Hello and welcome! This article is the last part of a new, five-post series I’m doing on the blog. I recently unearthed a copy of the novel manuscript I wrote when I was 13 and reread parts of it. With the editing abilities I’ve gained in the last decade, I’ll be analyzing the major flaws in my manuscript in hopes of helping myself and other writers avoid the same pitfalls.
Without further ado, the final Major Flaw, #5: a worldview that is too “young.” A similar problem can occur with a worldview that is too “old,” but my struggle as a writer has always been with the former, so I’ll discuss the issue from that perspective.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as a writer has been making my characters act their age. It got easier after becoming an adult, because I had personal experience as a child, teen, and adult and could better differentiate between these ages when writing my characters. Still, I have to be intentional about the mannerisms and life problems I give my characters.
In my old manuscript, my main characters have woeful age discrepancies. As ages go, my three main human characters are young adults, but they behave more like twelve-year-olds. This isn’t particularly surprising, since I wrote the novel when I was 13. It’s hard to understand the unique advantages and disadvantages of a given age if you’ve never been there, or at least haven’t observed someone closely who is that age.
I’ve been writing for a long time, and while I don’t like this fact, I’ve come to realize that there are some stories you can’t write until the right time in your life. Sure, you can get the words on paper, but they won’t turn into the story you want to create. My novel was intended to be an epic fantasy on the order of The Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t have the writing experience or the personal maturity to create such a thing at the time.
Does that mean writing this novel was a waste of time? Of course not. It formed the basis for an entire fantasy series I intend to write someday, when it’s the right time. Besides, every word you put on paper gives you more experience as a writer, and in that sense, no writing is wasted. Don’t let worry about “the right time” keep you from writing now, but be willing to do some tough edits or even let go of the story temporarily if that’s what’s best.
With that said, there are a few factors you can consider to get your characters to act their ages. Consider these two questions: what life problems are the characters dealing with, and how do they interact with other people?
A character’s problems say a lot about their age. A twelve-year-old is mostly concerned with completing schoolwork and having fun. A twenty-year-old is dealing with a job or internship and probably college. These are generalizations, but you can see that your character’s problems will communicate a lot to the reader about their age.
Interactions with other characters are important age indicators as well. A child character won’t have as much restraint on his emotions, so the character might go from cheerful to petulant in the space of a paragraph. A teenager might be moody or just distant. The way other people react to the character is important, too, especially with parents. A parent will usually be more authoritative and rigid with a younger character, whereas they’ll tend to treat an adult child as an equal.
Experiment with different factors to make your characters act their age, but also ask yourself if you’re ready to work on a certain project. I’ve found that some story ideas just feel right for where I’m at as a writer, whereas others are better off in my near future, waiting for me to grow into them.
What experience have you had with this writing pitfall? Leave me a comment below!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series. I loved getting to discuss some of my writing challenges and experiences with you all!