Friday, October 2, 2009

First Friday... Poll!

Okay, I was starting to get sloppy about how I handled my fiction contests, so for the First Friday of October, I'm going to do a poll instead. Writers, HOW OLD ARE YOUR CHARACTERS?

The survey is over there => in the right-hand column, and you can answer more than once if you have multiple books or multiple main characters of differing ages in one book. Answer as you feel best represents you and your work.

(And yes, I know it should be "older/younger than I [am]" but I've abandoned technically correct grammar in favor of the colloquial phrase that simply sounds better.)

I first starting thinking about this question back when I wrote my Class of 2013 post. I suspect that most of us write about main characters who are the same age as ourselves or younger, simply because it's easier to put ourselves inside the heads of people who are at a life stage that we've actually experienced. It's the same reason that many writers write about characters who are the same gender/sex as themselves -- it's always harder, and therefore riskier, to portray a point of view that you've never actually had.

Obviously there are exceptions. I love Nick Hornby's How to Be Good ( first-person p.o.v., female) and Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box (third-person limited, male character about 20 years older than the author). And I didn't pick my main character's age because I thought it was easy, I picked it because I felt it was suited to the moment in her life that I wanted to capture, and because it was suited to the events she experiences in the book... but I did choose the story in part because of my own ideas about the importance of learning about oneself at a certain age (mid-to-late 20s)... and I have those ideas because I myself have already gone through my 20s.

Writers, tell me more about your own work! Who do you write about? Why did you choose characters who are old/young/in-between? Was it easy or hard? Do you think your audience will be the same as as those characters?

And for everyone, do you like to READ about people your own age? Younger? Older? Do you like characters who mirror some part of yourself, or characters who have nothing in common with you whatsoever? Or does it just not matter?


  1. I write for and about 10-12 year olds because I love kids this age and I feel like I get them. The books I read as a 4-7th grader shaped who I am today.

  2. I've found an affinity for writing about characters who are older than me. I hope it may become a niche. :) Great question!

  3. This is an interesting topic. I've actually noticed that as I've aged, my characters have aged, too. I used to like to read about twenty-somethings and write about twenty-somethings, now that has switched to thirty-somethings!

  4. My characters are mostly my own age, but a few are older women (mothers of my characters). I'm a little scared to write YA or for kids because I'm afraid I won't sound cool at all. Do they even say cool anymore? Ugh.

  5. For whatever reason, I just tend to write about thirty-something year olds. Not sure why. Interesting poll. :)

  6. I am writing a memoir so my MC is um, my age...kinda looks like me too :)

    But in the novel I am writing the MC is 5 years older... I think...

  7. My main characters are usually a few years younger than I am. I wonder if that's because I'm giving them extra time before the hit the big 4-0?

  8. This is a fascinating question. Of course, for a long time my characters aged with me. However, I noticed recently that the many characters in best-sellers are in their mid-to-late twenties. Not that I'm trying to cultivate a best seller, but I started thinking about WHY that might be.

    I also sometimes dabble in writing YA lit. The interesting thing there is that your characters should be teenagers, of course, but at least a few years OLDER than your target audience (teens like to read about older teens).

  9. I've just got the scoop from a couple of agents at a CA writer's conference--YA (the most innovative field of publishing right now) can have a MC as old as 22! So I'm about to take 10-20 years off my characters' ages and try to rewrite everything as YA. (I also won 1st prize for my first attempt at YA fiction--so maybe I'm too cocky.) Works best for historical, or fantasy/scifi of course. A 20-year-old divorced, burned-out lawyer might not work so well, but hey...the word is innovative.