Blogger: Mary Keeley
Location: Books & Such Midwest office, Illinois
One of Rachel’s great posts last week was on the benefit and importance of watching trends and being alert to hot topics. These days there seems to be an abundance of hot topics: big news items (earthquakes, persecution of Christians, spirituality, economic troubles, threat of terrorism, revolutions in the Middle East), technology, social justice issues, the Church, fulfillment of Bible prophesy, issues affecting family, and so on.
The various age groups will respond differently to these external factors. Many of you who responded to Wendy’s informative “What’s Broken” series said your lifetime goal as a writer is to further Christ’s kingdom. If you write fiction, your novels, your characters need to be authentic to the general characteristics of their age group. Developing at least one of your characters this way for each age group represented in your book will help readers readily connect with them and potentially also with their redemptive outcome. If you write nonfiction, knowing how each age group approaches life’s problems, is elemental to influencing your readers.
This week I’m going to focus on a particular age group each day and list some general traits. I was going to start with the youngest age group because it seems more “current.” But since the previous generation highly influences the next generation, starting with the oldest group lends itself to greater understanding. I hope it elicits some great discussion. And in the process, we might find it easier to pinpoint some of each group’s hot topics!
So today’s group is:
The Silent Generation (anyone born before 1946, or over 65). They are also known as the GI Generation. They grew up in what we refer to as the Modern era. Brandon O’Brien, reviews editor of Leadership Journal and author of The Strategically Small Church: Intimate, Nimble, Authentic, and Effective, describes “Modernity” as “essentially the age of science. People date modernity to between about 1780 to about 1940. For moderns, the world is a closed system that operates according to universal laws. A reasonable explanation exists for everything. Things are presented in terms of black and white–things are true or false, good or bad, right or wrong. Science, mathematics, and medicine can pretty much explain and/or fix any human problem. There is a high premium on proof.
One way you see this instinct at work among Christians is in the need to “prove” things. Apologetics as we know them (think Evidence that Demands a Verdict) is a modern discipline. The assumption is that I can prove the truth of Christianity scientifically, historically, and beyond a reasonable doubt. Objections to Christianity are primarily intellectual–people reject faith because it doesn’t make sense. So we spend a lot of energy trying to make faith sound and seem reasonable.
This description offers some clues (generally speaking, of course) to how those 65-and-over think. Situations that are reasonable and explainable are comfortable. But put a character (or envision the reader of your nonfiction book) in a situation where there is no easy black and white, good or bad solution, and that opens the door to show how he will respond–and possibilities for him to see in a new way.
Talk to your grandparents, parents, relatives, friends or neighbors in this age group. What are they particularly concerned about these days? Those are their hot topics and can range from big-picture issues: upheaval in the world, Social Security, and “America just isn’t the way it used to be” (which was better in their view). Or they can be more personal: a grandchild who doesn’t seem interested in the God of the Bible, questions about how their health-care benefits may change with new legislation, or making their remaining years useful.
How would a Silent Generation character relate to the other characters in your novel?
If you’re writing historical fiction, how can you accurately reflect this thinking yet connect with younger readers?
How can your nonfiction speak to (or about) this age group?
Does this information raise more questions or clear the fog somewhat?
Did anything here surprise you?