1. echo_wolf
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    echo_wolf Member

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    Is Age Relevant?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by echo_wolf, Jul 4, 2009.

    I was just wondering is it relevant to give a characters exact age? In my first draft of my novel, I let my friend read it and she asked how old my characters were. Well, they were still in school and had jobs so they would be teenagers, correct? So isn't that enough or would it be necessary to name all of their ages? Some of them I could find a way to squeeze it in but would it be necessary to name all of their ages. Like on, Bazie doesn't like the leader of the group because he is younger then him, and Brone is the younger brother of the group but I believe I did put in his age though with the statement, "through his child like eyes of 14". Its just stuff like that. So any opinions?

    Oh and a note, I am targeting this story to teenagers around the high school age, I would guess that those ages would be appropriate because they can relate, right?

    Thanks
    Love
     
  2. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I'd say if your readers are questioning the age of the characters or particular ones, then it's unclear in your story and requires some attention. In my own reading experience, aside from gender confusion, nothing is more distracting to me in an otherwise well-written story than suddenly discovering that the character I imagined as 24 at the outset is actually only fifteen (or something along those lines). We make assumptions and create expectations based upon age. And, especially for a young reader, the difference from 14 to 18 can be huge--even from 15 to 16, for that matter (has a driver's license or doesn't, for example, or has a car but can't drive it yet)!

    There are endless ways to clarify age; and it needn't be done the same way for all characters. A 12-year-old's "best friend," for example, could probably be assumed by a reader to also be twelve. Or an unusual friendship between a 12-year-old and her 15-year old best friend (where the exact age is essential to understanding that particular aspect of the relationship). Or an older teenager could be easily described as someone who gets a kick out of bullying younger students in the hallways--that kind of thing.

    But, yes, I'd say pay attention to what your readers are asking about.
     
  3. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    It's as relevant as you make it, depends on the story and what not. Like, for example, if you had a story that was heavily reliant on "relating" to the readers, like you said, then yeah, I'd say the ages being included would be a good thing. If it's a more general story with an action packed plot or one that doesn't revolve too heavily around the characters, then it wouldn't matter as much.
     
  4. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    Could be adults or middle-aged to old too don't forget about college.
    It all depends on the author though.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Age is relevant, but it's not necessary to outright say it unless it occurs naturally through the narrative, like the characters talking about an upcoming birthday, or when they are doing things where age is relevent, e.g. getting a driver's licence. Statements like the example you give are obviously forced and would probably annoy readers. How they behave, and what they are doing in school is enough to show age.
     
  6. Elistara
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    Elistara Member

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    Helping your reader relate to the characters is always relevant.
    Personally though, I find it funny that you say "through child-like eyes of 14", because even at 18, I had child-like eyes, but didn't realize it at the time. :) Actually being told that might have insulted me, being that I was so sure of the opposite.... so don't feel insulted! It isn't my intention. :)
     
  7. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO, it is relevant. So I do recommend trying to clarify it somehow.
     
  8. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    It's always relevant. It's as relevant as gender (although you can make very hilarious situations by having gender-ambiguous characters).

    Like someone else said, your current way of showing age sounds forced. If your setting is a modern or typical school setting, try revealing what grade a character is in, that way an age range is entered into a teenage reader's head. Freshman are generally 14-15, Sophmores are 15-16, Juniors are 16-17 and Seniors are 17-18. Depending on when a person's birthday is.
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they're high school age, you really need to have their age or at least their year in high school. There's a big difference between a 14 year old and a 16 year old; a sophomore and a junior. Also, a 14 year old might have a job, but most don't at that age. Good luck w/your story!
     
  10. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I almost always mention the exact age of my protagonist, but otherwise I'm usually kinda vague about it in general. My rule of thumb is to describe most other characters as the age the main character perceives them as: "They were about her age," or "He was in his thirties," etc. Often you don't even have to do that: if you character is 15 and in High School, it's implied everyone in that person's class is the same age. (More or less.)
     
  11. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    ^I agree. I do the same thing, actually. A character my male MC meets later on is intended to be about a year older than him, so my male MC will refer to his age as being around his age (15) or slightly older.
     

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