As I come close to finishing the second draft of my novel, a certain thought keeps coming to mind: what ages am I capable of writing? I used to believe it was almost impossible to write beyond your age. I now know that not to be true. I am now 23 and the core of my novel center around three characters in their late twenties. Nowadays, my thoughts revolve around the more extreme ages. Throughout the novel, I bring in random characters in their forties and fifties…but I worry that I can’t make them as well rounded as the other characters because I haven’t gone through that part of my life.
Then there is youth. With this novel, I feel like I have done a good job with my youngest character. She is 14. When I think about it, however, I am not sure if I could go much younger. I love reading books with young characters…but I don’t know how to develop such a character. How do you enter the mind of youth? I talked at length with one of my friends about this. She just read “Room.” It’s a book that centers around a five year old. I can’t even imagine. Maybe that’s another boundary of my abilities that I need dismantle through hard work and writing practice.
Someone (probably someone famous) said something about there being a part of the author in every character. Writing children…Stephen King does this quite marvelously. J.K. Rowling does as well. Tolkien writes oddly ageless characters. What do you remember of your childhood? What were the extents of your thoughts? If you wrote, do you have any of it? Read through it – it can give you a sense of what you used to be like.
Same thing for older characters; I look at my father and try to see past the father to the person: the person who once was twenty, who had the same dreams and ideals I did at that age. How did he get to where he is now? What were his experiences, and how did they change him?
These are some of the questions that get me into my characters. I imagine how I would feel after a lifetime of sorrow or joy; how I used to feel as a ten-year-old.