Spiritual Growth and the Age of a Character

Spiritual growth in Seven Years in Tibet
Spiritual growth in Seven Years in Tibet

How does spiritual growth relate to the age of a character?

In Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger points out that older characters in stories experience a deepening engagement with values they might not have entertained during their younger years—values relating to spiritual growth.

Forty and Beyond

Maturity often brings with it a tension between the spiritual and the material in our own lives. Stories about evolving characters, therefore, tend to explore issues that have become more pressing because of the wisdom individuals have earned through experience.

Having achieved successful careers, sometimes at the expense of the inner life, some are ready to shift focus from material pursuits to a more spiritual approach, concentrating on such values as integrity, social conscience and enduring relationships. 

”Spiritual growth in a character often, although not always, goes hand-in-hand with a growing maturity associated with age. The stories we write containing such characters should reflect this possibility.”

Some characters even factor in self-sacrifice for the greater good as a viable course of action. Films such as Seven Years in Tibet, Ghandi, Erin Brokovich, and Norma Rae touch on this directly.

The point is that as we mature so does the focus of our attention—from the visceral pleasures granted by material success to the more selfless rewards of value-driven action: from receiving to giving, from competing to sharing, from holding grudges to forgiving. The value system of the characters we write, therefore, ought to reflect this age-related shift. Stories containing such characters will resonate with more mature audiences who recognise these values in themselves.


Stories about maturing characters explore themes that weigh up spiritual growth over material gain.

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Growth and the Age of a Character

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    It is often the case that experience is more important then youth. In many epic tales the archetype of the mentor is depicted as a character that has acquired great wisdom that he shares with his students. Maturity is the product of experience that can result in truly memorable scenes . The Late Robin Williams gave a Oscar winning performances as a emotionally scared psychologist in the film Good Will Hunting. Williams character is the first one to confront Will (Matt Damon’s character) and tell him off. In a previous scene Will gives an offensive summary of the painting created by William’s character. There is no question that Will is intelligent however he is also incredibly ignorant. The park scene in which Williams steals the spot light is where we see first hand what experience has done to this man and how Will finally realizes that despite everything he knows through books he still has a lot to learn. “You’ve read every book about Micheal Angelo , but you can’t tell me how it smells under the the Sistine chapel” ” You’ve never been outside Boston. You don’t know what it’s like to be in Vietnam and see the light leave your best friend’s eyes as he he’s dying in your arms.”

    In short : For your character to go from student to mentor he must be confronted by a challenge that tests them to the limit.

    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Gerhard. There’s little doubt that experience leads to wisdom.


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