Unexplained Sources of Income

Sexist Expressions?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
It always helps a protagonist in a novel, if they're comfortably off. Money is a great aphrodisiac, encouraging intimacy in luxurious surroundings, not to say kinkiness that would be rejected if proposed by a road sweeper!

And if things turn brutal, being able to afford weaponry, the latest technology, vehicles and the wages of disposable soldiers will provide more thrills for the reader than some lone tough guy with iron fists and a chip on his shoulder.

It slows things down if your hero has to work a 9-5 job. Much of Fantasy and Science Fiction story-telling sees the protagonist cushioned by the efforts of serfs or technological support teams.

Even ordinary-looking characters are given social cachet by money. I recently enjoyed James Oswald's first Detective Inspector Tony McLean novel, Natural Causes, one of a series featuring an Edinburgh copper. Fourteen chapters into the story, he learnt that his recently deceased grandmother has left him a fortune of £5,000,000 in shares and property.

My own Cornish Detective, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle, is a millionaire from the sale of his deceased parents' farm and a life insurance payout when his wife died in a road traffic accident. He inherited another half-a-million from his father-in-law, (who turned out to be a serial killer), but gave his house away to a charity who operate women's refuges, using income from the investment portfolio to run the place.

He's unimpressed by wealth, his own included, as he's more of a spiritual soul interested in art, music and nature. He's toyed with the idea of packing in his career to become a painter, something which bothers his boss, the Chief Constable, as he's a brilliant sleuth. Being a detective provides him with an intellectual challenge, for he resents the loss of order to society that crimes cause.

I've written two novellas in a series about an American Civil War veteran, who is trying to rebuild his life in the Era of Reconstruction. He's a self-sufficient fellow, a trained blacksmith, but he's helped on his journey by having been left funds, guns and horses by a fellow veteran he assisted in fighting off the KKK, before the man committed suicide. Giving him financial freedom enabled me to keep my protagonist moving, not having to stay static to work a job for money.

Ray Robinson did the same thing with his protagonist in Jawbone Lake, which I've just read, in which a software entrepreneur investigates the mysterious death of his father. His company is up for sale for millions, so he's able to travel at will and help out witnesses damaged by dad's criminal activity.

Forbes business magazine used to publish a list of the wealthiest fictional characters, the last list released in 2013...with the richest fictional character not even human!:

RANKING: Check Out The 15 Richest Fictional Characters

Reading a story is escapism for many, so why would they want to stay in a world with the same financial constraints as their own?

How do your protagonists earn a crust?

Are they independently wealthy or wage slaves?

I sometimes get frustrated by novels that skirt the need for characters to have normal lives, including jobs. It can make it harder to relate. Yes it's one way to keep the story focused on higher things, but can stories really be separated from the daily realities of life? Isn't that where the best stories can be found? For this and many other reasons, my WIP is set in an office.
There’s a trend right now, especially in contemporary romance, for authors to give heroes real jobs. In other words, the billionaire hero trope is on its way out, and for the very reasons already discussed here. Readers want to relate to people who have real jobs and real struggles in their day-to-day lives.
On the other hand, having no money, needing to scratch for a daily living, can be a source of enormous dramatic potential. If your plot requires your hero/ine to break out of their daily routine, the crisis had darn well better be important enough to place their livelihood, their future, possibly their family's well-being, on the line.

I'm currently working on a story where the MC is interstate for a funeral. So far so good, he's arranged matters. But he stumbles into something sinister, and is faced with the choice of going back to his daily life, job, prosaic responsibilities - or letting all that slide for the sake of investigating further. Later on he'll be too deep, he'll try to extract and return to his life, but the situation won't let him. Two different kinds of drama/conflict for the price of one. :)

None of my MCs are independently wealthy. For me, the recurring theme in my writing is about the 'ordinary bloke/gal' who stumbles into extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes you have to take everything a character owns away from her before she can find the hero within.

Giving your character the means to be independently wealthy can act as a kind of wish-fulfilment. Your readers would love to be Batman if only they had enough resources. But sometimes you want to write about the Ron Weaselys of the world, not the Bruce Waynes.
I understand what is being said about the "billionaire hero trope." It's easy to have a rich character where everything in his or her world is perfect simply because that person is financially secure because it isn't reality. Unless, of course, reality isn't what the author is going for.

I struggle with the implication that a character has to be working class or poor to be authentic or relatable (if I'm not misinterpreting the general feeling in this thread). I want to relate to a character regardless of income, just as I do with a person in real life. In my life I've come across many people with money who have real jobs and real struggles. They may not have all of the same struggles as people with incomes lower than their own, but they do have struggles that are very real. They still have struggles that are human, that are devastating, that are insurmountable, just not necessarily financial. Money doesn't solve everything. And I don't consider not being able to get Honey Bun into the best doggy day care a real struggle.

Back in the 90s I overheard a homeless man talking to a friend about rich people. He said "They ain't no better than me. They just got a better crib than me." That stuck with me. To this day I can't look at a well-crafted front door without wondering what's happening behind it. I happen to know of a different man living on a street corner with over $1 Million to his name. I wish I knew why he chose that path.

There are universal themes even amongst the 1%ers. It's just sometimes hard to look past the green to see the black.
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Sexist Expressions?

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