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 Depicting Professions Accurately

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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Depicting Professions Accurately   Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:53 pm

I added it up once, and found that i had depicted 50-some-odd careers or professions in my books. Now, obviously, I'd have to be around 149 years old to have experienced all of those myself. And the way i feel some days notwithstanding, i know I'm a century away from having lived that long. No, my depiction of these vocations were many times based on my interviews with others who do that type of work. Failing that, I would simply research it on Google.

Just as it is important not to give the same professions to your characters (unless you're writing a series about a certain set of characters), it's equally imperative that you depict those professions accurately. Anyone who happens to read your story, and have those particular careers, will notice if you say something about them that isn't correct. And then you will lose the trust of your reader, and trust is one thing that encourages them to continue reading your book. This also results in the Willing Suspension of Disbelief, which is something you should all aspire to if you're serious about being a quality writer. You want your reader to accept what you're telling them so that it seems real, creating an atmosphere of verisimilitude (the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability). Some might argue (and have) that the the onus for Willing Suspension of Disbelief is on the reader, but I beg to differ. I believe it is the writer's job to make things so plausible, even when something fantastical or far-fetched is happening, that the reader will still want to believe it's all true. There have been many examples in media of all sorts, where the plot demanded that something happen, and so it happened, with no real regard on the part of the writer to make it seem plausible. That is a quintessential cop-out in my opinion. Part of the fun, in fact, is in finding a way to make the implausible seem plausible.

We've all seen, for example, those emergency room scenes where someone's heart stopped, and the doctors zapped the patient with the defibrillator paddles to get the heart started again. But a defib machine does not restart a heart, it only resets the rhythm. When a patient's heart stops, only CPR--compressions of the chest--will restart it, sometimes helped along by medications. A first-responder like a paramedic will first administer CPR for a few minutes to bring in more oxygen and to remove metabolic waste, and THEN they will defibrillate, and then they will go right back to CPR again. So knowing this, you will be able to write a realistic scene about someone having a heart attack. If you don't write it this way, anyone who works in the medical field might just throw your book across the room. And while you wish your books to fly off the shelves, you do NOT want them to fly out of the reader's hands out of frustration and disgust.

So heed well, my children: give your characters interesting jobs, but don't be glib or lazy enough to describe them poorly.

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