What Profession Should a Protagonist Be? Opinions Welcome.

So, I’ve been going on a Stephen King role on Audible with the Tommyknockers and now I am almost done with The Dark Half. I purchased Cujo and am likely to read some of the Bachman books too. In other words, I got off the fence on Stephen King and became a fan in the true sense. 

So, here’s the point: every main character seems to be a writer. 

I had heard somewhere along the line, in my many travels, that one is not supposed to have main characters who are writers because it shows that you’re needy or some such. I say bollocks to that. Writers apparently make great main characters.

Looking over my own stuff, most of my characters are detectives or amateur sleuths. I used to do a lot of PI work, logged a few thousand hours as a surveillance operative and once went under cover and infiltrated a suspected fraud ring, so, having been an amateur sleuth myself, I guess I have a natural bent toward that. But more, I find it pretty helpful to have a clue-hunter for a protagonist because in the process he seems to find the plot too. 

Any opinions on what profession makes for the best protagonist? 


4 thoughts on “What Profession Should a Protagonist Be? Opinions Welcome.

  • nerdinthebrain

    I like it when the profession/personality and the situations in a story don’t line up…like a logical mathematician type being thrown into a supernatural/magical situation. Really, there just aren’t enough math-y types as protagonists for my liking. ;D

    • Andrew Michael Schwarz

      One time I met a guy who told me he was a mathematician. I was 15 years old. All I could do was look at him and say, “Gosh, I could never just sit in a room and do math all day.” He sort of wrinkled his nose and said he didn’t just sit in a room and do math all day either. I really had no clue what it meant to be a mathematician, like I couldn’t even envision any activity except, literally, sitting in a room doing math problems. I think i offended him. So…maybe folks have a hard time relating, though I like your mathematician magician, that has potential.

  • Ron Edison

    I think it depends on the genre. RE King’s frequent writer and teacher characters, I think he’s just following the ‘write what you know’ dictum. At Seton Hill circa 2005, romance writers were cautioned by a panel of visiting editors and agents NOT to use ‘creative types’ (writers, artists, actors, musicians, academics) for their male love interests–the genre demanded rough-hewn macho cowboy types to suit the fantasies women sought. Combinations like cowboy/architect and doctor/race car driver were suggested–something macho combined with something respectable. In mystery, cozy writers have developed series protagonists from all sorts of professions–dry cleaners (you find a lot of clues going through pockets), chefs, gardeners, etc. Realistically for thriller/mystery plots, you have to pick a profession that offers travel, independence (work from home), and periods of downtime. Journalists, traveling salespeople, and consultants of various types fit that bill.

    • Andrew Michael Schwarz

      I like the gardener one, though I think that’s pretty much reserved for horror when you have a creepy villain. Seems to go back to the grounds keeper at the cemetery or similar. Somehow I just can’t see a dry cleaner piecing together a mystery through pocket wrappers, but hey, why not?


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