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Worldbuilding: Employment

In your story world, what are the employment options? 

There are too many possibilities to list here. Get as detailed as you need for the story.

If writing a Historical tale, research which jobs existed in the time and place.

Did workers receive some form of payment?

Did they have badges, uniforms, hats, or other indicators of position?

Were they unionized or controlled by a governing body?

Was there a hierarchy of power?

Did they receive awards or honors? 

How did your society feel about different workers? Did it give them advantages or disadvantages?

In your historical era, people had limitations and unique opportunities. Exploring the differences supports theme and allows you to illustrate the strata of society.

One of my pet peeves is the idea that there was a time when women didn't work. Women have always "worked." There may have been a time in history when a specific set of rich entitled women didn't do manual labor, but I am certain most of them had "chores." I imagine, just staying well coiffed, organizing one's social calendar, and keeping one's mouth shut when one wanted to rant or scream was a full time effort.

In the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, people were sorted by districts and each district had a specialty like farming or mining. In Divergent by Veronica Roth, people were segregated based on personality type and had specific roles based on those traits.

With Science Fiction and Fantasy, you can have fun creating jobs for your characters. What jobs were exclusive to your fictional planet or outpost? In Star Trek, in addition to the ship's captain, there were doctors, engineers, and communication specialists. With space exploration, creating environment specific jobs performed by humans, robots, and artificial intelligence adds spice to your story world, creates unique conflicts, and helps support theme.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling had a Ministry of Magic. Adding magic to a world creates unique job opportunities, such as management of magical creatures, dragon trainers, or a board for magical compliance. What jobs did supernatural worlds require?

Whatever the genre, your characters have obligations, challenges, perhaps extreme motivations related to work.

Suggested references:

1. The History of Work by R. Donkin
2. The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher
3. Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice by Gary P. Latham
4. The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas W. Laqueur
5. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
6. Organizational Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership by John B. Miner
7. The Concept of Work: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern by Herbert Applebaum
8. The Oxford Book of Work by Keith Thomas
9. Work: A Critique by Steven Vallas

10. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States 1970s to 2000s by Arne L. Kalleberg

Next week, we examine Technology.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.

Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at  

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