The coming of age story is a genre that follows the growth of the main character from childhood into maturity.
It usually focuses on a conflict between the character’s thoughts, values, beliefs and those of the world around him.
Some genres are just better suited for telling some stories than other genres.
So, if you have an idea for a story that questions the world around us, this genre might just be perfect for you.
Let’s take a look at a couple of different types of these novels and see how they tell the story they tell.
To Kill A Mockingbird
This story is told through the eyes of Scout Finch, a six year old girl.
The novel tells the story of Maycomb, a racially polarized town in Alabama, and the reaction of the town’s residents after a white woman has allegedly been raped by a black man.
Scout Finch is at the age where she is still trying to determine her place in the world and what the world around her means.
Because of her innocence she is able to portray the various opinions of the town’s folk with an child’s eye.
Now, if the story had been told by an adult, their world view would have already been established.
In a racially polarized town that means the narrator would either have been black or white. The story would have been told from one point of view or another and the meaning of the novel would have been completely lost.
It is the youth of the narrator and the conclusions that she draws that makes the story what it is.
The Vagabond King
This coming of age novel takes place after sixteen year old Chris’s mother dies of cancer and he discovers the man he was raised to believe is his father is actually not. Chris questions everything he once believed and the world around him unravels into chaos.
He soon runs away from home, and seeks refuge in the home of Magda, a middle aged waitress who he hopes will “make a man of him”.
Over the course of the novel Chris listens to the stories of Magda’s father, The Old Man, who grew up in Communist Hungary. The novel weaves ancient mythology, astronomy and philosophy into a metaphysical mystery as Chris fetches him fresh cans of beer and listens to scratchy old blues records.
Over time Chris develops a fundamentally different view of the world than he once had.
Through use of the coming of age genre the novel is able to juxtapose differences in age.
Though Chris is still a young boy he is in love with an older woman, a woman old enough to be his mother. And, after listening to “the old man’s” stories the boy becomes a “young man” and learns that, like the old man’s skipping blues records, the universe is full of sorrow and the roles we are playing have been played many times before.
The meaning of the story would be completely lost if all the characters were of similar ages.
So, if you have a story that questions who the character is or the world around him, consider telling a coming of age story. It might be just the genre you have been looking for.