As a young person, there were many times when I wondered, Am I grown up yet? It seemed like I was learning a tremendous amount about the world all the time — wasn’t it time to start considering myself mature, with all the wisdom and experience of an adult? Whenever something serious or frightening happened, though, I discovered all over again that I was still a child, wanting the comforts of childhood, responding to situations in a childish way. As I got still older, I started to learn that adulthood might not be as wonderful and simple a thing as it seemed. In fact, it is usually tragedy or sorrow or disappointment that finally makes us feel grown-up.
The blurry line between childhood and adulthood is an important one to explore in your stories and when creating your characters. Just about everyone has a moment when they started to feel like an adult. Did it take a death in the family? A realization that your parents weren’t invincible? The fall of a hero of yours? Or discovering in adequacies in yourself? A “grown-up moment” is often a fall from bliss, but it usually leaves us wiser and with a clearer vision of how the world works. It is a hopeful moment, to me; when a veil is lifted from our eyes, we’re freer to understand and grow.
But it’s an important question to explore for you and for your character. That grown-up moment is often the time in a character’s life that does get presented in a story, just because there’s so much drama inherently in it. Is the realization gradual or abrupt? Shocking and brutal, or bittersweet and subtle? Try thinking about all the emotions and actions that went into your grown-up moment. It was probably a time when you felt newly responsible for your actions and their consequences. It might have been a time when you understood that you would one day die. Or it might be the moment when you cared for someone more than you cared for yourself. That, too, is a moment of awakening into adulthood.
Keep these things in mind as you craft a new character’s story, and his or her grown-up moment will be as real as yours was.