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In a novel I am writing, there are three main characters. One a 16-year-old, another an 11-year-old, and a third a 12-year-old. The story is in first person, being told from their three perspectives. But, my question is, how do I make the 11-year-old character seem so much older than the 12-year-old, while at the same time seem much younger than the 16-year-old without portraying the 12-year-old as immature?

Perhaps the question will be easier to explain if I provide some background:

The 12-year-old grows up in a family with parents that shelters her from almost everything, yet gives her the responsibility of caring for her 7 younger siblings.

The 11-year-old's parents die in a car accident, leaving her older teenaged siblings to run the family, which doesn't seem to be going so well, until she lands a very illegal, but extremely well-paying job, which includes taking a lot of risks to protect and feed her family, without getting caught by the governmental agencies that desire to return them to the foster care system.

The 16-year-old's parents died a few years earlier, then she's adopted by a close family friend. A certain circumstance causes her to take a step back from everyone around her, until she ends up with her adopted mother's husband, and has to assume the role of a mother figure for her younger siblings, the birth children of her adopted mother.

The three eventually meet, though the first two meet first. I've already established the contrast where the 11-year-old acts and seems much older than the 12-year-old, but I'm not sure how to proceed with the 11-year-old meeting the 16-year-old without contradicting previous descriptions.

To simplify: How would one go about writing a single character from different POV's where the two POVs have opposite views of the character?

  • The TV show "The Affair" does exactly that, and excels at it. Maybe you want to take a look at it for inspiration. Mind that the topic of the show is entirely different, though. – Filip Jun 29 '16 at 16:06
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You are talking about two different things here but you are treating them like they are the same.

Sheltered vs. not sheltered is different than immature vs. mature. A girl who takes care of seven younger siblings will probably be somewhat mature for her age because she is used to responsibility. If she is sheltered, she may also be rather innocent. The 11-year-old may be less naive but that doesn't necessarily make her mature. She may know more about the harsh realities of life but she will still make errors in judgement because she is a kid and doesn't have a lot of life experience. The 16-year-old will speak and think more like an adult than the other two.

This is unrelated to your original question but I want to point it out. You may have trouble selling this book to a traditional publisher because it doesn't have a clear audience, as far as age range. An eleven or twelve year old protagonist signifies a middle grade novel. Sixteen would be YA. Who is your audience for this book? Generally speaking, kids like reading about kids who are a couple years older than them. They don't usually read down. Ten-year-olds like reading about twelve-year-olds. Fourteen-year-olds don't.

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