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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

AGE!

Today is my birthday! 

The results of my carbon dating test have not returned, so while we wait for that I am going to shift topics and talk about age in books.

When I was young, I would ask my grandmother how old she was. She would simply respond, “I’m Jack Benny’s age.” It took me many years to learn that the comedian, Jack Benny, always claimed he was 39 years old…regardless of what decade it was.

I have noticed that protagonists will sometimes age with their author. And in genres other than romance it is common for the age of the protagonist to be variable.

The characters in my books seem to be Jack Benny’s age. To date, they are perpetually suspended in their mid-thirties. That’s not to say that won’t change in the future, or that I may not host a younger couple. It just seems to me that in their thirties the hero and heroine have experienced enough in life to carry sufficient baggage to make their characters interesting. Maturity has set in by then and they are looking for the happily ever after syndrome that we all desire. Granted, I am a romantic and believe that happily ever after exists for every walk of life at every stage in life. One of these days my couples will leap beyond Jack Benny’s age and show the world that romance is timeless.

As readers and writers, what are your thoughts on the age of protagonists in a romance?

Maureen A. Miller

21 comments:

Rita said...

I’ve seen love happen at every stage of life. 80 year old high school sweet hearts reunite and marry. People in their 50’s meet and marry for the first time. This couple were so in love and radiated happiness. When you were around them you couldn’t help but feel happy. Two years after they married she died of brain cancer. People meet when they are 10. After 10 years of friendship it turns to love.
I prefer the H&H in their 30’s. They are as you said mature and know what they want not struggling to find who they are.

Debra L Martin said...

I like 30s and 40s for the same reasons you cite although I'm never adverse to reading about cute hunk in his 20s. Sometimes they can surprise you and if not, there always those, uh, gorgeous eyes.

MaureenAMiller said...

@Rita - Grandma, who is actually not 39 but rather 93 still flirts. Where she lives there is a 3 men to 40 women ratio. Those are some popular dudes.

@Debra - I agree!

Amanda said...

As a "younger" reader I enjoy seeing characters in their mid-twenties to thirties. That is because I like to read what I know, and I know 27 year olds well. :) I'm in that stage of life where people go from casual to serious and baby epilogues are all around me.

However, I do like more mature characters and I know for an author and much of society those traits typically fit someone well into their thirties. Which is fine by me. I can do older men. (LOL, seriously.)

I'm always surprised by the "ready to settle down" twenty something hero, it's not often men in my age group are characterized as such. At this age, I find it quite charming when I do find that kind of read.

The good thing is that as characters change, we change. Making any story relateable.

Teenage Angst.
Perpetual bachelors.
Stable providers.
Love and loss.
Second happy endings.

They all make for great stories.

MaureenAMiller said...

@Amanda - What a great perspective, Amanda. You are so right about us changing along with the characters. As we read we become open to anything as long as the characters end up happy.

Clare London said...

Happy birthday!

And I know what you mean, because I've been following the age of my hero Jack Reacher all through his books, as he ages quite respectably and respectfully alongside me :).

I think I write all my heroes in the 20-35 bracket. Do I think that's changed as *I've* changed? Yes indeed. I'm sure I wrote cute twinks in my *cough* earlier days.

That said, I really like the occasional book that deals with more mature characters.

And I've often read a book when I get nearly to the end before I have any concept at all as to their age. Yes, I probably wasn't paying enough attention (!) but also it means their story is age-less.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Interesting discussion, Maureen. I have very little romance in my stories, so that's not what decides the age of my characters. Honestly, I write them as teenagers right up to... well, I haven't found an end age yet.

As I age, I tend to move the age up on my protagonists, probably because I can relate easier to a 50-something with aches and pains than a young 'un. For that one, I have to dredge the memory. :-)

When I first started reading your post, I thought you were going to talk about how old books/movies were and how we react to them. For instance, my Rotten Daughters turn their noses up at any movie that is older than they are. I mean, really.

And Happy Birthday, Maureen! C'est à ton tour de te laisser parler d'amour!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Happy 39th Birthday, Maureen! :)

As someone who will, actually, truthfully, turn 39 in a few months (and no one, of course, will believe me - LOL), I've been thinking about age lately. Is it just me or are older heroines more accepted than in previous decades? I've read many books in the past few years that have heroines in their late thirties and early forties, whereas most of the ones I read in the eighties and nineties were the eighteen-year-olds or early twenties. Of course, that was when I devoured historicals. Hmmm...

MaureenAMiller said...

@Clare - Thank you, and I would love to read about your cute twinks!

@Marcelle - You're doing it again. I just oozed into a pile of goo at my desk.

@Anne Marie - Congratulations! Time will now officially stop for you. :) And yes, I agree. I think I had first noticed it with Sandra Brown who was writing about couples in their mid forties.

JB Lynn said...

Great topic, Maureen!

A woman in her seventies once told me, "I'm still thirty-five at heart". Maybe that's why people enjoy reading and writing about characters in that age group?

KC Burn said...

I like writing 20-40, because I also will be turning 39 soon (for real!), and I can at least draw on my own experiences for my characters. I'll read about just about any age, mind you, although I find I'm tending to prefer protagonists who are closer to my own age.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Maureen, happy birthday!!!

On the whole, I'm pretty relaxed about age ... I only get stressed when a character is in nappies but also a brain surgeon. I start obsessively calculating years at med school and going, nope, not possible, not even a child genius...

MaureenAMiller said...

@JB I'm in my seventies and I still feel 35!

@KC I agree. I like reading my age, however if the characters intrigue me, age no longer matters.

@Jenny Thank you! I do the exact same thing. I have a mathematical formula in my head, relating to college degrees. LOL

Dee J. said...

Maureen,

Happy Birthday!
My characters range from early 20s to mid 40s. For me, it's not so much about the age as it is the character.

Hope you had a fab b-day!

Cathy in AK said...

I'm with the crowd that has the thirty-ish characters. Old enough to have a little experience but young enough to do the crazy things I can't any more : )

Happy Birthday, Maureen!

Betsy Horvath said...

Happy Birthday, Maureen! I hope you had a spectacular day!

For the most part, I like my characters to be between 25 and 50 or so. I've found that as I've aged, I can relate to older characters in my romances as well - HAH. On the other hand, I remember how stupid I was in my late teens and early twenties, so when the hero or heroine is that young I find myself doubting their maturity. But that's just based on my own experience! LOL

Julie Moffett said...

Happy Birthday!!! It absolutely does not matter to me what age the main characters are as long as it fits with whatever the story is about.

And you, my lovely, are 29, correct??

:)

Wendy Soliman said...

Your granny was very wise. I'm Jack Benny's age too - a coincidence, or what! I agree that 30s to 40s is a good age for heroes/heroines. Old enough to have done a bit but still young enough to make the earth move.

Happy birthday. x

Shirley Wells said...

Belated happy birthday! Hope you had a wonderful day and celebrated in style.

I like to read about characters in their mid to late 30s for some reason. My Dylan Scott character started as a 38-year-old and will age as the series progresses. I'd rather keep him at 38 but that's difficult when his children are born or age. Interesting post!

MaureenAMiller said...

@Dee - Thank you!

@Cathy - We know you still do crazy things!

@Betsy - Thank you. I could write the tales of Grandma's romance conquests!

@Julie - Why yes. Yes you are absolutely correct! :)

@Wendy - Granny is very wise indeed. :)

@Shirley - Thank you. I could see Dylan aging...that definitely works with his character.

Elise Warner said...

If you find an age you're happy with, why not hold on to it? I'd like my gravestone to read "Perpetually 29."

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