explorer
    Farmer
    Farrier
    Fence
    Fisherman
    Fletcher
    Forger
    Furrier
    Gambler
    Gamekeeper
    Gardener
    Gladiator
    Glassblower
    Glover
    Grave Robber
    Groom
    Hatter
    Herbalist
    Herdsman
    Huntsman
    Initiate Priest
    Innkeeper
    Inquisitor
    Interpreter
    Jailer
    Jeweler
    Labourer
    Locksmith
    Marine
    Mason
    Mercenary
    Merchant
    Miller
    Miner
    Minstrel
    Navigator
    Noble
    Outlaw
    Painter
    Peddler
    Pirate
    Pit Fighter
    Porter
    Potter
    Prospector
    Roadwarden
    Runner
    Rustler
    Saddler
    Sailor
    Scout
    Scribe
    Servant
    Sheather
    Sheriff
    Shipwright
    Silversmith
    Skinner
    Slave
    Smuggler
    Soldier
    Spy
    Squire - Knight
    Squire - Freelance
    Storyteller
    Street Tough
    Student
    Tailor
    Tanner
    Tax Collector
    Teacher
    Teamster
    Thief
    Thug
    Tinsmith
    Torturer
    Tracker
    Trapper
    Undertaker
    Watchman
    Weaver
    Wheelwright
    Wizard - Guild
    Wizard - Freelance
    Wizard - Rogue
    Woodsman

    This is a listing I compiled to help me with my book. Hope this helps you out!

    ~Mordred
     

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