Happy Labor Day, and a belated “rabbit, rabbit” (I’ll admit I forgot).
I had an interesting conversation with my agent lately. No, no new contracts in the offing, but much discussion and negotiation. I have faith that my agent will come up with a good solution. Or two. Or three. Some old, some new.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. My agent is well connected with the ever-changing publishing world, and she made the observation that some publishers are now looking for younger protagonists from us aged writers (most of us here are “of a certain age”). Not young young (she wasn’t thinking of teen books), but maybe in their twenties?
Which got me thinking. When I started writing early in the current millennium, I knew nothing about writing conventions for current popular fiction. It didn’t feel right to write about protagonists who were my age, so for about half of my characters they were in their twenties. I’m not. These were mixed in with others who were probably in their late thirties, or maybe even fortyish. Now I’m trying to figure out how I made those decisions.
My best guess is that I believe that women who are twenty- or thirty-something have a reasonable amount of experience in living, but they also still have a lot of options open to them. They may have been through failed romances, or they may have lost more than one job through no fault of their own (hey, this is fiction!). They don’t just give up—they choose another career path or life path, if you want to call it that. They try something new. They have faith in themselves, and they have hope for the future. And they usually (in the books or series) find a profession and a love interest that make them happy, after they’ve overcome a few minor difficulties (often a dead body, if it’s a mystery).
My most recent (and, coincidentally, youngest) protagonist, Maura Donovan in the County Cork Mysteries, may be in her mid-twenties, but she’s a city girl with no family and not much education or working experience, so she takes on a big challenge when she goes to Ireland. She’s an old spirit, if young in years. And it has been fun to write her as she opens up and learns new things and makes friends and handles running a pub and, yes, kind of falls in love. It wouldn’t be the same if she was forty-something.
But if you’ve read any of the books in that series, you’ll notice that I deliberately chose to include a wide range of characters, from a teenager to a couple of eighty-somethings. Each of them is a distinct character, and each contributes to the stories in their own way. This is as close to the real world as I can make it.
What about you? Readers, do you prefer to read about main characters close to your own age? Younger? Older? Writers, what age (or ages) do you feel most comfortable writing about?