1. Chrontron557

    Chrontron557 New Member

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    Characterizing Age

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Chrontron557, Dec 21, 2016.

    I'm not a very experienced writer, but I kind of understand how to do characterization, where you write about what your character does instead of just writing about them. However, I'm kind of puzzled about how you do stuff like age. Basically, how do I "show" instead of "tell" that my character is twenty or something like that?
     
  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome aboard! You might want to make an intro thread here, and someone will direct you to all the cool introductory stuff they have here, but until then, let's look at your question.

    What sort of story are you telling? If it's set in the real world, especially the modern one, twenty is an age that's at or near a whole bunch of legal/social life changes.

    A twenty year old American girl would be a year from her first legal beer, while a twenty year old Japanese guy would be enjoying his first legal sake and voting for the first time in an election.

    You could show an age range with an interest in particular musicians, although that's a bit more of a spread.

    You could relate to an historical event. "My god, it's been fifteen years since the 9/11 attacks cancelled kindergarten for the day." (that's really clumsy, but you get the idea).

    Your MC might go to a friend's birthday party, a friend who is just a few weeks/months younger or older than the MC is.

    If it's not the real world, you can feel free to add any other milestones you wish. Also, remember, "showing, not telling" doesn't mean the information can't be told, it just can't be told by the omniscient voice of the narrator.

     
  3. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    It should come across rather quickly (within the first two pages) roughly what age your characters are by:

    Their behaviour.
    Their attitude.
    Their actions.
    Their vocabulary.
    How they interact with other characters.

    The genre (where it is generally found in a bookshop/library) and the cover design and blurb will also prime the reader, that is, give them certain expectations about who the protagonist will be. For example if I find a book on a YA shelf I'm going to assume the protagonist is a teenager. If I find it on the general fiction shelf I'm going to assume the protagonist is having some sort of midlife crisis.
     
  4. Chrontron557

    Chrontron557 New Member

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    Wow, you guys answer fast! I'm just writing a short story but it is set in the real world. Never thought of anything like life changes, I should be set.

    Thanks for the help!
     
  5. Rumple

    Rumple Member

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    Yes I agree with these all. You portray the age through the maturity of their actions and conversations with other characters. How they dress what they do or are able to do i.e. Drink/ vote / drive.
     
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'll chime in with the rest on this. A 20 year-old is smack in the middle of that slice of life where:

    1)
    Being perceived as an adult by adultier adults is a constant concern and preoccupation. Getting carded for things evinces a prickly reaction that later in life turns into a joyous reaction that someone thought you were young enough to need to get carded.

    2) This is the part of one's life where you put together your set of personal rules (I call this The Definitions) and just like perception of your adultness, you are often prickly and unbending about people accepting your rules as your rules. These are the things of which you are constructing your adultness, the things that will define you, so you will not easily suffer them questioned.

    Soon after this period of life you will suffer the Quarter-Life Crisis where you accept that adulthood is a lie (we're all just 16 year-olds walking around in increasingly less forgiving bodies) and that most of the "rules", of which you were so very sure and resolute, are in fact arbitrary, meaningless and most of them hamper you from enjoying some very enjoyable things in life.
     
    I.A. By the Barn likes this.
  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Why does it matter what age your character is? To whom does it matter?

    Those aren't rhetorical questions - the idea is to introduce the information at the point when it matters - that's when it'll feel most natural. If you tack it on at some other point, it'll feel, well, tacked on.
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If your character's age is important, there's nothing wrong with stating it. Writing is a combination of showing and telling. And there's nothing wrong with saying something like "At twenty, she looked thirty. Smoking meth had blackened her front teeth and drained the look of youth. At twenty, she left home and went off the grid." I'm telling you she's twenty. I'm telling you she looks thirty. I'm telling you why, but showing you what that looks like. And then I'm telling you again her age and what she did. It's probably a stupid example, but I just wanted to show you that all writing really does use both showing and telling.
     
    Iain Aschendale likes this.

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