When writing a new novel, we take into account who the protags are: appearance, occupation, past, personality, social status, and a myriad of other issues. But, do we seriously consider our characters’ ages as a must to a successful story? If so, how and why?
Let’s look at the typical age for most female protags. Anywhere from 25-late thirties. Why not late forties? Fifties? Sixties? How about seventies? Have you even considered for a moment writing a protag in her eighties?
Generally the geriatric crowd is relegated to second place, a doting grandmotherly type who is there with wisdom and babysitting skills.
Well, let’s think about who the average book buyers are (30-44 )and how they are able to relate. And, of course, remember, we all think we’re younger than we are.
If I’m sixty years old, why must I read about 30-something?
Quite simple, really, I’ve been there. I’ve had the opportunity to experience the first kiss, holding hands at the altar, the sound of my children’s first cries. I’ve been there when my kids threw up on my only dress while participating in a Civil War re-enactment where water was scarce. My feet spent hundreds of hours playing in the back yard or searching for four leaf clovers to prove their existence. I worried over a child who’d wandered off, worried about how to explain the birds and the bees, and even had to survive explaining to my children why mommy and daddy were going to be living apart. All experiences that took time and growth over the years. And added hundreds of tiny wrinkles along the way, I might add. I mean added character-yeah-that’s it!
I also had the joy during those times of teaching my precious children that God loves them, even when it doesn’t seem like He’s there. And those teachings often came at a price.
So I can relate to all the tales about 30-somethings that I read.
I can remember and relive some of the beautiful moments of my own life (and most were) while enjoying the author’s personal take on that ageless period.
The 30-something, however, has no way to relate to: kissing someone with Geritol breath (I’m kidding here, folks…or am I?) reminding someone what they ate for breakfast yesterday, having help opening a jar of pickles because it’s just too doggone hard anymore, hot flashes and menopause, having difficulty taking the stairs two at a time like we used to.
You see, us “oldies” can relate to a younger protag because we’ve been there, but the younger readers have no way to directly relate to an older character…for the most part. Hence, most of our protags are younger.
Are we, the Oldtimers being cheated? Not at all. Our walks down memory lane are sweeter, more intense, more applicable for having been there. And a good writer will help us forget we’ve grown older and allow us the sweet pleasure of recollection.
Ahh, that first kiss!
The very reason I occasionally chuck the suspense novel and reach for a romance. There is no better memory than young love, and when I read about the happy couple overcoming adversity, I’m twenty or thirty-something again, and his breath is warm and minty and soft against my cheek, without a hint of Geritol!