Musings: "I'll Get Older, But Fictional Characters Stay My Age"
Yesterday, I came across a reel where the person in the reel reflected on how characters his age was off saving the world, and he was taking classes he wouldn’t even need in real life. Someone pointed out that the guy in the video would eventually grow up, but the ones in the book would stay frozen in their age.
How truly wild it was that we would get older, but when our children dusted off the books gathering dust in our libraries the characters, we had left behind would now be their age.
Over the years, I am guessing a lot of newly minted twelve year olds have found comfort in the redheaded Anne Shirley, and went on to grow up with her in her series. Growing up in the 90s, I was one of the kids who grew up with Harry Potter. It’s a special experience, I believe, getting to grow older with your favourite fictional characters. I am told by those who grew up with Percy Jackson, that they were thrilled they got to grow up with the characters of Camp Half-Blood. I’ve only read one of the Percy Jackson books and they were always targeted at an audience younger than I was when the books were a rage.
But this got me thinking. Even if we write series and we age up our characters along with their readers, there is going to be a time when the characters stay frozen. For example, no matter how old Akriti from Our World series is in the latest book, when someone picks up When Our Worlds Collide, she is still going to greet them as a twenty-four year old.
When I started writing (and believe me, I started extremely young), my protagonist was always the youngest sibling. By default, I’d write older characters into my stories based on the behavior I witnessed of my older siblings. It was easier to tell the story from the point of view of someone my age because that was the age I understood the best. And as I grew up, the characters I breathed life into, grew up with me.
Jasmine Chakraborty (The Secret Proposal), was written as twenty-one year old because I was twenty-one at the time. I was grappling with most of the issues she’s shown to have in the book. I guess you could say I was living vicariously through my characters.
Raashi Ghoshal (Raashi Ghoshal Will Find Her Prince Charming) is to-date the oldest character I’ve written and she was the same age I was when I wrote her story. This was also the time when I understood that while I wasn’t comfortable telling the story through the lens of a character whose age I hadn’t experienced – I was completely comfortable exploring the story via the lens of a character whose age I’d left behind.
Both Yoshita Ray (An Awfully BIG Adventure) and Mia Basu Roy (The Backyard Tales) are seventeen and reckless, and believe themselves to be invincible. They’re still at the threshold of adulthood and life hasn’t had the chance to knock them down yet. It’s fun to write about reckless teenage behaviour because now, we know better. Back then, we didn’t.
I realized I haven’t written any characters exploring the third decade of life. That makes me want to ensure that the next book I write has characters in the same age group as I am. Partly because, I rarely come across stories where the characters are in their thirties. It’s always twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. I know we’ve only just recently worked through the fact that life doesn’t end at twenty-five and we need to stop acting like it does.
Well, life doesn’t stop until you do. And I think everyone deserves to see themselves get represented in the books they read. So, if you come across books with older main characters, let me know – I’d love to read the books. Because, I’ll Get Older And I’ll Meet Fictional Characters Who Are My Age…