Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

When does a girl become a woman? (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Global Moderator
Or for that matter, when does a boy become a man?

Now hear (or is that read) me out. I have some text that reads as follows:


Holly grabs the closest person to her, a young woman, and spins her around. ‘Don’t come any closer!’ She shouts as she holds the terrified woman tight. ‘I’ll throw her onto the tracks!’
The woman whimpers. ‘Please don’t hurt me.’
‘Don’t worry,’ Holly whispers as she looks along the tracks. ‘I won’t hurt you, I just need another minute.’
‘Let her go, we can talk about this,’ the detective calls as he nods to a uniformed officer who has just arrived on the platform.
Holly pulls the woman closer to the platforms edge. ‘I mean it!’ she says. ‘I don’t mean it,’ she whispers.
‘So what now?’ The detective says. ‘This isn’t going to go away. You killed your client!’


The woman in question is a 19 year old university student and referring to her as a woman just doesn't feel right in this context. Before I get beaten up, yes, I know that a 19 year old female IS a woman but in this instance, I want the reader to know how young she is, if you see what I mean.

So how would you describe her in this scene? a young woman? A girl? or is it strictly a case of if she's an adult, she's a woman?

I await your answers and have placed a steel colander on my head just in case.
 

Sinister

Senior Member
Normally, I would state that woman/girl, man/boy would suggest, more than age, a state of maturity. But that may delve deeper into this presumably peripheral character more than you would find necessary. As far as an according-to-Hoyle age determinate, you could either change her age to be younger, ask her character her age or have your character state their preference, in an off-hand way.

Personally, I don't usually consider any female older than 18, a "girl," out of respect. And depending, that can even dip below 18, if I think they seem mature enough to take offense at the term "girl". Same with men and boys. I have, though, known "women" age 30+ who are little better than girls and men of 40+ who are little better than boys.

Imho, not a good term to determine age, all the same.

-Sin
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
For whatever this is worth, I once used boy/man to describe my chief protag in his introduction. Boy in the first paragraph, man thereafter.

I wish I could say it was a conscious choice made after a suitable period of wallowing in the agony of the tortured artist that spoke to Deep and Important Story Elements...truth is, I forgot it was there until a reader pointed it out. Incidentally, I sort of liked the implication and found ways of retroactively justifying the oversight because, despite my best efforts, it worked out to be the kind of detail that quietly shades in the lesser-attended corners of the idea.

At which point I pretended it was all intentional.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
If the POV character here is Holly then it's Holly's most likely word that should carry the day. I don't remember what Holly's age is from other threads about her but she would have a glossary of her own. Of course you might need to edit a character's words just a little (for instance a 30-year-old black character from the rough side of town might use the n-word casually but you would be advised not to unless you want to risk some major blowback)

To me 'young woman' sounds okay, Holly might use that though it sounds just a little formal and more like she's considerably older than the other girl. I know there has been a little cultural guff about using 'girl' but in some of the recent books I've read young women often refer to themselves or those in their age group as being a girl.

So the consideration is really not about how you or I would think of this, it's how your character would.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
When they take on adult responsibilities, no sooner, and no later. I've known 15 year-olds who were responsible adults, and 40 year-olds who are children. I used to have a rule of thumb: Any guy who reacts indignantly to the suggestion he's a boy and loudly proclaims, "I'm a MAN!" ... isn't yet a man. Slam dunk. To an adult, nothing about that label is important ... only accepting and meeting responsibility.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
I had an ‘Uncle Boy.’ It might be a Victorian thing - but y’know - think grandpa with stick - ‘Come here, boy!’ and it kind of stuck to him.

I was called a ‘little girl’ in Amsterdam ‘74 and told that shopkeeper whatfor. Most people can imagine the kind of thing I said.

(first written usage of ‘what for.’ Struggling to transfer archaic expression to print)
 

KatPC

Senior Member
I agree with @Foxee here, a lot lies in the perception from the protagonist Holly, As the creator you can easily add a few words to give more descriptions to the reader:

Holly grabs the closest person to her, a youthful looking woman, probably in her late teens, judging from her ripped jeans and black mascara. Holly spins the girl around. ‘Don’t come any closer!’ Holly shouts, grappling the tight leather jacket of the shaking girl, "I’ll throw her onto the tracks!"
‘Please don’t hurt me,’ she pleads with Holly.
‘Don’t worry,’ Holly whispers as she looks along the tracks. ‘I won’t hurt you, I just need another minute.’
‘Let her go, we can talk about this,’ the detective calls as he nods to a uniformed officer who has just arrived on the platform.
Holly pulls the girl closer to the platforms edge. ‘I mean it!’ she says. ‘I don’t mean it,’ she whispers.
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
So, she's still a teen, since she's only nineteen and all... that's basically a young woman. I still consider myself a young woman at 25. I would say anyone under the age of 30 maybe even under 40 depending on how they look. Do they look young? Would your character think they were young?
 

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Global Moderator
Thanks for the interesting replies.

To answer @Foxee, yes, the POV is Holly and she's 25. I think I'm going to stick with 'young woman' at the start but might shoe horn her name in. I think it's the repetitiveness of 'the woman' that is the most jarring for me.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
I remember the day I first felt like an adult. Growing up, the kids were always relegated to the "kids' table" during holiday events. One day, my auntie asked "What the hell you doin' over there? Sit here." For the first time, I found myself 'feeling' like an adult.

So adulthood, or the transition into adulthood, is usually signified by an event. Without that event, childhood continues in some part. This removes age as an absolute signifier on some level and makes it more social imo. This leads back to the author. What occurred that marked the character's transition into adulthood?
 

CyberWar

Senior Member
Here in my parts, a girl has traditionally been defined as becoming a woman upon starting a family, i.e., marriage. Nowadays its a less clear matter, as many women marry late or don't marry at all, so there's instead an unspoken consensus about "women" being either married or older than 30, "girls" accordingly being unmarried and younger. While a young woman of any age can be called a "girl" in casual conversation between friends, it is generally considered poor form to call it someone over 30.

As to when a boy became a man, has been more variable in my native society through the ages. Traditionally, a boy who was old enough to have learned a trade and able to support himself was considered a man in the sense of being an adult, though his transition to full manhood would only be complete upon starting a family. In more modern times, military service was considered an important rite of passage when conscription was still a thing, especially in times of war when young women often refused to date lads who weren't doing their part. Obviously, educated men from wealthy families who had other things to put on the table were usually cut more slack in that regard.

Nowadays, simply reaching 30 years of age seems to be the informally-agreed threshold for both sexes to qualify as fully mature. Hard partying and carefree lifestyle can be forgiven to anyone younger, but past this magical number it gradually becomes frowned upon.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
Nowadays, simply reaching 30 years of age seems to be the informally-agreed threshold for both sexes to qualify as fully mature. Hard partying and carefree lifestyle can be forgiven to anyone younger, but past this magical number it gradually becomes frowned upon.
Unless you're Jewish. The entire point of a Bar Mitzvah is the passage into adulthood.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top