I'm quite familiar with certain groups of people. In my career I often dealt with scientists, actors and artists. Therefore I'm quite confident describing such people in my stories. I am familiar with the way they think, how they dress, what kind of language they use. I know how they approach people and what are their unspoken rules they would never break. If my character is a scientist I know no one will despise them.

But what if I want a character from a group I've only seen in movies. For example in the novel I'm currently planning the protagonist's best friend will be a prosecutor. I have never met one. I haven't got the slightest idea what they're like.

What will stop me from giving them completely inadequate traits? I want my story to be fun to read by lawyers also. So how to get this right?

One perfect solution I can think of is to talk to some prosecutor myself. But this brings next question: how do I do that? Where can I find one that will share with me their do and don'ts, their attitude and mindset? How do I talk to them long enough to start noticing traits they consider so obvious they don't even talk about them?

I can imagine prosecutors are quite busy and also well paid. How can I persuade one to spare their precious time for a yet to be successful writer?

  • 1
    I think the only way to truly write convincingly realistic characters is to have exposure, working off existing texts and media can only reinforce stereotypes. Networking is key as always, ask friends and friends of friends. People like others showing interest in them and what they do, even highly paid and busy people. The best way I would say is to find a lawyer with a connection to you somehow (through mutual friends) and setup a meeting for coffee or similar. You’ll be surprised how willing people are. Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 8:20
  • Remember that not everyone is a stereotype defined solely by their profession. Sure, many stereotypes exist for a reason. But characters who diverge from stereotypes can often be more interesting.
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 14:29

4 Answers 4


Well, depending on your compromise, you could go the easy way and just take what you known about the job, movies and other stories stereotypes surrounding it, and do your best.

From there, you could actually investigate about the job more, maybe looking some documentary about how that job actually is. Those can be really helpful.

And finally, you could simply ask people with that job about their experiences. Whatever they are your friends or strangers in a forum about that job. (For this, I'm sure Reddit would be a good place to look for opinions if you don't have any friend or acquaintance that could help you.)


There are three approaches you could take:

First, and a good choice for minor characters, is not to flesh them out much. Don't describe their clothes. Don't give them a distinct way of speaking or a notable hobby that the text spends time on. In this way, no reader will think "what prosecutor would wear that?" (or say that or do that etc.) Instead they will fill in the clothes, the presumed hobbies and so on from the profession.

Second, make the character odd in some important way. They are from a different country, they are much older or younger than most people in this role, they have survived a life-threatening illness or accident, they are neurodivergent, they are very religious, they have 11 children, they were raised in a commune, whatever. Load them up with mannerisms and hobbies and clothes without putting a lot of thought into it. Do not say that they dress this way because of their time in the Navy. Just describe how they dress. A reader who thinks you are describing clothes far more rigid and formal than someone in that profession usually wears will think the character is sticking to their old dressing habits in the new job. A reader who thinks you are describing clothes far more casual and idiosyncratic than someone in that profession usually wears will think the character is "overcorrecting" from their old dressing habits. If you got the clothes exactly right, no-one will notice, but they may ascribe the unusual hobby to the unusual background, etc.

Third is to learn how people in that profession usually present. At any given moment there are probably a dozen TV shows airing that have significant "prosecutor" characters. Shows about cops, lawyers, scientists who help cops, etc etc all have prosecutors. Take a look at 20 or so of them and work out a common denominator. You will probably find that most of them are in the first group: they have no hobbies, friends, family, or home depicted on screen, meaning that the show is definitely not getting those wrong. Another big chunk will be in the second group because that's either the point of the show or at least the point of the character. But there should be plenty left over who are ordinary. What do they wear? How do they talk? Build up a character who won't appear completely ridiculous to those who have some experience with that profession in real life.

And keep in mind, nobody likes how their professions are portrayed in books and movies. Fictional programmers are terrible representations of programmers, and fictional doctors, lawyers, accountants, chefs, cowboys etc are doubtless no better. It's good that you want to be right, but a lot of people have been very successful without being anywhere near right.


In Ian McKewan's Atonement, one of his characters is a nurse in WW2 England. He used the details from an autobiography of a nurse in WW2 England, which I felt added richness and believability to the story. In fact, he got accused of plagiarising the book even though he had included it as an acknowledgement.

On the other hand in the book 'Saturday' by the same author, whose main character is a neurosurgeon, wikipedia says that he spent time with an actual neurosurgeon in order to flesh out the character.

I think a single deep primary source, whether personal or published, is a clean approach and is eminently defensible given that at least one member of the profession experienced it that way!


You can do research about the profession. This is fairly simple, as all you have to do nowadays is get on the internet and google things.

I would suggest you research things like:

  • common terminology used by prosecutors
  • Salaries and financial aspects of being a prosecutor
  • famous court cases that would interest a prosecutor
  • other miscellaneous things you can think about that are exclusive to prosecutors.

You have a good point with not giving characters inadequate traits. I assume you are referring to characteristics of the career, not characteristics of the character. If you are referring to characteristics of the character, don't worry. In fact, it would be refreshing and novel to write a book about a prosecutor who doesn't fit the norm.

For example, everyone envisions prosecutors (at least in the movies) as the bad guys who are trying to get this poor defendant behind bars for eternity, amen. What if you made the prosecutor self-doubting, instead of the stereotypical aggressiveness that you see in the movies? Or give him a glacial kind of calmness, while the defense attorneys are arrogant?

It's these little things that make your book/story stand out. But excellent question!

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