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Old, Part II

November 30, 2012

When we last left Chris’s online mid-life crisis, we were lamenting the passage of the 80s and pretending it really was better to only get one baseball game a week, rather than unlimited baseball anytime we wanted it. (Your mileage may vary.)

A joke that could be told by any number of friends, relatives, and acquaintances: I once won first prize in a contest–tickets to a Major League Baseball game. Second prize was tickets to two Major League Baseball games.

Of course, feeling old is the first, less interesting part of the equation. Feelings, on their own, are boring. A character can feel a certain way all he or she wants. It’s not until that character does something that’s interesting.

Since I mentioned Mad Men (again), let’s talk about cliches. Like Don, within a few episodes of not getting The Beatles, driving a red sports car too fast through (presumably) the streets of Manhattan.

Don Draper drives his mid-life crisis.

Or Don could get himself a younger trophy wife to replace the old shrewish one. And a happening apartment in the city, rather than the house in the suburbs. (Oh, wait, he did all that.)

So how do you handle the mid-life crisis in a way that’s not cliched? Perhaps your intrepid hero could still listen to his beloved 80s music on the newest generation smart phone, which he knows all the tricks to using and teaches his kids some things. Or maybe she could date an older man to make herself feel young by comparison. Or maybe he could plug in the extreme work out DVDs and change his body–the discover he really likes clothes shopping. Or maybe she could decide to essentially bring up her teenage daughter’s unwanted baby as if it were her own.

Everyone else gets a Corvette. I run through live electrical wires. I am old AND stupid.

Of course, what some people do, other people react to. How does the old technogeek’s son react to the unsolicited advice about using the smart phone. And how does the technogeek react to the fact that his son already knows? How do the woman’s friends react to her new choice of men? How about her ex-husband? How do people react to the choice of clothes? What about the insanity of a woman becoming a mommy in her fifties?

(Feel free to run with any of these ideas. A simple mention in the Acknowledgements page is payment enough.)

No matter what you write about a midlife crisis, it’s been written before. The trick is to make it a natural reaction by your character and the people around them. For instance, the red Jaguar is a tremendously cliched symbol of a mid-life crisis, but it was handled deftly by the writers.

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