I have a birthday this month. It’s one of those scary ones with the horrifying zero at the end of it. I was discussing it with my mother last night—telling her that I want to pretend it’s not happening—and she just laughed at me. Then she reminded me that the day she reached this same milestone, both of her watches mysteriously stopped working. She’s not superstitious, but that spooked her. On the other hand, that was 22 years ago, and she’s still around, so maybe it was a good omen.
Portents aside, I still feel like a kid. My older daughter is about to graduate from high school, many of my friends are already grandparents, and yet sometimes I have a hard time remembering I’m a grown-up. Until, that is, I spend a few minutes watching my students, who are mostly in their early twenties. Then I remember that maturity is all relative.
This brings me to my topic for this month—the ages of our story characters. There are a lot of stories out there about young heroes—guys in their early twenties, perhaps. I can understand the attraction, both for authors and readers. That’s an exciting time for a lot of people. It’s often the first time we fall in love. It’s also when we’re making a lot of decisions that will affect the trajectory of our lives. Many people that age are still dealing pretty heavily with family-related angst while also trying to find their way in the scary Real World. That’s drama! And on top of it all, of course, young people have the beauty of youth.
Yet I most often find myself writing—and reading—about older characters. I joke about this sometimes, saying that I spend my entire workday with twenty-somethings, and by the time I get home and ready to write, I’m yearning for someone a bit older. There’s some truth in that joke. Also, I find it harder to accept True Love when the heroes are very young. Sure, it can happen. I started dating my husband when I was 16, we married when I was 21, and here we are, eons later, still enmeshed in wedded bliss. But still. How many people do you know who hit their Happily Ever After at 23?
But the real reason I’m drawn to older characters is that they’re so damned interesting. They’re carrying decades’ worth of baggage. They’ve had successes and failures and maybe lost loves. They’ve been places. They had plans for how their life was going to be, and maybe those plans have changed. They have connections to all sorts of people—exes, kids, friends, coworkers—that may complicate matters. They may be tied down in all sorts of fascinating ways. When they discover new things, those discoveries are especially unexpected. This makes their stories all the more compelling, I think.
Older characters are also good to write about because they give hope. I’d hate to send the message that the only people who can find love are gorgeous youngsters with perfectly toned abs, unlined faces, and full heads of hair.
Do you like reading about more mature characters? Who are your favorites? Personally, I have a huge crush on Vic and Jacob from Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycop series.
Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.
A complete list of Kim’s books: http://www.kfieldingwrites.com/kim-fieldings-books/