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Author Topic: Old People characters  (Read 18671 times)
Posts: 779

« on: January 27, 2011, 01:33:36 AM »

In thinking about a story idea I have about the elderly I started wondering about the characters of old people in fiction.  Old people tend to act a certain way.  Are they like that because that's what old people are like, or are they like that because that's want young people were like 60 years ago?  When we're old will we be more comfortable with new technology and change in general?  Will we bore kids with stories about our pasts?  Will we be bad drivers?  Will we assume life was better back then?  My grandparents formed their personalities in a time when rock and roll music had not been invented.  People tended to respect their elders.  Most people did the same job throughout their lives and had little chance to travel. 

Of course the answer is that it's a little of both.  I guess my real question is what will old people of the future be like.  Also, since this is a writing forum, we have to consider that giving someone a few stereotypical old-person qualities is shorthand to the reader that they are reading about an old person. 
Posts: 11

« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2011, 04:19:34 PM »

This is not a light topic, but if you are interested in exploring the idea, there has been tons of research done on generational world views (the elders, the boomers, Gen X, Net Gen, etc....)  that looks at what has shaped their world views as they moved through the world.  Most of the research is done in generalities of course, but I just finished reading about 'tribes' within these general generational models that describe some of the most common variants within them.  It does not explain every individual of course.  From a writing standpoint, if you are trying to explore how a Gen xer would react to certain changes in the future, do a bit of reading on that generation and how that generation (generally) sees the world.  You could make some leaps in logic from there that would help flesh out a character, or groups of character.  Don't forget to think about the cultural background of the character(s) as well since that may have more of an impact then generational issues.

Of course there are some things that happen to everyone as they get older - they get less impulsive (well, some of them) things start to ache, old wounds flare up, memory and vision issues, organ failures, etc - unless the world you create takes care of these issues, these would be common ground for 'old people' in all points in time.

Hope that gives you another perspective on the topic - it's just my two cents, for whatever that is worth....

“I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge.” - Tolkin
Posts: 3168

I place things in locations which later elude me.

« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2011, 08:44:19 AM »

I recently sold a story with a MC in his 50s (although I never explicitly state it; however, his partner has gray streaks in her hair, which is supposed to help a little) and I find that he, like all my characters of age 50 or older, are either (a) like my dad or grandfather at that age or (b) specifically based on a real person. I used to work with folks nearing the end of their careers, so I had a lot of exposure to older people who were still able to do jobs that young people did. It helped me to build accurate portrayals of what vital older people are like.

What will the old people of the future be like? The same as they are now, just with different words. Instead of "get off my lawn", we might say "get off my wall". Instead of reminiscing about not being tethered to a cell-phone, we might reminisce about the days when we could shut them off because they weren't implanted in our brains. That sort of thing.

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

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Posts: 688

« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2011, 09:49:11 AM »

I recently sold a story with a MC in his 50s

Somewhere on this forum a 50 year old person screamed "Fifty is not old!"

Sorry. But, the point I was going to make earlier when I first saw this topic list was easily illustrated there. Old age is nearly entirely subjective. When you are 6, teenagers look old. When you are 20, 40 looks old. When you are 30....
I guess, you might not want to think of characters as "old" people, that implies a stereotypical-ness that doesn't have a whole lot of realism. Old people are just people- they have the same emotions (although research shows that they are actually MORE tolerant and less emotional- the sort of nothing new under the sun phenomenon), they just have seen A LOT more of life. People themselves haven't changed much over the millenia. If you are ever in doubt, read some very old literature like Herodotus, or...whatever. The scenery and technology changes but the basics of motivation, etc don't and won't unless we start grafting extra animal or insect traits into our genomes.

So, basically, reading any fiction from any era will give you a good taste of how cultures perceive the role of the aged in their societies- but the basics remain the same. I think the better question is how will the aged be percieved in the culture o the future? There will certainly be a whole lot more "old people" in the future. I wonder what that means for society as a whole? Will be wiser, sicker, slower, more peaceful or?Huh

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin
Posts: 261

« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2011, 06:34:06 PM »

If you are ever in doubt, read some very old literature like Herodotus, or...whatever.

The Character of Nestor in Homer is quite a good study of an older, more experienced person. Many of his traits are similar to 'old people' stereotypes; he often has speeches that begin something along the lines of 'back in my day'. It's interesting to see the comparisons between a character from thousands of years ago and modern stereotypes. People, ultimately, don't change.

Posts: 2

« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2011, 05:26:08 AM »

Well the subject of your story look likes to be very good but thing is that how will you compare young to older people character so it will be very difficult for you but a tough time for you and i hope you will complete it easily thanks for your such nice post here

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