"How old are you?"
(I know I promised this post over a week ago, but that silly Real Life thing kept me sorta busy. Better late than never, right?)
Everyone remember Nicole Peeler's post, This Time I'm REALLY Talking About Sex? No? Then click on the link, read it, absorb it (and don't forget the comment section). It was a fun and informative conversation that spawned a brief sidebar. Some of those comments got me thinking (and I do tend to ramble, so apologies right off).
Since, by definition, the majority of protagonists in YA are teenagers, I'm going to limit my post to adult fiction (no, not that adult fiction!) in the realms of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.
silveradept: I'm still wondering whether the generally-older age of characters in UF lends itself toward the attitude that sex is okay.
Kat Richardson: I'm not sure about the older characters though. I have noticed more characters in their thirties, but there are still a lot who are in their twenties (and if you're talking YA, they are all in their upper teens and early twenties, by default.)
The more I stare at my bookshelves, the harder-pressed I am to find a single title featuring a heroine (or hero) older than mid-thirties. And when I say that, I mean physical age, not necessarily their supernatural age (such as the two-hundred year-old vampire). The majority are in their twenties and early thirties.
Three very good reasons for that comes immediately to mind.
First, most of our heroines need to be in peak physical form in order to do their ass-kicking. Not saying a woman over forty can't kick a lot of ass (hello, Sigourney Weaver!), but it's much less common. And it's also (unfortunately) easier for us to believe in a twenty-two year-old beating a vampire to a pulp, than it is to believe in a forty-six year-old (although I don't know about anyone else, but I'd have loved to see Joyce Summers kicking some ass alongside Buffy). Physical performance, though, is an important factor in a character's age.
Second, generally if a character is under the age of eighteen, people will wonder if it's YA. Even if the subject matter and tone are not YA, the age of the protagonist can pigeon-hole a book into the wrong genre. It's amazing how many people assume their manuscript-in-progress has to be YA just because their protag is seventeen, even though they know nothing else about the requirements of the genre (because let's face it, if age was all that made a book YA, there are a lot of books out there in the wrong section of the bookstore *g*).
Third, sex. Yes, yes, I know there is sex in YA! And I also know there are different levels of graphic sex in YA. But for those of us familiar with Jeaniene Frost's One Foot in the Grave, is there a Chapter Thirty-Two in YA? (I don't know, that's why I'm asking). But beyond the question of how graphic and how often the sex, there is the question of the second party. I get a little squicked at the idea of a sixteen year-old having sex with a two-hundred year-old vampire (no matter how old he was when he was turned, and yes, on Buffy, too, soul mates or not). I care a lot less if she's twenty-two, or thirty, or forty. Age and experience, even only a few years, makes such a relationship seem more believable, and it makes a lasting relationship seem more possible (how many high school sweethearts really stay together after graduation, and how much of that has to do with one or both parties maturing?).
Readers: Do you tend to consciously notice the age of UF/PNR heroines? Do you think it affects how you perceive the character?
Writers: How much thought do you put into the age of your heroine/hero? Do you find they are typically older/younger than you are? About the same age?