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View Full Version : Need help choosing a type of business for my WIP



Tornadoboy
02-05-2007, 07:04 PM
I've been punting this question for too long in my WIP and nothing in my personal work experience has helped me come up with any ideas, so I thought I'd throw it out there for some suggestions.

My two protags (a man and a women) work for the same company, and while my male's job leaves me a lot of flexibility since he is a computer tech and pretty much every modern business requires employees to have computers, my female's job makes things a little tricky.
I have her working alone in kind of a basement storage room, a place where she is required to have very little if any personal contact with the rest of the company's employees, in fact she is so isolated from everyone she has become the butt of endless "cellar-dweller" jokes. People send her requests for items through her computer via email and instant messengers, she in turn uses an old dumb-waiter to send what they ask for to the other floors.

So my question is, what kind of business might require or at least allow for someone doing this kind of solitary work? Being that this job takes place at present day the idea that they would still need someone to physically hand out files in such a manner is made a little unrealistic due to the computer age, although I do have a little flexibility in the sense that her father owns the business and would not be above creating a token job just for her, but still I obviously want to keep things believable. The company has around 100 employees and is located in an old, renovated mill building.

Thanks for any help you can offer!

waylander
02-05-2007, 07:24 PM
Archivist. Some companies are legally required to keep their records a really long time. I'm thinking of financial institutions and pharma companies, though there are probably others. This means keeping the old paper records, ledgers, copies of correspondence and stuff, microfilming them and physically storing them so they can be retrieved.

Marlys
02-05-2007, 07:30 PM
I agree--an archivist/librarian for the female character. Other possible businesses: newspaper, law firm. Both would need things looked up from the days before everything was digitized.

oarsman
02-05-2007, 07:40 PM
I once had a summer job in a stock room which may or may not fit your WIP. I worked in a small warehouse building attached to a company's manufacturing floor and offices. I would get orders from the manufacturing floor via computer, find the parts on the shelves, bag them, attach a tag to identify who requested them, and then put the bagged parts on an automated "train" (or cart) that continuously traveled from the stock room to the manufacturing floor. The stock room had no air conditioning and I had little interaction with the rest of the people at the company (unless I made a mistake with the order).

alleycat
02-05-2007, 07:40 PM
A clerk or paralegal for a law firm (maybe).

A stock room clerk.

WriterInChains
02-05-2007, 08:02 PM
Is the building itself in constant need of repair? I work in a building that's less than 6 years old (& was expensive to build) and our facilities guy is always running around fixing something or other. I don't have a LOT of experience with old mill buildings, but it might work for her to send parts, old plans/blueprints, & etc. up to the maintenance crew. That would also give the norms above her one more reason to see her as odd -- non-traditional work for a woman & all.

Just a thought. Hope you solve your problem soon. :)

Carmy
02-05-2007, 10:32 PM
Maybe an engineering company with multiple branches and projects world wide. Engineers often need to refer to original proposals and similar projects carried out elsewhere. They also have at least one computer geek on staff (your male MC).

Tornadoboy
02-06-2007, 05:39 PM
Thanks for all the terrific suggestions!


Is the building itself in constant need of repair? I work in a building that's less than 6 years old (& was expensive to build) and our facilities guy is always running around fixing something or other. I don't have a LOT of experience with old mill buildings, but it might work for her to send parts, old plans/blueprints, & etc. up to the maintenance crew. That would also give the norms above her one more reason to see her as odd -- non-traditional work for a woman & all.

That's an interesting thought, and considering how petite my character is the idea of her handing out grimy tools and hardware all day strikes me as kind of amusing, if I thought I could get it to fit the story I might have given her that kind of work. But the building isn't in that bad a shape and given the setting I can't see that kind of job keeping her busy enough to justify itself, and I don't see her as someone whom could stand working a blantantly do-little/nothing position that is obviously held on to just to placate her.


Maybe an engineering company with multiple branches and projects world wide. Engineers often need to refer to original proposals and similar projects carried out elsewhere. They also have at least one computer geek on staff (your male MC).

That gives me an idea, how about a major architectural firm? These days there are computers galore in that field, and they could have her managing all the old blueprints and such in storage, if for no other reason than her father is supertitious about relying totally on computers? Being a computer tech myself, I can relate to that feeling!

At some point I'm having them travel together by car, so maybe I'll have them both be sent to another branch that is being closed because the whole firm is downsizing. My male protag is sent because they need him to round up the more expensive computer hardware, something that their current workplace desperately needs, and she is sent to direct where everything is suppose to be sent and make sure that the most important designs are brought back safely, sound plausible?

roach
02-06-2007, 06:22 PM
Being that this job takes place at present day the idea that they would still need someone to physically hand out files in such a manner is made a little unrealistic due to the computer age,

If the company is an old one they'd still have a lot of hardcopies on hand. Unless they paid for those files to be scanned. Which brings up the idea that she's down there sorting through files, sending up the ones that are requested for scanning.

smallthunder
02-07-2007, 06:28 AM
That gives me an idea, how about a major architectural firm? These days there are computers galore in that field, and they could have her managing all the old blueprints and such in storage, if for no other reason than her father is supertitious about relying totally on computers? Being a computer tech myself, I can relate to that feeling!

At some point I'm having them travel together by car, so maybe I'll have them both be sent to another branch that is being closed because the whole firm is downsizing. My male protag is sent because they need him to round up the more expensive computer hardware, something that their current workplace desperately needs, and she is sent to direct where everything is suppose to be sent and make sure that the most important designs are brought back safely, sound plausible?

I think that sounds completely plausible -- especially the part about an architectural firm being headquartered in an old mill. The firm could've first made its name (or still be specializing) in re-purposing old buildings in interesting ways. That way, too, there would be a need to keep old blue-prints, etc, in storage/on hand -- the old mills, foundries, farm houses, what-have-you would have had everything drawn up on paper documents, not computer files, when first built.

Well, that's my two pennies worth, at least.

alleycat
02-07-2007, 06:33 AM
Well, if you do decide to go with an architectural or engineering firm, let me know. I've spent my career working for one or the other. I can provide any details you need.

Also, any number of paper documents and plans are still kept on paper. They have to be the way construction proceeds; as well as saving the paper plans from long ago for renovation and add-on jobs.

The only problem is, a 100-person architectural firm doesn't need a full-time storage clerk for these types of documents. I can give you some other options if you'd like.

Tornadoboy
02-07-2007, 05:30 PM
Well, if you do decide to go with an architectural or engineering firm, let me know. I've spent my career working for one or the other. I can provide any details you need.

Also, any number of paper documents and plans are still kept on paper. They have to be the way construction proceeds; as well as saving the paper plans from long ago for renovation and add-on jobs.

The only problem is, a 100-person architectural firm doesn't need a full-time storage clerk for these types of documents. I can give you some other options if you'd like.

Would it work better if I increased the number of employees to approx. 200? That's of course assuming that there are architectural firms that big, or at least with that many employees at one branch. The whole 'working alone in the basement'-thing is very important to the character and the story in general, so I have to make that work for whichever business I have them doing, and it would also be better if my male protag can be the only techy that works there.

Like I said I also can play on the fact that her father is one of the owners, and while she wouldn't work a job where she has virtually nothing to do all day but goof off he might charge her with a whole bunch of tasks that would otherwise just be left to either computers or for the individual employees to handle themselves. Maybe along with sending documents/blueprints up and down the dumb-waiter she could handle some other task that can be done by one secluded person? Figuring out payroll or some other kind of number crunching?

This is where my personal experience fails me, I've always been a "tool-pusher" at work in the sense that I've been charged with narrowly focused mechanical tasks such as assembling circuit boards or repairing computers, so I've paid scant attention to all the other functions which go on at large businesses. It also doesn't help that I've got an attention span of maybe .001 seconds, but hey, welcome to the world of Andy! :D

alleycat
02-07-2007, 05:55 PM
There are architectural firms that large, and some much, much larger.

I've actually known a few people who've worked for firms because their father was a principal in the firm. And some of them have been given just busy work to do. However, the difficult part is for them to be working in semi-isolation in the basement.

I have a couple of ideas but I need to ask a question first. Is the dumbwaiter thing important, or can people come by and drop things off and pick them up? Like at a mail drop.

Sohia Rose
02-07-2007, 06:35 PM
An accountant?

Kentuk
02-08-2007, 07:21 AM
A reverse engineering lab that tries to have an example of anything they might deam worth copying? You could have fun with really strange requests.

This is so lame I'm giving you a fifty percent discount on my usual rate.
Penny please.

Bmwhtly
02-08-2007, 03:44 PM
Being that this job takes place at present day the idea that they would still need someone to physically hand out files in such a manner is made a little unrealistic due to the computer ageOh No It Isn't!
I used to work in Health and Safety (don't boo me) and there, like many other sectors, original documents have value. In fact, in many cases, only originals are valid. And we had a troll (actually a department of trolls) who worked down in the file room and they sent files up on a lift so we never saw them.

Naturally this led to rumours, "Theres one of them" "theres a family of them" "They never leave" "It's all automated" so I'm not sure how it worked at their/his/it's end.

Tornadoboy
02-08-2007, 06:35 PM
I have a couple of ideas but I need to ask a question first. Is the dumbwaiter thing important, or can people come by and drop things off and pick them up? Like at a mail drop.

In her case working such a solitary job is a matter of preference, she has personal issues that make her feel very uncomfortable about social situations and she shies away from them whenever possible. In fact the only reason she has finally agreed to work for her father is because he is willing to cut her enough slack at the workplace to be such a fierce loner, her inability to work with others has cost her more than a few jobs.
That being said though she will have occasional contact with other employees, I want there to be some friction between her and the staff so while I plan to keep her personal contact to a minimum she will butt-heads with a few people.

The workplace having a dumbwaiter is not a matter of life and death, but still I'd like to keep it if at all possible because I think it works very well for the story, and I've already figured out a number of funny scenes that will involve it.

frimble3
02-09-2007, 11:07 AM
I work in a mailroom myself, so I know that whole 'troll' thing. In a power failure the computery departments were allowed to take a break, as the elevators weren't working they came down past our area to the Smoker's Hut. They STOPPED and STARED and someone said "What's that?". As for other tasks she could be doing, how about scanning in the old files on an as-needed basis? At our place (medical insurance) the new claims are scanned in daily, but when we box up the paper files to go to storage (annually) anything that they decide they might need like letters etc are scanned in during the slow times in summer. With big stuff like plans and blueprints it might require special equipment, but with standard-sized paper, it's basically slow photo-copying. The architects/engineers wouldn't waste the time and space storing everything electronically, but as a project came up, then it would be useful to have the relevant material on computer.