The thing about writing a character who is not the same age as you are is that you have to imagine yourself in their shoes. This is the same for writing ANYONE who is different from you, whether you are writing a space pirate and you work in an office, or you are writing a person who is a different race than you, or you are writing a male if you are a female and vice versa.
You have to INHABIT their humanity. You have to remember that a person who is the different from you is not a conglomeration of all those stereotypes you’ve heard, the things you don’t like about those people, the opposition. You share more in common with every human alive than differences. Attempt to spend some time walking a mile in their moccasins, imagining where they came from, how they changed, what situations they might have to deal with that you don’t and how that can affect them, just like the other post suggests.
Writing characters who are a different age than you might have a few more things to consider. I actually think this counts for adults writing young people as well as young people writing old people. We have a tendency to look at the other generations as ignorant, stupid, biased, blind, out of touch, and just not “getting it.”
The truth is both old people and young people are a part of their worlds, in touch with it, and have valid reasons for what they do and how they act, whether their motivation is security or freedom. If you respect them and their reasons, as humans, and don’t assume that kids are here to be rude and antagonistic, or grown ups are here to put kids down and stop them from growing, you’re going to be closer to writing realistic people of all ages.
Kids and young people are smart. They have just as much intelligence as an adult or older person. Intelligence is not a function of age. Older writers need to stop writing kids as dumb. They may not have as much life experience or perspective or know about as many things, but that doesn’t mean the experience and life lessons they do have are not valid. Kids and young people also have a plasticity in thinking that allows them to adapt to new situations faster and easier than adults do. Some adults seem to think that means young people are not able to make good decisions or be responsible, but I think that’s a misinterpretation. I think it means they are better able to be open minded and try out new options and solutions. To change.
The truth is that every person who is old was once young, and they have the ability to remember what it was like to be young. However, young people have never been old before. So they have to project and empathize and imagine what it means. Figure out what could have happened to them to create who they are as older people.
One of the things I’ve noticed in the younger generation (kids today!) is they have a tendency to assume that all grown ups are conservative, square, stodgy, old world, narrow minded, racist, homophobic, sexist, The Establishment. This makes me laugh, because I’m 45 and not only have I been involved in social activism for, like 30 years, but all that cool style that you younguns are working now? It wasn’t mainstream when I wore it. Not only that, but MY parents, from the 60s? They marched on Washington. My dad was a protestor at Columbia U and was involved with the Black Panthers. My parents were in an interracial marriage, the year of Loving vs Virginia. My mom has read more science fiction and fantasy than any of us. Geekery is not a youthful invention. Neither is rebellion.
Something that young people don’t understand about old people is that old people were not born being fuddy duddies. We’ve got generations of rebels and activists before we get to the current youth culture. You’re, like 50-60 (100?) years too late to be the first people who rebelled against mainstream culture. flappers, beatniks, Civil rights activists, anti war hippies, feminists, punks, queer activists, grunge rockers, etc. People don’t all automatically start supporting Trump when they get an AARP card. Think about the life and culture that your older character has gone through, which shaped who they are. A person who came from a conservative midwest family in the 50s is going to be different than a person who grew up protesting against the Vietnam War, even if these people are the same age. Respect the character enough to find out where they come from and who they are.
Yes, it is harder for older people to explore new technology. Yes, they see new styles of fashion or music and don’t understand it (because their experience is different.) And yes, they do depend upon the knowledge and experience they ALREADY have, rather than exploring new ways of doing things. They’ve done a lot of their exploring already, and you don’t always need to redo that experimentation if you’ve found things that work. They tend to draw more on the knowledge they have already acquired, rather than look for new discoveries.
Another thing you want to consider with older characters is their level of RESPONSIBILITY. Generally younger people do not have as much responsibility, but older ones have to care for children, houses, employees, lives. They’re committed already to spouses and jobs and homes and communities, and can’t just drop everything because they need to find themselves or fall in love… and if they do, that says something about the kind of person they are. Other people depend upon adults and older people, and that dependency changes how they react to things. A grown up who is responsible for a child has a whole new range of concerns that should be addressed to make a well rounded character.
They also have fewer choices in life. As you get older and choose your paths, other paths are closed. You’ve committed to living a certain way. And changing that is a bigger deal.
It’s easy to write, say, a mom as classist or racist or controlling or snobbish, and that creates a bit of tension and struggle within the story, but unless you look at how that mom got to that place, and try to understand her as a character, you’re just writing a rather flat, two dimensional caricature of a mean grown up. Mom=bad. Kid=good. And it’s an accepted characterization, because the story of the child fighting against the rules of the mom so that they can be independent is a classic story. It’s the story of the kid. The mom is just the obstacle, and not a full character.
You know, now that I think about it, maybe one of the reasons so many stories and adventures are about young people is that it’s a simpler, less complicated character to develop. They are LEARNING how to be the person they become and we get to explore that journey. With older characters, they’ve already done that learning, become that person, and there’s a lot more to wrangle into the character you’re trying to represent. Well, yeah. But if you find the right details, you don’t need all that much to create an older character who feels real.
The NA Splatfests have been really boring so far imo. I mean, Cats vs. Dogs? Rollercoasters vs. Waterslides? Why not stuff like Giant Monsters vs Giant Robots or Super Heroes vs. Super Villains?
Pizza vs hamburger? Science fiction vs fantasy? Or batman vs super man? Oh wait, there’s gonna be a movie about that…
Okey for real… I’ve personally really liked European splatfests so far a lot compared to NA or Japan. Japan’s themes have been very… Well Japanese and I can see the reasoning behind NA themes. Especially the current one. It suits perfectly for summer and theme parks are huge there. It wouldn’t make any sense here in Europe. At least not here in North Europe where our biggest theme parks are really small compared to yours. But yeah. I can see why you guys would be a bit disappointed.
I am excited to see what the future themes will be.