As my Bell Mountain books go on, I find myself forced to acknowledge the fact that my characters are getting older. It just snuck up on me. I remember when the kid who starred in Lassie had to leave the show because he was growing a mustache and talking like Steve Reeves.
Well, I’m stuck with it now, and my two original protagonists, Jack and Ellayne, are just going to have to keep on getting older until they grow up (if the series runs that long). I missed my chance to dodge the issue.
What are my options now?
1. Stay with all the original characters and let them age naturally–at the risk of losing a big part of my small audience. I could let them grow up physically while remaining completely immature, but I don’t think my publisher would like it.
2. Replace these kids with other young protagonists as needed. Yeah, that would work. Only I’m attached to my original characters and would hate to part with them. But yes, new kids are going to have to come along.
I missed my chance to go with characters who never age, no matter how many books wind up being in the series. There are a few ways of doing that.
In his “Rick Brant Science Adventure” series that ran for some 20 years, J.G. Blaine (aka Hal Goodwin) simply ignored the whole issue. Rick, Scotty, and Barbie remain teenagers throughout the entire series. In fact, none of the regular characters ages at all. And readers didn’t seem to mind. Same with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, come to think of it–teens forever.
When Agatha Christie first introduced Hercule Poirot to the reading public in 1920, in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, she presented him as a retiring police detective whose best days were behind him–a man of about 60. Little did she dream that she’d be writing about him for the next 50 years! She is said to have calculated that Poirot must have been some 130 years old when he finally died. While she was writing about him, she had to ignore the age issue. Again, the readers didn’t seem to mind.
Edgar Rice Burroughs tried to explain why his characters never seemed to age, not wanting anyone to remark that ERB’s need for money seemed to be as evergreen as Tarzan. So David Innes didn’t age because there was no means of telling time in Pellucidar, at the earth’s core. It would be hard to get around the treetops in a walker, so Tarzan didn’t age, either, and neither did his wife, Jane–the result of secret immortality pills invented by the Leopard Men. And John Carter of Virginia and Barsoon was just plain immortal: always was, no telling how or why.
I think I could have gotten away with not aging any of the Bell Mountain cast and crew, provided I’d stuck with it from the beginning. But it’s a decision the writer of a series has to make from the git-go.
Once the kids in your story start growing up, you really mustn’t try to make them stop.