Character Trait Entry: Maturity

Our Goodreads Giveaway for TWO print copies of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression has officially ended. Congrats to winners Nancy Shelton and Jill O'Sullivan, and thank you everyone who entered!


Definition:  a strong level of mental development or wisdom, often beyond one's years

Causes: being a firstborn child; exposure to education &/or responsibility in formative years, genetics; the encouragement of thinking for oneself and the importance of wisdom; high self-awareness; a strong interest in the outer world and how it relates to oneself; exposure to a traumatic or life-altering event; living in a environment of day-to-day survival

Characters in Literature:  Hermione (Harry Potter); Katniss (Hunger Games); Hazel & Augustus (The Fault In Our Stars

Positives: Mature characters are responsible, trustworthy, thoughtful and more consistent in behavior than others they are normally grouped with in a society. Often viewed as deep thinkers, they can articulate their thoughts at a level beyond their years or offer wisdom that seems greater than average. Matures are moralistic and have a strong thought process. They see the cause-effect scenario, and base decisions & actions on their perceptions of right & wrong.

Negatives:  Matures can be critical of others, and judge based on their own accelerated development and matured outlook/beliefs. Others may view Matures as bossy, too serious or lacking a sense of fun or spontaneity. Siblings will often view a mature brother or sister as a 'second parent', causing resentment. This is often leads to more friction because adults (parents, teachers, etc.) praise maturity, making others feel less than adequate.

Common Portrayals: Older siblings; youths facing survival situations; leaders bearing great responsibility

Cliches to Avoid:  The brainy teacher's pet; the haughty older sibling/neighbor/classmate who acts better than everyone around them; the joyless and dour adult or elder, weighed down by responsibility

Twists on the Traditional Mature:
  • Maturity is a trait most main characters have to some degree, because it helps them face challenges ahead. Show us an immature character who must evolve in order to succeed.
  • One large cause of maturity is growing up in an environment where maturity is the expectation. Show us a character who is mature despite an irresponsible or laid back upbringing. Be sure to show what made them that way.
Conflicting Characteristics to Make your Mature Unique or More Interesting: Reckless, Manipulative, Witty; Charismatic; Excitable


Jemi Fraser said...

Great choices to show for maturity! I do enjoy watching characters gain maturity throughout the story!

Bethany K. Mattingly said...

Great post, love the pros and cons!

peaceloveandponcho said...

ABSOULUTLY LOVED your post! Expessialy the pros and cons part. :D

Traci Kenworth said...

Good one, but I'm not sure if they're my favorite type of character. They're less likely to risk something and my type of stories require lots of that. Lol.

The Golden Eagle said...

I love mature characters, or ones that become mature through their experiences in the story.

Interesting post! And I love your example of Hazel and Augustus.

Leslie S. Rose said...

Maturity is something I've tried to avoid personally at all costs even though I'm the oldest child in the family. I think of Wendy in Peter Pan.

Rafael said...

Girls are often portrayed as being more mature than boys in YA, which has some basis in fact. But maturity is an odd mix of experience and innate wisdom which sometimes can fail when confronted with something completely unexpected.

Staci Troilo said...

I think it's great that your focus on the mature character was on Hermione and Katniss and young characters like that. Often we immediately think "wise" and "old" when we think "mature" which can go hand in hand, but certainly don't have to. Kudos for reminding us that maturity can be found in youthful characters.

cleemckenzie said...

I like the youthful yet mature characters because it allows the writer to take those characters into such challenging situations and let them rise to their highest potential. I think that's very satisfying for readers as long as the challenges are huge and daunting.

Thanks for this post. It was interesting.

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post!

CONGRATS to the winners!


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