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Age - trivial or not?

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Richard Turner

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I am, I think, close to being the oldest here at 71. I know one other regular is older than me, so perhaps I can claim to be the one to take up writing latest in life: in my case 3 years ago.
There is a more serious point to this post. To what extent is sheer age an advantage in this game? We, after all, have experience of every phase of life except that of dying, (and to write about that from the perspective of experience is pretty much impossible.) We know what it felt like to be a teenager, a young adult, or a middle aged person bound up with career, family, and making your way in the world, and now we know what it feels like to be a lot closer to death.
The problem is that the experiences we had of, for example, being a teenager, are massively different from those of a teenager now, even if the feelings are very similar. If I write about the experience of being young I am either trying to imagine what the world of my grandchildren is like, or asking their contemporaries to imagine what my teenage world felt like all those years ago.
Any thoughts on this?
 

Marc Joan

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Hmm. Not sure. The past is a foreign country, of course but human emotions are eternal, I imagine, so as long as the writer can pull the reader into the foreign country in an engaging and understandable way, the story itself should be broadly accessible, I would have thought.
As for age being an advantage -- yes and no, I think. Yes, because you can talk with first-hand knowledge of -- probably -- a broader range of issues; and no,because if the editors are all acned post-adolescents, they won't know what you're talking about.
 

TonyaRMoore

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Experience should be an advantage when it comes to writing but as Marc mentioned, the industry isn't necessarily populated by people who can appreciate it.
 
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Katie-Ellen

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Looking at the aged greats; Lessing for one. Although they started young, they wrote into old age and never lost their readership. Like Marc and Tonya, it seems to me that it comes down to your target readership. I partly read to learn what's up ahead in life, tapping that experience. Lucas can do that job for a reader; using what he has learned that Kaspar hasn't yet learned, or can't, because it is not in him.
 

James Marinero

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I think that age has many advantages, provided the limitations are recognised. In no particular order, and probably incomplete, these are the limitations as I see them:
1. It's harder to relate to youngsters and their culture(s). No way could I write YA, unless sci fi.
2. I find that the world is leaving me behind (#1 with a variation)
3. In my genre, it's increasingly hard to keep up with technology (#2 with variation)
4. My memory is failing. Thank goodness for the internet. Now, where was I?
 

Nicole Wilson

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I don't think age has any effect on writing. I think it's experiences. Someone can be young and had lifetimes of experiences of which to write about and vice versa. It also depends on what you surround yourself with. If you make a substantial effort to read YA and hang out with teenagers (in a non-creepy way), then YA can come just as naturally as your own age. Same argument as with other genders/races. I write from a male perspective 75% of the time, which is easy for me because I read mostly male protagonists and have always hung out with mostly guys.
 

Richard Turner

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I don't think age has any effect on writing. I think it's experiences. Someone can be young and had lifetimes of experiences of which to write about and vice versa. It also depends on what you surround yourself with. If you make a substantial effort to read YA and hang out with teenagers (in a non-creepy way), then YA can come just as naturally as your own age. Same argument as with other genders/races. I write from a male perspective 75% of the time, which is easy for me because I read mostly male protagonists and have always hung out with mostly guys.
Interesting perspective - thanks for this. I'll try some young adult dialogue on you when I get to that stage!
 

Carol Rose

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I agree with @Nicole Wilson. Age has nothing to do with writing. Someone half my age could have experiences I've never dreamed of going through. Living longer gives you a perspective on everything that only comes with watching the decades pass. But both of those contribute to writing in terms of depth of feeling and richness of descriptions.

As for writing about a younger generation, watch them. Listen to them. Interact with them. Get inside their heads. People have always been people, and the only things between generations that really change are the buzz words people use, the gadgets they have available to them, and the current political figures, actors, and musicians. Same internal struggles, same external world filled with people hurting each other, and same temptations.
 
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Fanfare 'The Fisherman's Wife' accepted by Structo magazine

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