I don’t normally pay that much attention to character ages, but it’s always interesting when I do. Personally, I think age is but a number when it comes to fictional characters. But still it sometimes is nice when characters are given an age.
I like to use the ages of characters to tell time. I know they aren’t meant to be used as clocks, so I use them as calendars… sort of. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how much time as passed since the story first began. This is especially true when it comes to a series. I like to use the ages of the characters to get some kind of idea about how much time has passed. It’s a lot more helpful than other context clues, like seasons, at times. Say, if the characters in a book are traveling all over the world, to places that have different climates every few weeks, it’s hard to tell how much time has passed by the seasons. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes the story is just so good that I don’t care about how much time has passed. But then the character’s age is brought up and I’m like “Okay, a year has gone by.”
Also, sometimes I’m just curious. I want to know the ages of the characters. Sometimes because I think it will make certain parts of a story make more sense. For example, if I first meet two characters in a series when they’re 16, and the next time I read about them, they’re engaged to get married, my face is like 😯 . I want to know their current ages mainly because it blows my mind that someone would (and can) get married at 16 years old in a contemporary novel. It’s just not realistic. But say, the next book includes the fact that they are now 21 years old. Not only does it tell me that five years have passed between the two books, but also why the characters might be getting married.
While they can be nice to know, I think character ages can also be a double edge sword. On one hand, I like to know their ages because it creates a connection with that character. “Oh, when I was 11, I got into a lot a trouble like Percy (from Percy Jackson)”. But on the other hand, it can also alienate people from the story and character. I feel like once you know that there’s a huge age gap between you and the main character, a rift is sort of created.
What do you think about character ages?
Do you like it when authors include them in the story?