Author Topic: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?  (Read 786 times)  

Offline Gregg Bell

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Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
« on: May 14, 2020, 10:04:36 am »
At first the serial I'm writing (I'm on book 4 now) was so new I didn't think about the character ages. I have three main characters. In book one, two of them are in their early twenties and their exact ages aren't mentioned, so I don't worry about them. But the third character is 85 and has stayed 85 for the first three books. I imagine in "book time" she could stay 85 for the first two and maybe the first three, but I think maybe with this book, she needs to turn 86? Or would it be a good idea to go to book three and make here 86 there? (Even though book three has been out a long time.) Or maybe she stays 85 forever? Thanks.

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    Offline Annalise Clark

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #1 on: May 14, 2020, 10:33:30 am »
    It depends on the timeframe your books take place.

    I write YA so most of the time, my characters age. In my academy series, each book is a new year of school (Year 1, Year 2, etc) so my MC has a birthday in each one and gets a year older. It wouldn't make sense if they didn't.

    But in another series I did, Books 1 and 2 take place over the same calendar year, so the characters don't really age any. I mention a birthday in Book 3, but it's only a side detail and not a main point in the storyline.

    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #2 on: May 14, 2020, 01:28:05 pm »
    Thanks a lot, Annalise. That makes sense. I think I'll do something like that.

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #3 on: May 14, 2020, 01:42:06 pm »
    My characters age. I may take liberties with a margin of a year, but generally I stick to timelines.

    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #4 on: May 14, 2020, 05:23:27 pm »
    Thanks jm.

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    Offline Cecelia

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #5 on: May 14, 2020, 07:14:14 pm »
    On television characters age because the actors do. They can try to look young longer, but in the end, they have to move along.

    However, in fiction, I would say it depends on your timeline & the stage of life you have chosen. Poirot and Miss Marple start as retirees & stay old - I cannot remember whether they have birthdays etc. I do remember one book had some historical detail which dated it and that book actually wasn't my favorite.

    In a romance, if your character marries & has children, the natural assumption is they matured, even if they didn't have birthdays.

    In fantasy - your character may have longevity or be immortal. But time will still pass somehow.

    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #6 on: May 14, 2020, 07:47:33 pm »
    Or you could have a character ask when her birthday is.  She could respond...I chose to stop counting at 85.  Maybe she's a lot older?  Now, I want to know. :)

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    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #7 on: May 14, 2020, 08:39:03 pm »
    On television characters age because the actors do. They can try to look young longer, but in the end, they have to move along.

    However, in fiction, I would say it depends on your timeline & the stage of life you have chosen. Poirot and Miss Marple start as retirees & stay old - I cannot remember whether they have birthdays etc. I do remember one book had some historical detail which dated it and that book actually wasn't my favorite.

    In a romance, if your character marries & has children, the natural assumption is they matured, even if they didn't have birthdays.

    In fantasy - your character may have longevity or be immortal. But time will still pass somehow.

    Thanks for the information, Cecilia. My serial is a comedy. I would like to have my 85-yr-old character stay the same age but I'm sure readers will pick up on it if she does. 

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    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #8 on: May 14, 2020, 08:40:55 pm »
    Or you could have a character ask when her birthday is.  She could respond...I chose to stop counting at 85.  Maybe she's a lot older?  Now, I want to know. :)

    Ha ha. Very clever, Lorri. Thanks. I mention the 85 yr-old's age in this fourth book, but in future books I may not. I mean, I don't want her getting too old! lol

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #9 on: May 15, 2020, 12:24:15 am »
    The Simpsons have stayed the same age for 20+ years. No one cares.

    Comic book characters age very slowly or not at all. No one cares. It's practically encouraged because fans don't want to Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker as senior citizens.

    In short, in novels it's really your choice. If you're doing absurdist comedy anyway, people will only nitpick if it's not funny anymore.
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    Offline notjohn

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #10 on: May 15, 2020, 03:14:17 am »
    I think it helps, yes. Your question caused me to ponder the series I admire and can't wait for the next one, to wit: Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon, Lee Child's Jack Reacher , Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti, and most recently Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. All mature and have life experiences that mark them, sometimes to their detriment (Gabriel Allon was more interesting as a lone agent than as head of Israel's secret service). That's even true of Brunetti -- he doesn't change much, but his kids grow up in the course of the books.

    So yeah, I vote for ageing. (But don't make him or her head of the CIA!)
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    Offline jdcore

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #11 on: May 15, 2020, 09:29:00 am »
    Rex Stout wrote Nero Wolfe for over 40 years and neither he nor Archie aged at all, even though the settings always remained contemporary to when the installment was published. PG Wodehouse wrote Bertie and Jeeves for 40 years, and not only did they never age, but it was never not 1920-something. Meanwhile, every installment of Harry Potter had the characters growing just a little bit older.

    I began writing my own series almost 20 years ago. The book is set in the summertime. I wrote book two a few years later and it's set in the winter of the same year, even though several years had passed since I wrote book one. Book four was written a few years later and was set in the spring. Book three (a collection of three short stories) was partly written after book one and partly after book two, but the time frame isn't mentioned. Book five is summertime at the beginning, and some time passes and it ends in the following year sometime. In book one there are flip phones. In book five everyone has smart phones. In book one there are still rotary phones on the desk and the computer monitor has a globe set on top. In book five the globe is on a shelf over the flatscreen monitor. In book one, the hero came to America as a teen after the fall of the Berlin wall. The narrator was born in the 70s, and she's clearly in her mid 20s. She'd be in her 40s now, but when I write book six, she'll get in her flying car (if that's part of the zeitgeist) and go on a date with somebody she met on a dating app yet-to-be-invented, where they will discuss how much she still wants to accomplish before her 30th birthday.

    Take liberties or don't. You get to choose.

    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #12 on: May 15, 2020, 02:47:09 pm »
    The Simpsons have stayed the same age for 20+ years. No one cares.

    Comic book characters age very slowly or not at all. No one cares. It's practically encouraged because fans don't want to Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker as senior citizens.

    In short, in novels it's really your choice. If you're doing absurdist comedy anyway, people will only nitpick if it's not funny anymore.

    Thanks J. Yeah, but my absurdist comedy is getting more and more serious. Still, the one character is 85. I feel like that's so insane for some of the stuff I've put her through (going over a waterfall in a rudimentary raft) that I can't have her in her nineties! I think I'm going to keep her the same age but just not mention her exact age in future books. The other characters can say, "You know, you're getting up there."

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    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #13 on: May 15, 2020, 02:48:50 pm »
    I think it helps, yes. Your question caused me to ponder the series I admire and can't wait for the next one, to wit: Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon, Lee Child's Jack Reacher , Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti, and most recently Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. All mature and have life experiences that mark them, sometimes to their detriment (Gabriel Allon was more interesting as a lone agent than as head of Israel's secret service). That's even true of Brunetti -- he doesn't change much, but his kids grow up in the course of the books.

    So yeah, I vote for ageing. (But don't make him or her head of the CIA!)

    Hi notjohn. No worries about her being the head of the CIA. lol I'm thinking this character is just too old to age any more, though.

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    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #14 on: May 15, 2020, 02:53:28 pm »
    Rex Stout wrote Nero Wolfe for over 40 years and neither he nor Archie aged at all, even though the settings always remained contemporary to when the installment was published. PG Wodehouse wrote Bertie and Jeeves for 40 years, and not only did they never age, but it was never not 1920-something. Meanwhile, every installment of Harry Potter had the characters growing just a little bit older.

    I began writing my own series almost 20 years ago. The book is set in the summertime. I wrote book two a few years later and it's set in the winter of the same year, even though several years had passed since I wrote book one. Book four was written a few years later and was set in the spring. Book three (a collection of three short stories) was partly written after book one and partly after book two, but the time frame isn't mentioned. Book five is summertime at the beginning, and some time passes and it ends in the following year sometime. In book one there are flip phones. In book five everyone has smart phones. In book one there are still rotary phones on the desk and the computer monitor has a globe set on top. In book five the globe is on a shelf over the flatscreen monitor. In book one, the hero came to America as a teen after the fall of the Berlin wall. The narrator was born in the 70s, and she's clearly in her mid 20s. She'd be in her 40s now, but when I write book six, she'll get in her flying car (if that's part of the zeitgeist) and go on a date with somebody she met on a dating app yet-to-be-invented, where they will discuss how much she still wants to accomplish before her 30th birthday.

    Take liberties or don't. You get to choose.

    Thanks JD. Yeah, the technology is definitely an age identifier. With how fast it changes, just about everything we write will soon be dated.

    Rex Stout wrote Nero Wolfe for over 40 years and neither he nor Archie aged at all, even though the settings always remained contemporary to when the installment was published. PG Wodehouse wrote Bertie and Jeeves for 40 years, and not only did they never age, but it was never not 1920-something. Meanwhile, every installment of Harry Potter had the characters growing just a little bit older.

    ^ Interesting. Seems consistency is important.

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    Offline ShaneCarrow

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #15 on: May 17, 2020, 05:47:05 am »
    In the series I'm writing at the moment I've kept a meticulous timeline with birthdates and backstories, which nobody will ever notice but me, purely because I've slipped up with a different series in the past (which, again, nobody noticed but me).

    I'm reading Patrick O'Brian's marvellous Aubrey-Maturin series at the moment, set in the Napoleonic wars, in which the first book begins in 1800 and takes place across several years, and by about book seven it's 1812, and then O'Brian realised he wanted to keep writing this series for many years and he was running out of war. So the series enters what he calls (at least in the introductions!) "1812b," the exact year is no longer mentioned in the narrative, and as of book 13, where I'm up to now, he's still merrily writing away in suspended animation. Readers will let you get away with quite a lot if they're enjoying your books anyway.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey%E2%80%93Maturin_series#Internal_chronology

    edit - I'll add that one of the reasons I'm keeping careful track of ages in the series I'm writing now is because of character progression. The first book takes place in 1914 when one character is 22, and there's several years between books and I hope to take the series well into the 1920s. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm 31 now, and I know there's a huge difference in my personal character - in my needs, my behaviour, my hopes and my values - from when I was 22.
    « Last Edit: May 17, 2020, 05:49:50 am by ShaneCarrow »

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    Offline geronl

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #16 on: May 17, 2020, 10:52:38 am »
    Harry Potter got older, but not Bart Simpson!

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    Offline Cecelia

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #17 on: May 17, 2020, 03:50:04 pm »
    Harry Potter got older, but not Bart Simpson!

    Lisa and Maggie aged. Maybe it was done in flash backs & flash forwards, but there is a general air of maturity about the Simpson children by the end of the series that was not there at the beginning.
    « Last Edit: May 19, 2020, 07:15:22 pm by Cecelia »

    Offline Gregg Bell

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #18 on: May 17, 2020, 06:45:09 pm »
    In the series I'm writing at the moment I've kept a meticulous timeline with birthdates and backstories, which nobody will ever notice but me, purely because I've slipped up with a different series in the past (which, again, nobody noticed but me).

    I'm reading Patrick O'Brian's marvellous Aubrey-Maturin series at the moment, set in the Napoleonic wars, in which the first book begins in 1800 and takes place across several years, and by about book seven it's 1812, and then O'Brian realised he wanted to keep writing this series for many years and he was running out of war. So the series enters what he calls (at least in the introductions!) "1812b," the exact year is no longer mentioned in the narrative, and as of book 13, where I'm up to now, he's still merrily writing away in suspended animation. Readers will let you get away with quite a lot if they're enjoying your books anyway.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey%E2%80%93Maturin_series#Internal_chronology

    edit - I'll add that one of the reasons I'm keeping careful track of ages in the series I'm writing now is because of character progression. The first book takes place in 1914 when one character is 22, and there's several years between books and I hope to take the series well into the 1920s. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm 31 now, and I know there's a huge difference in my personal character - in my needs, my behaviour, my hopes and my values - from when I was 22.



    1812b Okay. But like you said, if the readers like the books, you can get away with anything. Kind of reminds me of Sue Grafton almost running out of the alphabet.

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #19 on: May 17, 2020, 07:32:26 pm »
    My characters are YA, so I don't really mention substantial aging because they are on the upper end of the YA age range as it is. My trilogy will explore about a 1-year time-frame, and I'll leave it at that.
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    Offline Jena H

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #20 on: May 18, 2020, 05:10:08 am »
    She's in her 80s.  Does the exact number really matter?  If not, why mention it?
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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #21 on: May 20, 2020, 12:23:12 pm »
    My characters are YA, so I don't really mention substantial aging because they are on the upper end of the YA age range as it is. My trilogy will explore about a 1-year time-frame, and I'll leave it at that.

    Thanks Chris. I'm leaning toward that sort of thing.

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #22 on: May 20, 2020, 12:26:01 pm »
    She's in her 80s.  Does the exact number really matter?  If not, why mention it?

    Thanks a lot, Jena. I think you have my perfect solution. It is important that she's in her eighties, (because she's in the Navy and still serving) but the specific age isn't important. Thanks!  :D

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    Re: Do I need to age my characters in a serial?
    « Reply #23 on: May 21, 2020, 01:09:53 am »
    Lisa and Maggie aged. Maybe it was done in flash backs & flash forwards, but there is a general air of maturity about the Simpson children by the end of the series that was not there at the beginning.

    They're 10, 8, and 1. They're basically (*) those ages the entire series and Bart and Lisa remain in the same grade at school.

    So they don't age in any meaningful way, but time can pass (even years) if a joke depends on it, and the characters personalities change based on the tastes of the writers.

    (*) Some characters have a single birthday episode which means they were slightly younger for some episodes but no character experiences a second. They just get the birthday of the age they're locked into.
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