"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Age Dilemma

I think this is the first writing related post I have done in MONTHS.

My problem is I came out of NaNoWriMo totally stoked about my new project. But then I workshopped it in my fiction class at school and got so much feedback (good btw) that my brain rebelled and every time I tried to restart I froze.
funny pictures - And then the first "slight problem" caused by the nuclear fallout was encountered.

One of the biggest problems I am still having is figuring out how to make my characters FEEL like the age they are supposed to be.

A number of people commented on my opening scene, saying that they thought the MCs were like 13. Great, except they're supposed to be just out of high school. Now granted, after reviewing it I realized that my first scene basically stunk. But I don't want people reading this thinking that Layla and Moira are 13 when they're supposed to be 18. But then later, people got confused and thought they were older. Like in their 20s. *headdesk*

So I started thinking about why I have a problem with this. I read a lot of YA and MG (middle grade) novels. A lot a lot. Like 90% of my pleasure reading. I want to specialize in children's and adolescent lit for my doctorate (if I go there, but that's a whole nother story). I have younger siblings. I spend a lot of time around 15-17 year olds.

BUT I am *mumblemumble30mumblemumble* years old and sometimes I wonder if I'm just too disconnected? I know there are a lot of people older than I am writing fantastic YA fiction, so I don't think it's that.

However, I never had anything close to a "normal" (whatever that means) adolescence.
1. I was homeschooled. my entire life. The first time I set foot in a classroom was in college. I love the fact that I was homeschooled. I think it was fantastic. But my entire view of high school life comes from books, tv, movies, and random conversations I've overheard. That's easy, just make your character homeschooled, right? Except that doesn't work since her parents died and she lives with her cantankerous grandmother *sigh*

2. I graduated high school when I was 16. Yes. 16. Then I spent a year student teaching my younger brother and sister. Then I worked for 5 years. Then I finally decided to go to college. Oh. And we moved to a new state in there too. So I feel lost when I try to write about any of that kind of stuff. Because I never experienced it. Not really.

So my characters end up sounding too young. Or too old. Because I am a mixture of both. Sometimes I will goof around and act like I'm 13. For serious. But then I'll act my age and I'm all professory and professional. But no one EVER guesses my real age. Which I appreciate.

Funny Pictures - Cat Gifs
This is kinda how I act. Sometimes. Both sides of this :)

When I'm writing dialogue between two girls that have been friends, and practically sisters, since they were little, I write it the way Naomi and I would talk. Or the way she and some of her friends might talk. But those are the parts that people said made them sound too young. But I'm basing it on real people that are actually older than the age of my characters. So I get confused.

My point is that I'm not sure how to make sure my characters "act their age" and what does that mean anyways? And does it matter? Every person is different, right? So some 17 year olds act 12 while others act 22. How do you clarify that in your writing. Do you just find an organic way to slip their age in near the beginning? Or do you not think about the age thing at all? Am I being too overanalytical? Should I end with some funny posters?
Where was this three months ago?

Humorous Pictures

Funny Pictures - Lizard Has Feets


Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm still cracking up at the jumping kittie.

Maybe you aren't supposed to be writing a 17 yo character. It's something that can't be forced.

That's the only age I can write. Sad, huh? I'm an adult and I can't write an adult voice. At least I don't think I can. I'm more comfortable writing as a 17 yo.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

well you can try introduicing some different language choices, but i don't know if that will totally work. For what it's worth, i knew you were 30 (me too!) but when i first "met" you i would've guessed early 20s

NiaRaie said...

Well, I'm in my early twenties and I struggle with writing characters older than than 40s. I'm horrible with dialogue from the sr citizen age. I've been told to try to listen to people and watching movies with characters of those ages has helped, so I don't think you're doing too bad with the movie thing.

Tracy said...

First off, I love the cat jumping high up in the air :)
you bring up a great point; age is just a number and there are NO typical behaviors of any one age especially adolescent human beings; if they are that...
I'd start hangin out where kids that age hang out; the pizza parlor, the mall, wherever you can observe these creatures and I do say that lovingly...

Elizabeth Ann said...

I had a couple of questions:

#1- What age were the people reading your stories? Maybe you need to find someone who can read your story who is younger or closer to the age for their imput.

#2- See if you can sit with a group of 18 year olds and watch them interact. Maybe it could be a group activity with lots of different ages, but when I took a class, they said to try to just sit, watch, and listen. Get used to that age group.

Maybe you are right on target. Maybe you just need to add to the story where they are doing an activity that an 18 year old would do that maybe a 13 year old wouldn't, and that might help the beginning.

I love analyzing writing and stuff and I read YA books constantly at times. I love going through the homeschooling program I am doing with the kids because it is full of literature.

I don't know if that's helped you any but keep it up. And counsel can come from a lot of people, but at the same time, it may be opinionated (totally spelled that wrong).

But anyways, keep up the good work! Hope you find an answer to that mindboggling question and more!! :)