Tips For Writing Better Human/Humanlike Characters Who Are Really 700 Years Old (Give Or Take A Few Centuries)
Seeing a 2384-year-old vampire or elf character who talks and acts exactly like a 16-year-old always makes me cringe. This page is intended for people who are writing characters who are human or work mostly like humans, but for whatever reason are much older than they look by garden variety human standards.
This article assumes the following premises:
- Your character is either human or a humanoid species that biologically functions in a manner extremely similar to humans and is virtually, if not completely psychologically identical - eg, pop culture fantasy elves, pop culture vampires, Asgardians, ancients, etc.
- Your character is an adult, or is supposed to think/behave like one.
- Your character has not spent xir entire life up to this point living under a rock.
First, the older your character is, the lower the likelihood that your character could plausibly be a virgin for no other reason than xe "never got around to it" or "never met the right one before." Assuming your character has a human-like sex drive and desire for sex and isn't competely hideous, being a 100+-year-old virgin makes pretty much no sense. You want your character to be a virgin, fine - but at least give a good solid reason for it. Maybe the character is asexual (does not desire sex), or maybe the character took a vow of celibacy and castrated xirself, or maybe the character is just terrified of the whole idea of sex.
Speaking of sex, your character should have a pretty good idea of how it works, whether or not xe actually engages in it. Due to its sheer omnipresence, xe'll have picked up a lot of knowledge about sex. Depending on the age of the character, it's unlikely that xe will be shocked by much of anything, having likely learned that there is absolutely nothing that someone out there won't try.
Your character should not have much in the way of genuine romantic interest in teens. The best way I can put this is... well, imagine you sit down to talk to someone fairly attractive. At first you think things might go well - you exchange names and make some idle chit-chat - but then this person starts throwing boogers at random people and laughs hysterically about it, keeps making duckface at you, and won't stop talking about the Disney Channel's latest series. Sure, if you play it cool maybe you can use your centuries' worth of romance skills to have a one-night stand with this person, but odds are you're so put off that you just want to get away. And here's the thing - this is how 99.999999% of them come off to you. That's what dealing with teenagers should be like for your character.
Having been around for so long, your character should have developed a keen sense of what kinds of traits xe likes, what kinds of traits xe can tolerate, and what kinds of traits xe absolutely cannot stand. Being incredibly long-lived or immortal, there's no rush (reproductively and romantically-speaking) to take a chance on a long-term relationship with anyone who doesn't fit the character's ideal or anyone that the character isn't sure about. Your character can (and probably should) spend several years with someone before deciding to make this type of commitment.
On the other hand, if the character does rush into a relationship, it's unlikely it will last long because these types of relationships are primarily based on infatuation and therefore have very short life-spans. There's nothing wrong with your character rushing headlong into a relationship in and of itself, but please, no more eternal and undying romances that flare up weeks, if not days after the characters meet each other.
A long-lived character has probably seen many spunky artists, courageous heroes, struggling students, ambitious entrepreneurs, charming coquettes, bashful bookworms, and just about every other type of person you can imagine pass by. Unless xe has a short memory span, or has met something really alien, or is just a lying cad, the words "I've never met anyone like you before" should never escape xir lips. If your character has had anything resembling a normal amount of socialization, your character should have met any number of people who are at least similar to the one in question. As a result, your character should often appear quite difficult to impress, or even cynical at times. ("Oh, you're going to try to climb Mount Frozietoze in your skivvies? Well, good luck with that; maybe you won't end up a human popsicle like the last 262 guys who tried" or "Lolly Popstar is just a cheap imitation of Soda Popstar; Soda danced just like that fifty years ago!")
Your character should know how to play nice and cooperate when necessary. Being an unpleasant ass significantly reduces one's lifespan due to it making other people more likely to ignore you when you need help - or even try to kill you. If Vampire Bob continually goes bogarting the best blood and acting as if all other vampires are beneath him, the other vampires are probably going to get pretty tired of him after awhile and may find themselves conveniently too busy to back him up when the vampire slayer arrives in town.
Your character shouldn't be too likely to engage in any unnecessary high-risk behavior (per xir species/abilities), as these are not condusive to a long life. For example, hitting up strangers in scuzzy taverns, rushing headfirst into a battle xe is ill-prepared for, or playing around with higly-dangerous creatures for fun should be quite low on your character's priorities. Not to say that your character should avoid all risks all the time, but xe should definitely use good judgment about things. Likewise, your character should also have developed a fairly good sense (though not necessarily perfect) for spotting people and deals that aren't legit or are a bit off. For this last one, you'll have to develop a bit of a sense for it yourself - see my page A Beginner's Guide To Spotting Cranky Websites, as well as The Cult Test and Propaganda & Debating Techniques by Agent Orange.
Also, check out:
Tips & Ideas To Write More Believable Masquerades (If your character is an immortal living among mortals - and has to keep this hidden)