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Friday, July 11, 2008

Older Characters in Contemporary Fiction

DesLily brought up an important point in her comment on my review of The Sorcerers' Plague. Two of the most important characters are old. Unfortunately, the author doesn't give as much time to them as they deserve. Licaldi, the antagonist, is talked about, but rarely appears and when she does appear it is always in the same role...until the very end of this volume. Besh, the village elder who feels required to put an end to Licaldi's deadly activities, is better developed, but still has only about 10% of novel time.

I find DesLily's point about old protagonists an interesting one, especially given the "graying of America." The protagonists in literature are predominantly young, but there are authors who have created some fascinating elderly leading characters. I'm thinking of two in particular. So a couple of questions for you:

Which authors or titles feature dynamic older protagonists?

How do you feel about older main characters?

Because I'd rather begin a new book than write a review, I've 5 more reviews to write. Received an Amazon delivery and made a library run yesterday, and so have added to the already huge stack of TBR.


  1. This is probably the antithesis to what you are looking for but I liked the older protagonists in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series. While they did get new and improved bodies early on, I felt like he did a good job with both representing what it would be like to suddenly be young again and wrote his character's with a more older, mature voice even after the body change. I thought that was one of the more interesting aspects of a very good series.

  2. Carl - Scalzi does use a unique combination of youth and elder's voice in a rejuvenated body!

  3. That is indeed an interesting point. Some of my favourite older characters are Terry Pratchett's. Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Cohen the Barbarian, etc. They are all dynamic and extremely interesting.

  4. Nymeth - I'm tired of hearing about Granny Weatherwax and debating on where to begin on Discworld. I'm going to Amazon right now and ordering! Thanks for including these characters in the "elder" category and giving me the impetus!

  5. Jenclair, do you think that as boomers become the new elderly class in America (and the rest of the world) that older lead characters might become more the norm than the exception?

    I suspect that most readers enjoy reading the experiences of characters with whom they can most easily identify, so I wonder.

  6. Sam - I do think that is a possibility and hope to see more older characters in film as well.

    Bybee - What I said to Sam. :)

  7. Now that I'm starting to get up there in years, I find I much prefer to read books where the main characters a bit older as well. I read a lot of romantic suspense, and while young love is nice and plays to the fairy tale romantic in me, I really enjoy older heroes like Abner in 3 Aces that I can identify with.

  8. Ruth - :) I can remember thinking that characters in their 40's were old! Now that seems quite young. Your remarks support what Sam was saying about baby boomers wanting to see more older characters.