Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing Your Age

This year I read a lot more books than I have in recent years--probably because my whippersnapper is at an age where I can spend more time reading. And also, Goodreads absolutely is a God send in terms of keeping track. I used to keep an Excel file of books I read with little notes because I couldn't remember books I'd read the previous year. Let's just say that since having children, my mind has gone to pot.

Anyway, when I was younger I used to do a lot of re-reading of my books, but this year I don't think I re-read anything. I've been too busy hungrily reading new things in order to learn about writing (from fiction)--and also because I have this fear that I must read, read, read in case I am hit by a bus or something. But a few weeks ago, Tawna Fenske had a great post about re-reading books at different stages in your life and having a completely different perspective each time your read. That's the joy of re-reading, of course. Tawna points to Diana Galbaldon's Outlander as one of her favorites, and how depending on what age you are when you read it, you might have different reactions to the age difference between Claire and Jamie. It was a great point.

I think this happens when we write and age, too. For example, one of my most all time favorite authors, Marian Keyes, has said that she writes characters that generally match her own age. So her first novel has a main character who is about 30. Each subsequent book has older character--not by much, but a year or two. I noticed that I've done this, too. The first novel I ever wrote had a main character who was a resolute 26. Subsequent novels had characters (all women) who creeped up on age 30, and now I'm up to 33 and 34 without a bat of the eye. It just feels right.

It would follow that to challenge myself, I should probably think about writing characters at a totally different age than myself, but that's a post for another time.

Do you do this? Do your characters follow your own age, and have they done so in the evolution of your writing development? What about stories you enjoy? Do you like reading books with characters you own age?

11 comments:

Linda G. said...

My current MC is in her early twenties, actually--a bit *cough* younger than I. Hmmm. Maybe this is because I have a juvenile sense of humor.

I've written all ages, though, from much younger to much older. That's part of the fun for me--getting into the heads of different people. I like the stretch.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I don't think I have to much trouble (yet) writing younger women...it's younger men I have a problem with. Although, I guess as long as my hero is close enough in age to my heroine, I'm okay. I think I'm having a midlife fear of cougarhood, major ick factor there. Possibly because I keep catching myself watching my 25-year old grad student's ass. I don't think he's caught me. Yet.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

No, I haven't done this in my writing. If anything, I tend to write younger characters because I feel I have perspective on them. As a reader I'm not particularly drawn to books with protagonists "like" me in any way. I kind of think it's more interesting to read books from different perspectives: for me, say, a 50 year old man or 70 year old woman or whatever. But plenty of writers produce plenty of great books doing just what you said. Philip Roth immediately comes to mind.

demery bader-saye said...

My first book took so long to write (eight years)... it's been a bit wonky revising. She was twenty-six, but now, ten years since I started, my writing group is saying things like "Why doesn't she have a cell phone?" and "No twenty-six year old I know talks like that or likes these things..." So I'm considering a pretty hefty revision. I've started my second book and the character is about my age now - 39. So I do think I tend to write what I know. I'm just going to need to write faster so I don't outgrow my characters before the book is done!! Will be easier (I hope!) this time now that my kids are older. In terms of reading, I like to dive into the lives of people of all ages. One of my favorite books which covers the spectrum of young and old is "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. She switches back and forth between an old man's perspective and the same man at a younger age... and she makes the transitions flawlessly.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Really interesting, guys! I wouldn't have guessed this (living in my own world as I do). I find it very interesting that Linda and Teri, you have no qualms writing younger women. As Lt. points out, you have the perspective of having lived it but I find that the older I get, the less interested I am in younger people. (That sounds horrible LOL but I don't mean it to sound like I dislike younger people, just not on the same wave length as far as their goals. Or maybe I'm just envious.)

Demery you bring up a good point about reading -- different from writing. I like reading all different ages too although for me it might depend on the genre.

KLM said...

I write for young people so obviously I must keep my inner teenager close at hand. Fortunately that's pretty easy seeing as I am a way huge goofball.

I used to feel like you do, Sierra, that I was less and less interested in young people. All my MC's were 25 or 26 when I initially started writing. I was more interested in the challenges of adulthood than in rehashing my younger years. But I found as I got older that I had more sympathy for my younger self, I guess. Maybe writing for young people is my way of trying to rewrite history. A better version of it, of course.

If I ever again write adult fiction, I'm not sure what life stage I'd focus on, however.

Elisabeth said...

Well, I'm 20, and while my main characters aren't always exactly my age, I find they tend to be in the range of mid-teens through twenties. That's just main characters, however - supporting ones can be any age! I don't think I've been writing steadily for long enough to notice if they shift to follow my age; I wandered away from writing for a while in my mid-teens to pursue other interests. But I definitely remember that as a young kid (10 - 13 or so) I usually wrote about kids.

Roni Loren said...

Love Outlander. Jamie--yum. But anyhoo, I've done both. I've written a YA, so a 16 yr old and felt comfortable doing that and now I write the older twenties-early thirties set. Although, I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable writing a character much older than that yet since I haven't been there.

Roni Loren said...

Btw, speaking of forgetful post-child, I actually typed up the above comment last night. Got distracted and forgot to hit post. When I opened up computer and went through my open tabs this morning, there it was waiting. *shakes head* True story.

Tawna Fenske said...

As a follow-up to that blog post, I just started rereading OUTLANDER again. For the record, Jamie is still scathingly hot.

Tawna

Sierra Godfrey said...

I guess there's a reason I never felt like I could write YA-- I have locked myself in my own age as characters! You guys are teaching me something here.

And Tawna, Jamie is hot but smelly. Smelly.

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