Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Characters and Age

Many publishers refuse to have characters involved in relationships under the age of eighteen. Yes, we all know Margaret Beaufort was married at twelve and widowed at thirteen when she gave birth to Henry Tudor (King Henry VII of England. And we all also know nine is the age of consent for girls today in some countries.

However most western women find the idea of young girls being married and/or having sex in a romance novel off-putting. And since the hero is almost always older some women find it even a fraction pedophilic. So it’s best to keep your characters older.

If you’re writing an historical romance and think twenty-one is way too old don’t mention her age at all, or simply have her staying at home caring for her family/estates or something to give her a reason to be older.

At the other end of the age scale, think about the future. Yes, I’m sure eighty year olds fall in love in the retirement village. And good luck to them too! But if you have a hero in his sixties thinking babies, please do the math. Do your readers really want to envision him having a heart attack and dying while teaching his child to drive? Maybe give him a little longer to enjoy his happy ever after.

And finally age gap. In arranged marriages in real life the man may well be old enough to be his wife’s father. In some cultures he’s the same age as her grandfather. But is this really romantic? Does the reader want to imagine the heroine traumatized by his early death? Many publishers suggest no more than about ten or twelve years age gap for this reason.

You want to leave your reader in a happy cloud of bliss imagining the hero and heroine with long years of happiness ahead of them.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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