What’s Your Favorite Age? by Sheila Deeth

I remember when grandparents were, by definition, 57 years old. I’m not sure why I thought that to be the case. I was 9 when my grandmother died at sixty-something. But 57 remained in my mind. 57 is old.

I remember that glorious day when I turned 10 – those magical double-figures – I wasn’t a baby anymore. But I wasn’t satisfied. 14 had become my favorite number now – teenage freedom and fun. I wrote stories with 14-year-old heroines, superpowered, superthoughtful, superwonderful. Even at 15 and 16 I still considered 14 the perfect age. 15 and 16 were, well, old.

I remember when 19 became my new definition of ancient. I raced up the stairs in my college dorm (think gorgeous old house, wide oak banisters, sunlight streaming through the dust). Folders and workbooks flew  from my arms and long hair flew about my face. A mirror stood at the top of the stairs and my image, caught suddenly like a stranger in the corner of my eye, left me feeling scared. I couldn’t pass for 14 anymore.

At twenty-something, a mother now, I started writing heroines who were 23. At thirty-something, 24. At 40? But life begins at 40, so they said. And now my heroines were 41, with the occasional nod to 60 and old age. I’d finally agreed, 57 might not yet be ancient after all. Which was just as well, though it didn’t help my self-esteem when I hit that magical age, gray-haired and needing to diet.

And time moved on. My father-in-law’s about to turn 90, I’m not going to tell you my age, and I’m trying to pick a “best age” for my next character. What do you think? And how did those years all fly away, like folders from a student’s arms?

Infinite Sum, working cover

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, from Indigo Sea Press, and of the soon-to-be-released companion novel, Infinite Sum. Which one will you read first?


Filed under life, musings, Sheila Deeth

12 responses to “What’s Your Favorite Age? by Sheila Deeth

  1. Most people feel as if they are in their thirties even when time and the mirror tells them they are not, so late thirties is a good age if you are trying to reach the widest audience. After fifty is good if you are trying to reach an older audience. And older than sixty is good if you are trying for a more novel approach. Forty, in this time scale, appears to be a good age if you are writing a book about a youngish-love the second-time-around — Mature, but not old, young at heart but not foolish, turning staid but fighting it.

    • 40 – I think that’s about what he is at the moment, so that’s good. Thank you. And thank you for pointing out how audience matters. I guess I should be thinking more about that.

  2. I remember well the year my parents both turn 38 because they had a baby, my little brother Corey, who is 16 years younger than I. At 16, I couldn’t imagine that two people so old could make a baby. Sigh. I won’t tell you my age either, but I will say that 38 seems awfully young right about now. It is all relative. Most of my main characters are in their late thirties and a few, early forties. Lindsay is my youngest at 21 and William my youngest man at 28. I don’t know why I went backwards instead of continuing to let my characters age along with me.

    • Some of my characters are still teenagers. And when I’m editing, I hear the voice of my inner teen spotting every possible misapplied clause with teenage fun.

  3. 50. Somehow then, I felt that I connected generations. On one hand my grandmother was the same age (and the same name) as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. On the other hand, my children were in the age of computers and incredible advancements in technology. I was in the middle of both. That realization is still a bit overwhelming.

    • Wow! That is quite something. My husband sent me a link to a post about technological changes from 1870 to 1920 to 1970 to today. It’s weird to see how much I take for granted that was once impossible.

  4. jonna ellis holston

    My protagonist is over 60. I know too many women of my age group who are lonely and I want them to feel beautiful and know to know that love can happen at any age.
    I can’t write in the voice of a 20 year old and I don’t have the same interests that I had then. What I have now is a better imagination and more experience.

    You can’t go wrong in the mid thirties, to old to act silly and young enough to be foolish and daring. I know you’ll make a great choice.

    • Interesting. As I approach – no, no confessions! I wrote some protagonists over 60 into my first novel. Maybe I should take one of those one day and flesh out his/her future. I’m not sure it would fit the plot I’m working on. But, there really is still a future to be enjoyed (or so I keep telling myself).

      • jonna ellis holston

        63 and proud to have made it this far! Let’s see if my second childhood romance works out. I do find a lot to laugh about in aging!

  5. jonna ellis holston

    I hate that you can’t suck back the typos!

  6. What an interesting post, Sheila! I have no qualms about my age; I’m 73, though I certainly don’t act it or, people tell me, look it, but personally my best years, I believe were the fifties, because by then I had pretty much overcome insecurities and obstacles of what I wanted to be or to have experienced, by then. I was mature, but young enough to feel and think young. I still feel young in my mind. Not so much when I look in the mirror, but I’m grateful and proud to still be above ground. 🙂

    In my writing, however, I picked mid-thirties for my two protagonists, thinking that would be the best age for the largest audience, while keeping in mind where they were in their lives. That thinking seems to have worked for my book.

  7. A characters age depends on who your audience is. Readers connect with those of their age. Not always, but many times they do.
    I’m only 17 and I’m already stressing about time flying by too fast >_<
    I remember thinking freshman year, "Four years is a long time, it's gonna go by slow and steady." Now a senior and close to graduation, I'm looking over my shoulder and asking my shadow, "Where did those four years go?"

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