As I mentioned in an earlier post this month, fantasy is one of the few genres where basically anything goes. In a world where mythical creatures can frolic through your fields, and elves, witches, vampires, nymphs, and gods can occupy your cast, its hard to avoid the temptation to not include an every-day, mundane human to your line-up. After all, skills required by the quest probably take decades, if not centuries to master, and the industry seems to prefer the younger protagonists, which excludes most humans from being viable to a plot unless they’ve suddenly been gifted with a magical skill or item.
However, the plight of a human in this world of magic and mayhem is perhaps the perfect grounds for suspense and tension for the reader–the hero can fail, and probably will, unless his wits can outsmart or outperform the opposition. I don’t think authors should be afraid to have a human protagonist who is already past his or her prime. I relish those stories, like The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind or the Dragaera series by Steven Brust. While maybe these characters go against my first point (Vlad lives far longer than a human and has access to sorcery), there is something, to me, that is infinitely more charming about a world-traveled and well-weathered protag than one who has little to no knowledge to bring to the narrative before page one.
When a character is older, there are even more natural limitations that can be set upon them, like muscle aches and old wounds, a general cynicism or aloofness, or on the other end of the spectrum, perhaps a more believable optimism and sincerity. Older protagonists can also start their story with a love interest already established, if there is to be one, so you don’t have to waste pages building chemistry that could have just as easily already been there.
One of my favorite characters from my own cast started his story with me at 42 years old. He lived to be 72, and died a happy man, despite my abuse. Who are some of your older, human main characters?