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Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Exotic Dancer

Saturday, November 11, 2017 2:03
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Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Exotic Dancer

Overview: An exotic dancer can be male or female, and work in a variety of venues such as bars, gentlemen clubs, as in-home entertainment (such as a birthday party or retirement party), or at special events (bachelor parties, Ladies’ Night, clubs, porn industry award shows and after parties, etc.). Exotic Dancers may take off all their clothing, only some, or simply tease while taking nothing off at all. They must be personable, have excellent hygiene, be conversationalists, and have a strong sense of playfulness. Dancing requires flexibility, strength, balance, grace, and a good sense of costuming and presentation.

In some areas, “exotic dancers” and “strippers” are viewed as interchangeable, and in others, exotic dancers are seen as being more refined, having stronger choreography and dance skills, and being cultured in the art of conversation more so than a stripper who may be more focused on the routine and less on the conversing and rapport-building with a client. Sometimes “exotic dancer” is used to describe a belly dancer, burlesque performer, or show girl, but these will be covered in a different entry.

Dancers are not always paid by the establishment; often they are paid directly by customers during their routine on stage, or for private dances. In this case they charge per dance (or for a special event, by the hour). Dancers in this case also may pay fees to the establishment, sometimes to a dressing room manager, and often will tip bartenders and bouncers to ensure they and their clients are well taken care of. They may follow a set work schedule, or have a “drop-in” agreement, working only as long as they wish to. The median age is 23, and although it seems like a cliche, many dancers are actually putting themselves through school!

Necessary Training: An exotic dancer usually has some dance skills, and possibly formal training (a ballet background, time in theater, etc.) that aids in their ability to provide a strong performance. Dancers must also be fit, flexible, be attractive and have specific physical attributes that make them eye candy to their clientele.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a knack for making money, charm, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, haggling, lip-reading, lying, making people laugh, musicality, parkour, photographic memory, promotion,  reading people


Sources of Friction: clients who ask for dances and then can’t pay, clients who get grabby or who pass beyond the legal boundary of what is allowed during the dance, stalkers, other strippers who poach clients, work drama and jealousy, management who do not respect the dancers, getting involved in drugs and performing poorly as a result, growing older and being out-staged by younger dancers, hecklers in the audience, client disrespect, clients who cry (because they cheat, they are in a divorce situation, they are depressed, they lack deep connections and are looking to find those connections within the intimacy of the dance), being propositioned, being treated like a hooker, having one’s personal life and professional life colliding (a client who enters and recognizes the dancer from his PTA meetings, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: clients, the spouses of clients, bouncers, other dancers, management, DJs, wait staff, kitchen staff, event organizers, police officers and undercover detectives

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Safety and Security: Dancers may be targeted by obsessive clients who misread the attention as affection.
  • Love and Belonging: A romantic partner may not be understanding or supportive of one’s particular type of employment, creating friction in the relationship. It is also possible that some in this industry may develop intimacy issues because of the wall they grow used to deploying when with clients.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Family and friends may not understand one’s career choice and look down on it (or make unkind assumptions based on the work), causing one to question their own self-worth.

Common Work-Related Settings:
Bars, dance clubs, strip clubs, gentlemen clubs, home venues, special event areas, private penthouse parties

Twisting the Stereotype: How about a exotic dancer who is intelligent, and chooses this line of work because he or she loves it? Or perhaps the character works in this industry as an outreach specialist to identify and aid vulnerable individuals. How about a dancer who is a psych student who counsels clients during the dance?


The Bookshelf Muse is a hub for writers, educators and anyone with a love for the written word. Featuring Thesaurus Collections that encourage stronger descriptive skills, this award-winning blog will help writers hone their craft and take their writing to the next level.



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