Author Topic: Character ages?  (Read 599 times)

Smopit

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Character ages?
« on: January 28, 2019, 12:58:13 PM »
I know it's pretty standard to have a character's age in the query if the novel is for a young adult audience, but I'm curious if it's a MUST. My current manuscript is young adult and features an eighteen year old lead, but she's given a major task within her community that I'm worried agents might think "why would they task her with this and not someone older?" And the thing is, the characters (including the MC herself) wonder this too, and there is a reason, but it's part of a major twist within the later chapters of the book that would be hard to get across effectively in the query.

Can I maybe just say she's "young" and not specify the age?

Can I get away with not having an age in there at all?

Thoughts?

Offline TigerAsh

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Re: Character ages?
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2019, 02:06:39 PM »
I know it's pretty standard to have a character's age in the query if the novel is for a young adult audience, but I'm curious if it's a MUST. My current manuscript is young adult and features an eighteen year old lead, but she's given a major task within her community that I'm worried agents might think "why would they task her with this and not someone older?" And the thing is, the characters (including the MC herself) wonder this too, and there is a reason, but it's part of a major twist within the later chapters of the book that would be hard to get across effectively in the query.

Can I maybe just say she's "young" and not specify the age?

Can I get away with not having an age in there at all?

Thoughts?


I personally don't see the benefit in NOT saying her age. Why leave the agent guessing? Regardless of whether you say her age or not, the agent is most likely going to assume that your MC is a teenager (since it's YA). In which case, they would think "why would they task her with this and not someone older?" anyway.

For YA, agents expect the character's age to be mentioned; so unless there's a clear reason for not doing so, I would include it. But at the end of the day, there are always exceptions, and it's your query letter; so if you want to try sending a few without the character's age, you can.

Also, keep in mind that while you don't want to give everything away, it's okay to include some "spoilers" in a query letter. I haven't read your query letter (or your manuscript), so I don't know if you need to mention the major twist or not. But you should get a few other people to read your query letter and tell you what they think (i.e. ask your beta readers or post your query letter on this site).

Smopit

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Re: Character ages?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2019, 02:42:42 PM »
Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines myself. I've written a working query but I'm not actually at the querying stage yet, so right now I'm mostly just brainstorming. The manuscript is somewhat complex, so I'm trying to whittle down the details in for the query as much as possible. I don't want to have to include an explanation for her age in there if I can avoid it... but I might not be able to avoid it *sigh*

Offline koji

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Re: Character ages?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2019, 10:01:01 AM »
I think it would be better to include it... because if you don't include it and you write about a task someone older would do, your agent might be thinking, "Why is this person writing a YA novel about a 30 year old."

In YA, kids do things that would usually be tasked to adults quite often, so it doesn't make it not believable to say "18 year old Willa is running the country," or "17 year old Peter just graduated from Med school..." or whatever. But if you leave out the age and just say, "Newly crowned Kind Phil is in a war..." they might wonder if you know what YA is.