1. Mocheo Timo
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    Mocheo Timo Active Member

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    Boy or Young man?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mocheo Timo, May 5, 2016.

    I'm having an issue on what to call my MC. He is around 14 years old in a school in grade 9. I often call him as "boy" but I realize that can make the reader confused about his age - which I don't state directly. I don't want to keep referring to him as a "young man" all the time either, since I want to highlight his immaturity somehow.

    My question is then - is it ok to refer to him more as a "boy"?
    How much is the word "boy" associated with childhood rather than gender?
    Also, if it is confusing to call him boy, what else could I call him?
    Youth, young man, adolescent...?
    (They don't sound as nicely in a sentence than "boy" does in my opinion).
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you writing in omniscient POV? If so, does your narrator have a distinctive voice?

    In general, use the word your POV character would use. Depending on voice, that might be kid, tyke, little bastard, cadet, youth, young man, wizardling... whatever. I don't think there's a generic answer to this question, because it depends on your narrative style.
     
  3. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It does depend a bit on narrative style and setting but in general 14 is a boy. It's a pretty grey area when that actually stops (around 16/17) but in general boy is fine and people will be able to understand what you're talking about. Especially in a school setting it'll be clear that he's an adolescent it's not going to make him sound like he's nine; it's the word that he and the teachers and many other people would use to describe him. The boy's football team, the boys playground, the boys toilets. That's just part of the scholastic vocabulary. At my school you were still a 'boy' until you left at 18. That was just the generic word for a pupil. Maybe my school was a bit old school in this and many other regards; the audience is going to understand what you are doing here.
     
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  4. Mocheo Timo
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    Mocheo Timo Active Member

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    The narrative style is 3rd person but still limited to the MC.
    I don't make omniscient statements, but try to reflect the MC's own POV.
    He still thinks of himself as immature, which would make the repetition of "boy" useful in this case.
    I wanted to take this in a general level as well. Because I tend to call my characters "boy" or "girl" when I use 3rd person POV. Most of the times those characters aren't necessarily children, but sort of in the process of coming of age (I theme which I love).
    I just wanted to know whether calling them as such would pose a problem to the reader's understanding of the character.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Fourteen is a boy in most books. It might vary by the story content. I read a lot of YA and it's not uncommon to see 'boy' used, even for older teens. I think readers read past it, pay it little mind.
     
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  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd use "boy." Short and easy. "Adolescent" is too formal, too clinical. "Teen" or "teenager" carries the whiff of shallowness - Bieber fandom and stuff like that. I think "boy" is best.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Boy. Kid. Guy. Freshman. I don't think that he would ever, in a million years, call himself a "young man." It seems only fractionally less condescending than "little girl."
     
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  8. Mocheo Timo
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    Mocheo Timo Active Member

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    That seems pretty unanimous. I got my answer and am now more confident with my address to the MC. Thank you all for the feedback. :)
     
  9. Kayla Hicks
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    Kayla Hicks New Member

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    I think you could dabble between both. It can also depend on who or what other characters are referring to the main character. If it's an old man he might call him a youngman, if it's a older teenger they may call him a boy or a kid.
     
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  10. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Teachers, parents, and other adults and authority figures would call him "young man," but virtually everyone else would use "boy," "dude," or "guy."
     
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  11. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    @ManOrAstroMan is right.

    What would your other characters call him. They might all be different.

    And if your protagonist himself identifies as not mature enough to be considered a "young man" then calling him a "boy" is perfectly acceptable.

    It may also depend on the context of what is happening. One moment might call for him to make a tough choice. He may, in that moment, be considered a "young man".

    In another moment he might be behaving childish. So refer to him as "boy".

    If you want to draw attention to his youth, inexperience, innocence or naivety generally throughout the story use "boy". Let him earn "young man".
     
  12. Slemmen447
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    Slemmen447 Member

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    I would refer to a character at that age as 'boy'. Your description of him as immature reinforces that. In Harry Potter, Harry is still depicted as 'boy' at the age of 14, so I see no reason as to why you can't do that.
     

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