Age Progression

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Age Progression

Postby bcomet » 02 Oct 2010, 09:47

What are thoughts about protagonists who move from childhood or teen years to adulthood or even through to death?

If a character starts out young, is that a turn-off for an adult book?

Lots of examples out there show it as workable, but it seems to battle current trends to have age progression.

What do you think?
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Re: Age Progression

Postby Aimée » 02 Oct 2010, 15:53

In my WIP, the first part is a character's childhood. He is in foster care, so it's definitely not a happy story. I love it, but I've been considering removing it and just using it as a short story. It's not because of the trends, though; this character is not the MC, so the only purpose of the childhood story is thematic or just character development. I have problem with age progression, as long as it serves a purpose to development of the plot and character.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby amyashley » 02 Oct 2010, 16:57

I think it depends on how you feel about it. Whatever you do, DO NOT follow trends in publishing! They change too fast! Write what you are inspired to write. Write it as well as you can. If this is the best way you feel there is to tell the story you want to tell, then do so. If it doesn't sell right when it is done, set it aside and it will come back into demand.

I think it would make a big difference what POV and what tense it was told in, and how much time you spent at each life stage. There are several successful books that have protagonists at different ages.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby bcomet » 03 Oct 2010, 11:24

I think part of my concern is who I am writing for in the work in question. It starts off as a YA, but moves into adult turf quickly.

I've been reading a lot of YA lately, not to follow trends, but because I am interested in what is happening in the genre as well as because I enjoy it overall.

What I have noticed is that, lately, much of it seems really toned down to fit the age group. (To me that talking down may work for the target age group, but it really dims the story down and can seem very manipulative to the point that I think it's like baby talking at teens.)
And some of it also dares to tell the story straight (mature), however much in this category is being hit with censorship issues (for YA).

I think fairy tales, were very adult stories too in many cases. (Cinderella starts out as a child, goes to sleep/becomes unconscious until she is mature sexually and immediately after she awakes, transformed into an adult, she marries. The story arc of Beauty and the Beast, etc.)

Topics around YA lately have been concerned with author responsibility as well.

I'm not sure my WIP is more adult than YA overall. If it ever gets published, I would be more comfortable labeling it 17+ if I could
(although I know that would attract under 17 readers like a flag probably).

But if you, as an adult reader, begin an adult story with a character who is a child or even sixteen at the start of a story, are you turned off to start in that maturity level?

Or, on the other hand, if you are a YA age reader, would you be turned off if the protagonist grows up or older in the story?
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Re: Age Progression

Postby Mira » 06 Oct 2010, 14:25

I'm not positive, but I think there are many, many books for adults where the charater started off young. I really wouldn't worry about that at all. For some reason, East of Eden is coming into my head as an example.

Adults were kids once, so they'll identify with any age level - I really think it's safe to have your protag be any age and/or grow older.

For YA, that's trickier. Teens haven't experienced being adults, so they might have more trouble identifying. I've noticed when the character grows up in YA, that's often when the book ends. Harry Potter comes to mind, for an example.

But I always feel, personally, it's best to write your book. Then you can figure out where it fits. Also, even if you break the 'rules' your book may be the one in a million time where it works out really well.

So, those are my thoughts. Hope that's helpful, bcomet.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby Quill » 06 Oct 2010, 14:34

Mira wrote:I've noticed when the character grows up in YA, that's often when the book ends. Harry Potter comes to mind, for an example.

Actually, I think Harry Potter is basically a (late) middle grade book that sort of morphs into YA. Harry starts out at eleven years old.

Not sure if this on topic, but I've noticed middle grade books tend to be sympathetic to adult characters; one is allowed to develop an adult or two in them. While YA seems to push adults to the periphery, much as late teens themselves often do.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby Mira » 06 Oct 2010, 14:36

Quill wrote:
Mira wrote:I've noticed when the character grows up in YA, that's often when the book ends. Harry Potter comes to mind, for an example.

Actually, I think Harry Potter is basically a (late) middle grade book that sort of morphs into YA. Harry starts out at eleven years old.

Not sure if this on topic, but I've noticed middle grade books tend to be sympathetic to adult characters; one is allowed to develop an adult or two in them. While YA seems to push adults to the periphery, much as late teens themselves often do.


Good point, Quill. YA and MG can be very different.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby Down the well » 06 Oct 2010, 15:19

bcomet wrote:What are thoughts about protagonists who move from childhood or teen years to adulthood or even through to death?

If a character starts out young, is that a turn-off for an adult book?

Lots of examples out there show it as workable, but it seems to battle current trends to have age progression.

What do you think?


Two novels come to mind: Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier and The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. Both begin with the protagonist as a child who then grows into adulthood. I don't think it's a turn off at all, if the early childhood stuff is relevant and helps build the arc of the character, as was the case with both of these books.

I'm not really sure what you mean by "seems to battle current trends to have age progression." To me, it just seems like something that is called for in some books and not in others, depending on the story. If your story requires it then use it.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby bcomet » 06 Oct 2010, 18:44

Yeah, I totally thought about 13 Moons as a good example. I guess my insecurity is if a story starts out young and progresses in age, is it still applicable as YA?

(so far, the consensus seems to be: no)
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Re: Age Progression

Postby Down the well » 06 Oct 2010, 19:00

bcomet wrote:Yeah, I totally thought about 13 Moons as a good example. I guess my insecurity is if a story starts out young and progresses in age, is it still applicable as YA?

(so far, the consensus seems to be: no)


Ah, didn't realize you were writing YA. Now I understand your dilemma. That is iffy. Just my opinion, but if you want it to appeal to teens then the character needs to remain a teen, but I think you probably already knew that. Hope it works out.


Edit: I'm a total doofus. I didn't see that you mentioned it was YA above. I skim-read when I'm rushed. Sorry.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby paravil » 07 Oct 2010, 08:20

Comes down to whether or not the charater's childhood matters. The Phantom Menace sucked because it absolutely did not matter at all.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby arbraun » 09 Oct 2010, 21:20

I think it can work, but I'd not advise new writers to write an underage protagonist or one that dies in an adult novel, since it will be harder to sell currently.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby dsmith77 » 12 Oct 2010, 07:28

Two things come to mind:

First, beware that publishers want books written in clearly-defined genres. They can be very exacting and stifle creativity but they can also keep you focused. You should make them work with whatever plans you have for a career.

Second, are you certain you're writing YA and not MG? Visit http://www.migwriters.com/2009/08/20/mg ... ifference/ to know the differences. It's an in-depth article with lots of links for further reading.
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Re: Age Progression

Postby aiko73 » 13 Oct 2010, 00:22

don't be afraid to start your own story your own way.. sure people would love it with your sincerity and so.. good luck with your writing task...
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