Friday, September 04, 2009

What's My Age Again?

Today marks my birthday. I'm now firmly ensconced in the thirty somethings...and today a friend said "You're getting close to 40." I laughed, cause I still have a few year before I reach that milestone. Heck, I still feel like I did at 30 or even 33!

With this topic on my mind, I wondered as writers do you pick out birthdays for your characters?

I can well remember a scene in one of my contemporary romances, PERFECTION NOT REQUIRED, where I outlined the hero and heroines birthdays by astrological sign due to the character traits. But I it's interesting to muse that a character can be defined by their birth date. What if their mother died on that day, so instead of being a joyous occasion it's always a day of infamy. What if a historical character was born on the day the constitution was signed, or during any of the big historical life changing days. Would that male have a heavier burden to bear to serve his family and country? How would it impact your characters if they weren't born in this century but far in the future? Would they mature faster as today's children have? What if, like me, the hero or heroine shared their birthday as a twin? What kind of circumstances could that create, or more likely conflicts?

Then I mused as a woman in my 30's, did becoming this age make my interests change? I'd answer certainly not my favorite genres to read or write. However I do find myself picking up books that I might not have tried at a younger age. These days I tend to lean toward "meatier" books instead of just a quick read. And I do think I'm more apt to draw parallels with a character if I'm the same age. Do you do the same as a reader?

As a writer do you always try to stay in the same age range, or does your character tell you their age? Generally I see my characters and can tell what group they fall in to--baby, toddler, tween/teen, 20 something, 30 something, fifties, elderly. Though sometimes I think the conflict that's inherent in the story can be tweaked with a slight change of age. For instance, what if you pited an 18 year old vs. a 21 year old? The younger is just out of high school, perhaps starting college and driving. However the other is firmly in college or perhaps even landing a first big job, has the pressure of life after being a student on his shoulders, and now is free to legally drink alcohol which can come with its own set of problems. See how a lot can change in just a couple years?

Now compare a 25 year old woman to a 35 year old woman. They would be at very different points in their lives. When I was 25 I met my now fiance and the future seemed vast with tons of possiblities. Now at 35 I'm thinking about financial security, hurrying to start a family, and the things I should've done when I was young and carefree. And when I look at my mom, who's in her 50's I now think, that will be me in a few years...though not the widow part.

The fabrics of our lives, much like our books, are threaded together with various blocks of fabric, but changing the color of the thread or even moving a peice out of alignment can through the whole quilt out of whack. I'm not saying don't try something new, cause then I could be a stick in the mud. However, when you're crafting your stories, be sure to think about the concepts of time and age. Giving even a little time to something that seems so simple can mean the difference between being believable and being off base, not to mention increasing or decreasing your readership.



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5 comments:

Pam P said...

Happy Birthday, Skylar!

Mine's on the 6th, so being a Virgo, too, that title, Perfection Not Required, stood out since Virgos have that perfectionist trait, lol.

Kelsey Card said...

Happy Birthday, Skylar. This is a really interesting topic. My first reaction was that I don’t usually pay attention to my characters’ birthdays, only their age range (20 something, etc). But the more I thought about this, the more I realized that my characters have been growing up with me. I started writing (on and off) in grade school. When I think back on those manuscripts (which will never see the light of day), as I grew up, so did my characters. Now you’ve got me wondering whose stories I’ll be telling in the future.

Kelsey
Tales of magic, adventure, and romance

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hey, Skylar, hope you're having a spectacular birthday! As for my characters...I think they're at the age that I always seem to think I am, lol. So I don't picture my characters being much older than late 20's - early 30's, still young enough to make mistakes but old enough to learn from them {g}

Hope everyone has a great Labor Day holiday.

Pissenlit said...

Happy belated birthday! Great topic!

Skylar Masey said...

Thank you all for the b-day wishes! And who knew this would be a cool topic :0)