Every profession has it’s quirky personality. In my line of work, the medical field, we learn to laugh at horrible things. We are intrigued by weird diseases. New doctors either think they have contracted a terrible disease every other day or they poo-poo the worst set of symptoms, as if nothing will ever go wrong. They have a ‘can’t happen to me’ attitude. Very few have the healthiest attitude, a feeling of certainty that sooner or later ‘it’ is going to get them and there isn’t much they can do about it.
I’m writing about this because I include the traits of job culture when I write characters that all belong to the same profession. I want them to exhibit a typical cultural attitude of their work. But how can I write about that? I’m not a miner like I have in Tenpole. I’m not a claimant or a tenant. I’ve not been in the military either. Here are some of the tropes, thoughts, and observations I’ve put to use for each group of people in the books.
For tenants, I have read extensively in older fiction and I draw upon what writers from a hundred years of more have related. The tenants in Quirni live in a quasi feudal system, be that on a technologically advanced world like Sirrus or the horse and buggy world of Quirni. The system isn’t as strict as our feudal history. The claimants cannot indenture them into military service but, as a king in the past, the claimants own all of the land. People ‘buy’ it from them but it remains part of their claim, part of the ‘kingdom’ if you will, and can be taken back by the claimant if the tenant isn’t productive.
Given that, the tenants have a culture that is reverent of their claimant, because you wouldn’t want to badmouth the person who can take your home. They are suspicious of outsiders who might interfere with their productivity or make them look bad by being more productive. They want to keep the comforts they have and keep the status quo. Anyone that interrupts that with get a quick, angry reaction.
For claimants, I could have fashioned them after kings and queens but ownership of land in Quirni is based upon success. If a claimant does a poor job, the tenants leave. Therefore, claimants consider the needs and desires of their tenants more than a king or queen might. A well run claim will lead to well fed tenants who live in comfort. Rumors of better food and comfort on another claim can quickly turn a poorly run claim into empty land. When that happens, claimants typically sell. Kings and queens abdicate in shame or are slain.
Given this, I have written claimants as mostly serious people who have a dry sense of humor. They regard all other claimants as the means to their potential downfall since they might lure tenants away but, at the same time, other claimants are their peers. Since trade and commerce is the means to success, other claimants are friends too. It’s a dog eat dog game they play but they do it in the best of taste.
Solar Defence Delegate
The military was difficult to write because I have been inundated with books, TV shows, movies and articles about soldiers. I don’t believe all of that is the real culture of the military person. To help me define a more realistic culture, I read extensively in military papers.
I learned about ‘dining out’ where a social and fun sort of hazing takes place. I read and noticed soldiers have a similar attitude to their work as medical people in they can make light of really horrible situations. There is also a strong sense of camaraderie, a strong sense of duty, and it takes a whole lot to derail that.
Given this, I wrote Delegate agents as people who are ready for any fight at a moment’s notice and ready for any fun at a moment’s notice too. They have strict rules they follow and look for the means to break them. They work as a unit, clapping as one on a beat, following the lead of their officers, and putting their duty to the safety of their planet and their claimants above everything.
We also have miners in Quirni. Theirs was the most difficult culture to write. But I know no one who mines and anything I have seen or heard is suspect. Too much of what I have seen is Hollywood or reporting that probably just scratches the surface or misleads. With that in mind, I searched for stories written by miners. I wanted to know what they said about their work. I found gold.
If you are interested in what I found, take a look at this site where Welsh miners discuss their jobs. Much of the mines, the collieries as coal mines are called, have shut down but these men tell tales of their days. Find it here: Welsh Coal Miners talk on a range of topics.
It is from this source that I have crafted the culture of Tenpole. The people there are pragmatic. Their sense of community is strong and so is their sense of humor. That pragmatism becomes the Tenpole Philosophy. It is the way they accept the little they have and the reason they can work so hard for the ticket off planet without begrudging everyone else their better lives. Like tenants everywhere, Tenpole are suspicious of outsiders, protective of their own, and quick to judge. They are also quick to defend and extremely protective of their land.
If I had invented a social personality for miners without seeing the Welsh site, they would have been morose, angry, and ready to riot at any moment. Instead, they are some of the best adjusted people in the books. They know how to accept their world and use it to their best advantage. If I had not found the Welsh site, Tenpole would have been a mean, dull place. Someone like Vincent could never have come from there and Erica’s experience would have been even harder.
What are the cultural norms of your job? I’d love to know. One day, we might want to write about someone like you. Please tell us in a comment.