When first I started my current Work-In-Progress (my first novel), I decided the main character, Lavinia, would be fifty years old. I wanted to write about a middle-aged woman who stumbles on a family secret after she moves back to her hometown. I wanted her to have had a good deal of life experience, yet still act immature at times. I set up a Pinterest board with photos of a few of my characters. I pictured Lavinia as actress Andie MacDowell, who is fifty-seven now but could pass for fifty.
Lavinia finds love again after a divorce. I wanted to show that middle-aged women (and middle-aged men) need love, too, and can find love. But I was told by another writer that fifty is too old for the main female character of a romance. She could be forty-five, max. Well, that sort of threw out some of my ideas.
I don’t think of this novel as a romance. It has some romance in it, but to me the main story is about the family secret. However, I gave in and changed Lavinia’s age to forty-five. I wasn’t happy with it. I edited a few details in what I’d already written to accommodate the age change (which meant changing the ages of several characters), and then I continued writing. After I’d written over 70,000 words, I decided to search the web for “older” main female characters in romances. (Even though, as I said above, I don’t think of this book as a romance novel.)
I didn’t spend a lot of time searching, but what I found made me happy. One website was a comment string on Goodreads.com. Someone asked whether or not readers look for books with main characters in their own age group. Most of the commenters are open to reading about “older” heroines.
Another website, All About Romance, has lists of books with “older” main characters. There are seventeen books in the “Fifty-Something” category, but there are more than twice as many in the “Forty-Something” group. Still, I was glad to see those seventeen books for “Fifty-Something.”
All in all, I was pleased with what I read about “older” heroines. I thought of changing Lavinia’s age back to fifty years, but I decided to leave it at forty-five for now. I’ll see what I think when I (finally) get to the end of the novel. I don’t know if that five years between forty-five and fifty would make much of a difference in her attitude!
As of this post, I haven’t changed the photos of any of the characters on my Pinterest board to “younger” actresses and actors. Now that the current images on my board are in my head, I’m not sure I can let them go.