Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Writing Professions or Workplaces (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
We have talked about writing men, writing women and writing about other cultures. I think most agree that having some experience in your subject helps, but if you have no experience it doesn't limit you, provided you do the work.

One of my pet peeves is workplace dialogue that is not believable. But then I always placate myself, by accepting that most writers don't have a lot of varied workplace experience to draw from.

I have noticed a lot of first time novelists write about their own workplace. Oddly, although I've had an interesting career, I chose not to write about my own workplace for my first crack at a novel. Fortunately, I have found a number of great books on my protagonist's career, and some written in first person which is very helpful.

However, I am curious to know how others approach this. What type of research do you do to write professions and workplaces? What other techniques do you use to make it believable?

 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Do you mean workplace dialogue as in, dialogue that actual pertains to the work being done (e.g a radio conversation between an air traffic controller and a pilot that does not accurately capture the way air traffic control works) or do you mean workplace dialogue as in office politics and watercooler type conversations?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Do you mean workplace dialogue as in, dialogue that actual pertains to the work being done (e.g a radio conversation between an air traffic controller and a pilot that does not accurately capture the way air traffic control works) or do you mean workplace dialogue as in office politics and watercooler type conversations?

Both. How do the employees communicate with each other, about work related issues, and personal issues? Do they confide in their fellow employees on work related issues? Personal issues? What does the boss sound like? Is there competition amoung fellow staffers?

"The Devil Wears Prada" is a good example. I found the dialogue very realistic for the workplace. But then it was the first novel of someone who worked in the industry.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Both. How do the employees communicate with each other, about work related issues, and personal issues? Do they confide in their fellow employees on work related issues? Personal issues? What does the boss sound like? Is there competition amoung fellow staffers?

"The Devil Wears Prada" is a good example. I found the dialogue very realistic for the workplace. But then it was the first novel of someone who worked in the industry.

I tend to find it not much different to bad dialogue generally.

Most of us are reading from some sort of ignorance, right? I don't really know how generic office workers talk to each other in different professions. I only know how they talk in 'my office'. For all I know, architects are foul-mouthed heathens and accountants are filthy horn-dogs. Unless I am an architect or accountant, I really wouldn't know if it's typical or not, and even if I am one, different offices might be different.

So long as the dialogue is good and I *trust* the author's voice, I can probably overlook any preconceived ideas I have about whether something is 'realistic' or not and go with it. It's when the writing sucks generally I start to notice it more. Sometimes I read a scene set in a modern office and it's remarkably void of political correctness and I wonder how this can be allowed to happen without a lawsuit...but I'm not going to lose sleep over the problem most of the time. Obviously, it depends!
 

TheManx

Senior Member
The same kind of research I do to write any other kind of situation or environment -- knowing that how people communicate and interact and the conflicts that arise don't vary all that much.

If your pet peeve is workplace dialogue that is not believable, then just don't do that. :)

If you're astute, aware of the problem, you're willing to do the homework and you have any kind of writing talent, I'm sure you'll do just fine.
 
Last edited:

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Make it believable? No chance! Set in an old folks home where the residents are with it, interactive, and active the whole thing is fantasy. :)

I started off working places with other people, library, swimming pool, warehouse, repair shop, phlebotomy reception etc. Ended up driving and then doing gardening, both things where I mostly worked alone.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I tend to find it not much different to bad dialogue generally.

Good point! But perhaps my expectations are higher for workplaces, because there is a certain way that people speak in certain environments. Jargon, industry speak, coaching, etc.

Most of us are reading from some sort of ignorance, right? I don't really know how generic office workers talk to each other in different professions. I only know how they talk in 'my office'. For all I know, architects are foul-mouthed heathens and accountants are filthy horn-dogs. Unless I am an architect or accountant, I really wouldn't know if it's typical or not, and even if I am one, different offices might be different.

Yes, this is also a good point, because for each workplace, not all of your readers would have experienced it either, so they may not even notice if it is not realistic. I do remember though, when the "Devil Wears Prada" and "Ugly Betty" came out, because I had worked in that industry, so many people asked me, if it was realistic. And my answer in both cases was yes! But then I guess the expectation for a story that is set in a work environment is that even if poking fun at it, it should resemble some sort of reality.

I also worked as a bank regulator during the 2007 mortgage crash. And there were a number of great shows about that, one being "The Big Short". I also found that very realistic. Many of my friends got terribly bored when I tried to explain the crisis and what caused it, but once they saw that movie they got easily educated. So that is my goal as an author, to educate people on certain industries and crises that occur in real life. But I'm finding it's a pretty lofty goal!!

So long as the dialogue is good and I *trust* the author's voice, I can probably overlook any preconceived ideas I have about whether something is 'realistic' or not and go with it. It's when the writing sucks generally I start to notice it more. Sometimes I read a scene set in a modern office and it's remarkably void of political correctness and I wonder how this can be allowed to happen without a lawsuit...but I'm not going to lose sleep over the problem most of the time. Obviously, it depends!

This is exactly what I am talking about. It drives me crazy. A common one I see all the time is when the boss walks into the open office space and says: "OK people...listen up", and then speaks down to them as if they are a bunch of idiots. I seriously cannot imagine this in real life. Maybe it happens in other parts of the world, but where I'm from you could never lead like that...it just wouldn't work.

But, I have been struggling to find my genre, and I think this issue might be part of the problem, because I want to write about work environmentts, because that's where most people spend most of their time. And I really want it to be realistic, and maybe that is just going to be boring for people.

Time will tell I guess...
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
The same kind of research I do to write any other kind of situation or environment -- knowing that how people communicate and interact and the conflicts that arise don't vary all that much.

If your pet peeve is workplace dialogue that is not believable, then just don't do that. :)

If you're astute, aware of the problem, you're willing to do the homework and you have any kind of writing talent, I'm sure you'll do just fine.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. So I'm just curious with your research, do you have to go outside of the written world, for example, interviews. I know this used to be common for fiction writers, but I'm wondering with so much social media if it is still necessary. I was writing about a card counter, and I found a ton of Youtube videos where professionals talked about how they did it. Although I had been given a name of someone to interview, I didn't really feel the need. Beside, I had concerns of using a real person's untold story in case he somehow got tied to it.

As far as the talent part...the jury is still out... :)
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Make it believable? No chance! Set in an old folks home where the residents are with it, interactive, and active the whole thing is fantasy. :)

I started off working places with other people, library, swimming pool, warehouse, repair shop, phlebotomy reception etc. Ended up driving and then doing gardening, both things where I mostly worked alone.

That sounds like a great idea for a story! I wish I could write fantasy, but I'm drawn to reality for some reason. We had another thread on "finding your voice" and that is just who I am I guess.

I can totally relate to wanting jobs where you work alone. It ended up as my preference for a work environment as well. I'm trying to be an author now, which can be lonely, but I sure do enjoy connecting with all of you folks on this forum. There is something to be said for that professional connection.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
Thanks for the vote of confidence. So I'm just curious with your research, do you have to go outside of the written world, for example, interviews. I know this used to be common for fiction writers, but I'm wondering with so much social media if it is still necessary. I was writing about a card counter, and I found a ton of Youtube videos where professionals talked about how they did it. Although I had been given a name of someone to interview, I didn't really feel the need. Beside, I had concerns of using a real person's untold story in case he somehow got tied to it.

As far as the talent part...the jury is still out... :)

I wouldn't go so far as to call them interviews, but if I can talk to someone, I do it. Had a question about motorcycles for a story I wrote recently, so I called a friend who rides and ran a scenario by him, just something really simple that I needed to know to block a scene. I also needed some info about the process of becoming a member of a biker gang -- I found an article by a former Hell's Angel and used some of that -- I did a little cross referencing too.

I'm just now dusting off a novel I wrote a while back, part of the story involves the business side of the art world -- I know a gallery owner and former dealer and I picked her brain on a few story elements. When I was in NYC, where part of it takes place, I went to few galleries and asked some questions too.

Of course, I also look for stuff online. One thing I've done is go to forums -- forums aren't as popular as they used to be, but it seems like there's a forum for everything. I had a character who was restoring a particular car, I needed him to hit a stumbling block, so I joined an owners forum and asked about problems that were typical. I got more info than I could ever use. :) I wrote a story about a nurse who was addicted to opioids, I found a forum for recovering medical professionals -- didn't join, but I poked around and found some stuff I could use.

I'm writing a period story about a guy coming home from the war in Vietnam -- I'm writing it first based on what I know, or think I know, and I'll check things out afterward. That's an approach I often use -- and keeps me from going down any rabbit holes.

When I get a new client or project, I have to do research and interviews, so all this comes naturally to me and I really enjoy it. I take a lot of pride in getting details right, even if potentially only a few people would know if they weren't. And one thing I've learned, people usually love to talk about what they do or what they're into. Getting them to stop is sometimes a problem -- and this post may be an example of that... :)
 
Last edited:

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
When I get a new client or project, I have to do research and interviews, so all this comes naturally to me and I really enjoy it. I take a lot of pride in getting details right, even if potentially only a few people would know if they weren't. And one thing I've learned, people usually love to talk about what they do or what they're into. Getting them to stop is sometimes a problem -- and this post may be an example of that... :)

Not at all...this is invaluable advice! I really like the forum idea. I'll try that. I also think it's a good idea to write it first and then go into detail where needed. You don't want something someone said to send you off into another direction. Also, you may think you want to go into more detail in some areas, and then realize you don't really need to. I'm also going to look for people to speak with from my chosen industries -- totally agree, people love to talk about their work.

Thanks for the great response! :)

Your story on the business side of the art world sounds fascinating. That's just the type of thing I love to read. I hope you get that puplished. I think there is a shortage of good stories like that...
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Most of my out put is sci fi. It kinda makes it hard to research workplace dialogue for another species.
We have talked about writing men, writing women and writing about other cultures. I think most agree that having some experience in your subject helps, but if you have no experience it doesn't limit you, provided you do the work.

One of my pet peeves is workplace dialogue that is not believable. But then I always placate myself, by accepting that most writers don't have a lot of varied workplace experience to draw from.

I have noticed a lot of first time novelists write about their own workplace. Oddly, although I've had an interesting career, I chose not to write about my own workplace for my first crack at a novel. Fortunately, I have found a number of great books on my protagonist's career, and some written in first person which is very helpful.

However, I am curious to know how others approach this. What type of research do you do to write professions and workplaces? What other techniques do you use to make it believable?

 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top