Sunday, January 20, 2008


No, they are not one and the same. At least, not when I reflect on an excellent article in Forbes online titled "When the Old and Young Collide at Work."

The gist of this piece, developed out of research done by Cristina Simon, professor at the Instiuto de Empresa in Madrid, Spain, is that there are four generations that currently make up the corporate workforce. They include:

  • Traditional Workers (born before 1946);

  • Baby boomers (1946-1960);

  • Generation X (1961-1979); and

  • Generation Y (starting from 1980).

What does this have to do with those of us who write fiction--mysteries?

The answer is her research provides insight that helps us as writers to flesh out the "why" of how our characters act and react in certain ways. Most writers do character profiles or sketches as they embark on their novels. These sketches include more than the color of hair and the person's birthdate. Age, alone, without understanding the molding influence on that generation by the culture around, is to miss some of the richness contributing to the personality of the person.

So, for me, this article provided one of those "ah ha!" moments.

For example, I learned that:

  • Traditional workers value loyalty and discipline and respect authority and hierarchy. (Wouldn't it be fun to have two characters of that age group who do and then an additional one, who does not?)

  • Baby boomers have the largest population of workaholics in the corporate world, says the author. And that generation gave birth to the "yuppie;"

  • Generation X is rich in entrepreneurs, skeptical of large enterprises, and they are individuals who embrace flexibility and conciliation; and finally

  • Generation Y is the first generation to live entire lives with information technology, and are much more individualistic. (I knew that, but have to remember it deliberately when using a character from that age group.)

Every mystery story must have inherent conflicts and crises to be interesting. One way to provide them is to pit different generations as well as just peers.

I had fun looking at some of my current characters in my WIP and thinking about how to give them more depth because of this way of looking at them.

Here's the link to the Forbes article:

Hope this is fodder for your imagination.

Yours in mystery,


1 comment:

Susan Brassfield Cogan said...

Nice post! Good information. I never would have seen it since Forbes is usually not (never) on my reading list. Thanks!