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08:35 am: Help Needed -- Age Question
Okay, Friends and Readers, I need some advice.

I am trying to settle on an age for my heroine in my current WIP: The Unexpected Enlightentment of Rachel Griffin.

In the original, Rachel Griffin was:

1) Young enough that, since she is a tiny Asian girl and not yet developed, she looked like a child.

2) Young enough that the idea of snogging seemed unnatural and frightning to her.

3) Too young to have a boyfriend in her parents'---and nearly everyone else's--mind.

4) Young enough that her boyfriend--who was three years older than her--got teased merciously for dating someone so young.

5) Young enough that, when she later developed unnaturally quickly--due to a magical effect, her rather intimate encounter with a much older boy was shocking and appalling to the boy (and everyone else) once he realized what had happened.
(Note: this scene takes place about a year after the beginning, so she will be a year older than her starting age by this time. )


My question is: How old can I make her?

In the original game, she was 11. Personally, I think 11 is too young. Also, it is too Harry Potterish. (She originally comes from a Hogwarts game.)

My question is: how old can she be and still be legitimately shocked at the idea of intimacy, like snogging, and have everyone else think she is too young for a boyfriend?

My current thought is to make her 13--but I know a number of very curvy 13 year olds. I also know some late blooming ones--so if she's a late blooming 13 year old from a sheltered background, it seems to me realistic that she could have all of the above reactions.

But...does it seem realistic to the rest of you? Basically, I'm not sure what 13 year olds are like now. Do they all snog? Are most of them sheltered and shy?

I think I could definitely get away with making her 12, but 12 seems awfully young for the things that happen to her, almost perverse. I'd rather make her 13. However, it is supposed to be a YA. I don't want all the young readers to be sneering because the heroine is so behind the times. (She comes from a strange background, so if she is a little behind the times, that is okay.)

So...how old would you make her?

Comments

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From:fabricdragon
Date:December 27th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
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all the 13 year olds i know have boyfriends. if they dont all their friends would.
but if she is from a sheltered background it might be different...

i would have her be 11 or 12 at the MOST... but there are 14 year olds from shelted backgrounds now who have never kissed.. and i know the Asian community is rather different!

now many many years ago in my HS i had a (vietnamese) fellow student who was 15, looked younger, and was not allowed to even talk to boys....

and in college now my friend who is part Japanese in college is considered both too young to date and getting too old to get married depending on which parent/relative she talks to...
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 27th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
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Hmm...

My original idea was to go with 12. I may do that again. She definitely has to be younger than she should be for this kind of thing...just not so young as to be gross. LOL
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 27th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
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12 works best. 13 if she's a late bloomer with very strict parents. The three year age difference should be fine for the boyfriend no matter what because it'll have the relationship bridging the junior high/senior high divide.
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 27th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
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I should definitely move back to 12 then. In this case, there's no junior/senior divide, because it's a magic school with slightly different ages...but it is similar enough to make a big difference.
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From:annafirtree
Date:December 27th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
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My husband (reading over my shoulder) said, from your description... 11. ("12 at the MOST".) It seems to me that 13 might work for readers who were raised in more strict homes, but 11 is going to work better for readers who were raised in more permissive homes - and that's a lot of people. Presuming you want to appeal to a wider readership, 11 seems like the better bet.
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 27th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
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She is 11 in the original. John found this disgusting and objects quite a bit. So did another friend...but they are not kids.

I think 12 will work okay, as she was raised in a very sheltered environment.
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From:temporus
Date:December 27th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
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That's tricky. There were girls as young as ten in my school days that were getting teased for being early bloomers, and I also remember some as late as 8th grade (should be about 13 at that point, maybe 12 if young possibly 14 if older) who were still not developed. Sad to admit, I remember this mostly because of the teasing done to those girls outside the "norm".

As someone who wasn't allowed to date until I turned 16, don't think I'm much qualified to talk to the other questions.
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 27th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
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I think a lot of people don't allow dating until the kids are 16...even now. ;-)

That's one reason I don't want to make her any younger than necessary.
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From:jordan179
Date:December 27th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
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Based on what you're saying, 12 or 13. A girl can also look and be more innocent than average: my youngest sister-in-law was 14 when I met her and looked around 11; she's now 20 and looks around 17.
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From:catholicteacher
Date:December 27th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
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Since I get to work in an environment with predominantly sheltering families, I would say that it is up to you to show how she views intimacy as a result of strict parents rather than worry about making her younger. Most of my students are not dating until they are 16, that is when having a boyfriend/girlfriend means dating. It usually means talking too much on the phone and sitting together at lunch or in class. If they do anymore than that, they know not to talk about it as that will give them a bad reputation in the hallways where I teach.

Remember that you are deliberately making her different from her peers. Your readers will either identify with her or they will understand why everyone else is teasing her. She is small for her age and underdeveloped, (I happen to have one of these types this year: an 8th grader who still legally needs a booster seat and is smaller than some of the 5th graders.) At 12 in this case, she is still likely to doodle horses and be happy staying a little girl. If this is how she begins school, the sudden rush of puberty will have an even greater impact on the reader and the other characters. When it happens mid-year, rather than over the summer, we definitely see it: the sweet little girl who was in no hurry to grow up suddenly becomes a moody little beast who doesn't talk anymore, stops doing half of the things she loved, (primarily those things that she knows she ought to do,) may or may not switch to a new circle of friends, falls in her grades, and becomes generally unrecognizable to everyone around her.

Granted, I have a friend at Church who became a grandfather while his son, who had been bumped up a grade, was in middle school but this is more appalling and out of the ordinary than a late bloomer.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:December 27th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
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I'd go with 12. You might be able to do 13 if it were made abundantly clear that she was sheltered and very small.

But you know although there's the sneer factor if she went with 14, I have to say a lot of 14 yr olds wish they could turn back the clock on what they've done.
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 27th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I think it has to be 12...because other people have to think that she's too young to date...just having her look young for her age is not quiet enough.

If she is 12 and she looks about ten at first, that will do just fine.

And a 20 year old boy with a 13 year old girl is still outrageous enough to have a similar effect to an 18 year old and an 11 year old. (Keeping in mind that she looked more like 15 or so at the time.)




Edited at 2011-12-27 10:38 pm (UTC)
From:mythusmage
Date:December 28th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC)
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Twelve to start with sounds about right, thirteen currently. Girls go through a lot of changes between 12 and 13, between menarche, growth spurts, and other physical, social, and emotional upheavels.
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 28th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC)
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Frankly, I wish I could stick with eleven, because the outrageousness factor is greater...and the comppance is terrible, so she is definitely punished for her transgressions...but it seems too young.

I think I'll go with twelve. I can have the Upper School go from 12 to 16 and she starts at 12, a year early. Then the college can go from 17 to 20. Younger than our schools, but that is okay. (Schools in China are different, too...so having sorcery schools be different is not a problem. ;-)

I just don't want the kids reading it to find her reactions to things to be way off. She did come from an old fashion (very old fashioned) sheltered household...but still.
From:mythusmage
Date:December 28th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
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One thing to note about kids between the age of 11 and 26, is that they tend to overestimate what they are capable of. Then again, adults are in the habit of overestimating what children are capable of.

I recall a bit from Mad Magazine where a 12 year old explains to his 11 year old friend that 'acting your age' is usually, "Five years older than you really are."

Anyway, kids tend to overestimate what they can do, and it is only at the age of 26 or so that they start to understand what they are capable of. To be brutally honest, in real life an 11 year old Harry Potter would've turned to the adults in his life at the first sign of trouble. YA fiction feeds kids the pleasant myth that they can do things grown-ups can, because they are just as good as grown-ups
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From:arhyalon
Date:December 28th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
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The Rachel Griffin novel is based on a game. In the game, the moderator did a wonderful job of alienating Rachel from the adults. They betrayed her...in her mind...enough times that she just would not go to them.

Eventually, the relationship between Rachel and her parents was repaired. This caused all kinds of problems for the moderator, who had a great deal of trouble coming up with reasons why her parents did not just yank her from school once she told them what was going on. ;-)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 5th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)

Reply

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Note, I am WyldCard4, a commenter on your husband's blog. I state this merely to put any statements in context. So...

1. 11 does feel too young, but that might not be a disadvantage. Grownups have a tendency to believe children are too young for the things they do. Given that the modern day has girls becoming mature at younger and younger ages for biological and cultural reasons, an 11 year old with a boyfriend is not implausible.

2. My issue with it is more the age gap. I could see an 11 year old girl with a boyfriend as reasonable, but a 14 year old with an 11 year old girlfriend seems less plausible. 14 year olds don't associate with 11 year olds on such a level that much. Of course it depends on the relationship.

3. What is the prior relationship between Rachel and her boyfriend? I could believe it better if they were cousins or family friends, as it gives them a reason to associate and talk with each other. Two kids who wouldn't even go to the same school or be in the same age group for activities seem unlikely to date no matter how intelligent, mature, and nice she is.

4. If you want to make her a sheltered 13 year old, you need to put her in unusual circumstances. Even if her Internet is censored, not everyone in her school's will be (assuming a non-boarding school). Home schooling might be the best route here (I was home schooled). It would limit her social circle and influences. This would also HELP to explain her dating a boy three years older. Home schoolers often are less age conscious than children who go to school, as their circles are smaller and they are not separated by age. Home schooling has advantages and disadvantages for a story, but it seems like an excellent explanation for a couple of facts here. It explains elements from the Hogwarts game that would be harder in a conventional setting.

5. My suggestion is 11, no older than 12, if she is in a school system. 10-15 is an age where even a year or two of aging changes a lot. A younger age makes a heroic character more unusual and makes her obstacles more impressive. Being young for the things that happen to her? Forget for a moment that you are writing fiction. Bad things happen to children who are too young for them. We don't need stories to tell us that, we need stories to tell us that children can overcome bad things.

Going over the comments...

6. Being in a magic school explains some of it, but schools follow certain patterns, especially ones of age. There needs to be a very compelling reason for her dating a boy three years older than her, especially if she is younger than 13.

7. 11-12 years old IS disgusting for certain things. However, children do push boundaries, and children who can circumvent some boundaries (magicians) seem likely to either go very conservative or very permissive.

8. Any possibility of setting this story in the past? Modern children are exposed to massive amounts of adult culture and images. By the time they become interesting (capable of acting in a heroic fashion to pursue goals and overcome obstacles without maturing at a supernatural rate or requiring a suspension of disbelief) they will have the ability to uncover a great deal of content that makes having them be innocent difficult. And if they have no interest, other children they have to see every day will.

9. Yep, 12 probably works the best for the reason you stated. She has to be BELIEVED to be too young to date. Innocence could justify her own feelings indefinitely, but not the views of society outside of her friends and family. Even an abnormally innocent girl of 14 will not cause the same kind of teasing.

I hope this helped in some capacity, though it looks like you already decided from the comments.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:January 5th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Reply

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Here's a bit more context.

They are at a magical school that has a high school and college in the same building.

Rachel grew up in an enormous British mansion wiht no one else around and no modern appliances. They don't work in her house (which is even bigger on the inside than on the outside.) She spent all her time reading, so she knows a great deal of things other children her age do not know.

She is capable of speaking and acting like a child much older than her age...though she does not always do this, and she is very pretty.

It astonishes everyone that this older boy wants to date her, he gets teased a lot.

There is plenty of reason why he wants to be her boyfriend. They get along very well (for a while.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 5th, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Reply

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1. 11 is too young for high school. Why is she there? Is she a child prodigy, is it also a combined middle school, or is she a child of an adult
who works there?

2. When she grew up, did she go to school? If so, computers are available there, or in the homes of her classmates. Still, she might break technology herself.

3. What exactly is her library like? From the sound of it I am assuming massive family library. It the library at all supernatural?

4. Well, I am intrigued, as I have been from summaries and hints of all of the books from this side of the Wright clan. Eventually I will, hopefully, read it,
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:January 5th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Reply

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A few more answers.

Like China, where their last year of undergrad is at 16, the world of the Wise does not have the same age set up as our.

The Upper School goes from 13 to 16/17 and the college from 17 to 20/21.

Rachel came a year early, so she is 12. (In the original game, it was Hogwarts, so she was 11...)

She did not go to school. She might as well have grown up in the 19th century. She was tutored at home until it was clear that she could surpass what the tutors could do, then she was left alone in the library.

There are two libraries in Gryphon Park, maybe three. The first is a huge regular library with several wings and books both mundane and magical on nearly every topic, plus fairytales and novels. The second, her grandfather's library, in the top of the tower in the Old Castle (the original structure) is a magical library where the books you want often are right in front of you. (Though only Rachel's boyfriend, Gaius, has actually had a book throw itself off the shelf and hit him in the head.)

The first chapter of The Unexpected Enlightenment Of Rachel Griffin, Book One: Roanoke Academy For The Sorcerous Arts is available on my website, which is, for some inexplicable reason, down today. (She may be 13 in the version posted. I moved her back to 12 again after reading people's responses.)


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