Tuesday Writing Tips – Reader Question about Character’s Age

Peter  Gail and GuyOne of my blog readers, Neridah, has posed a couple of writing questions that I’m going to respond to over the next couple of weeks.

Neridah’s first question was

I’ve had recent feedback from a publisher about a historical Chapter Book that it’s not going to ‘work’ for them, as the protagonist isn’t a child. My protagonist is 18 years of age and based on a true story. My story was pitched at 10 – 12 year olds and has previously been published in an educational magazine. So, I’m wondering, what can I do about this? I love my character, and I know I could write about her from the point of view of someone else but I just don’t feel this would be as effective.

Thanks for your question, Neridah.

A character’s age can cause dilemmas for a writer and when your character is based on a real person, you often can’t change their age without dramatically altering the essence of your story.

I wrote a book a couple of years ago about a boy with selective mutism. It was based on a true story and I wanted to write it from the boy’s point of view, but I ran into difficulties because the character’s story started when he was very young and kids don’t like to read about characters younger than them. I wanted to start the story from my character’s first day at school because this was a significant event in his life, but the story was too complex for five or six year-old readers, and older kids wouldn’t want to read about a boy that young.

What I’ve ended up doing (and it’s still a work in progress) is rewrite it as an adult book from the mother’s point of view, with some inserts in italics from the boy’s point of view. Jodi Picoult uses this kind of technique in many of her books which are actually stories about kids, but are written for the adult/crossover market, mostly from an adult perspective of a parent, but sometimes a large proportion is from a child’s point of view.

IMAG3571I know that you don’t want to change point of view character, so to me there are a number of different directions you could go with this piece of work.

1.  Try and write it for an educational publisher and centre it around an area of the school curriculum.  (You might want to seek interest from a publisher before you embark on this course)

2.   Write it as an historical novel for young adults

3.  Write it as a straight non-fiction book.

4.  Write it for adults.

So as well as looking at where your book sits, you might also need to reconsider the length of it.

I hope this helps.

IMAG3541If you have any tips for Neridah, please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

If you have a writing question of your own that you’d like answered, feel free to also include this in the comment section.

Happy writing:)


P.S. Next week Neridah asks about what to do when the characters start taking the story into their own hands.


6 thoughts on “Tuesday Writing Tips – Reader Question about Character’s Age

  1. Hi Dee, thanks for posting this. It’s a tricky one but I have felt the urge to re-write it as Adult Fiction, which is crazy as I would prefer to only write for children/YA. I think I might experiment with your first suggestion of a different point of view. I think it will be a worthwhile exercise. Thanks for your help 🙂

  2. Hi Neridah,

    Some stories just are more for the adult market unfortunately. But yes, if you can find a younger point of view character that would work for a children’s book. Good luck with it:)


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