Writing Young

09/08/2008 at 8:38 am (Uncategorized)

I tend to write about characters who are younger than me.  In the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, the characters started out being sixteen and by the end were nearly twenty.  In the Last Summer (of You and Me) the three main characters are in their early and mid-twenties.   At readings and in interviews people often ask me why this is so.  I’m not sure exactly why.  But it’s a pretty fascinating stretch of life.  Many if not most of the great novels of the last couple centuries are about teenagers or characters in their early twenties: Jane Austen’s novels, the Bronte novels, much of Dickens, Thackeray and so on.  It’s the time in our lives when we are making critical decisions (and mistakes) about who we are going to be and whom to love.  We get to take longer to figure it out this century, but it’s still a pretty dramatic period of life.   Besides being asked why I write about young characters, I am often asked how I write about young characters. How do I throw myself across the chasm of full adulthood to relive that period?  I guess I don’t, really.  Age is not so much a feature of your character, as the spot where you stand for a pretty fleeting time on the arc of your life.  When I write about a character who is eighteen or twenty, I try to include her as she was when she was four and eleven and also as she’ll be when she’s thirty-five and seventy.  When I think of my own self twenty years ago, I don’t feel like I was a different person.  The circumstances in my life have changed a lot, but I don’t feel like there is any chasm to cross between me now and me then.  My interior life feels very much the same.   The other explanation is that I have a deep emotional attachment to that juncture of life and haven’t quite moved on from it.  I guess that’s possible too.

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1 Comment

  1. Jheri said,

    I actually really appreciate that you write books in that age range. It is very difficult for me to find good books that I can get into that aren't about an older generation. I had the opportunity to read The Sisterhood books when I was around the same age as the characters I was reading about. I loved that. Now I'm 21 and when I found The Last Summer, I completely fell in love with it, because again I got to read about characters my age. It was really nice. I love that book, I've re-read it multiple times, because I was so captured by the story and the setting.

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