It’s a topic that, in real life, we think about more than we’d like to admit: how much we make, how much we can spend, and how we can make more money all has a place in our thoughts.

(And if we’re being completely honest, we’d have to say that making money from writing is partly why we’re so interested in publishing in general and writing blogs in particular, as we scour the internet to find out how to get published, when to get published, and what to write so our works sells well.)

But money and budgeting doesn’t seem to crop up nearly as much in fiction as one would think. There are whole genres–fantasy, science fiction, and young adult fiction in particular–where authors seem to write only about those too poor to worry or too rich to care. They may think about how rich they could become if, for example, they sided with the villains, or how to cover their paper trail by not using credit cards, but they don’t ever seem particularly strapped for cash.

In The Lord of the Rings, for example, Frodo never objects to the quest before him because of his financial situation. He doesn’t interrupt the Council of Elrond to say, “Ah…Gandalf, I really can’t afford to go to Mordor. You see, there are bills, back home…grocer’s and the tailor’s. I left rather quickly, and they might even foreclose on my house if I don’t get back soon. You know how the banks can be these days.”

This is equally true of more recent fantasy works. Aside from the dreadful prospect of being classless, no one in Divergent seems to care about money. Tris certainly doesn’t think about budgeting and whether she can afford her next tattoo, and how long it’ll take to get another one…but then, that was young adult fiction, and how many young adults really think about money and budgeting and where their next cell phone payment will come from?

Older literature seemed to think about money a bit more. Dickens discusses it quite a bit in Little Dorrit, for instance. The hero has to get a job, and worries about whether he should invest his savings in a “sure thing,” and the heroine works and scrimps by on her meagre savings, trying to help her father not feel the insult and agony of debtor’s prison.

And, even in more romantic novels like Pride and Prejudice, characters think about money. Mr. Bingley wouldn’t be worth half the trouble Mrs. Bennet puts forthΒ  (troubling “her poor nerves” to make sure he is introduced to her daughters) if it wasn’t known for a fact that he has a great deal of money. And would Elizabeth have fallen in love with Mr. Darcy if, in addition to his ungentlemanlike conduct, he wasn’t in possession of such a house as Pemberley?Β  πŸ™‚

Maybe I just read the wrong sorts of novels, but even some literary fiction and romance seems to focus on rich, privileged people who are well enough off that they don’t have to worry about money. Which lets them think about something else–like saving the world, reflecting on the nature of life, or maybe just making a particularly cute guy fall in love with them.

What about you? Do you prefer fiction to reflect “real life” and include thoughts about money? Or would it be crude and materialistic for characters to worry about their bank accounts?

Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren

Photo by finance, Creative Commons

7 thoughts on “Do Your Characters Worry About Money?

  1. While I am not crazy about our culture’s obsession with the rich, I will also admit that I don’t read for realism. I want to be entertained and escape for a short while my own worries over things like money. I want a book that is relatable without adding to my stress levels, so I guess it’s a fine line. And much can be forgiven when the book is compelling and well written. πŸ™‚

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    1. I agree. I just think it’s strange that so many books have skipped money as a viable source of conflict. It makes me wonder if we worry about money more than we once did and thus feel the need to escape from that worry more than our predecessors. And you’re right; it’s a very fine line. πŸ™‚

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      1. That’s a really good question…I think we do worry about money more today, but because we’re trying to hold onto a certain lifestyle and it stresses us out. I would never dare to think my grandparents and great grandparents didn’t worry about money. They grew up poor, and then had to deal with the effects of the Great Depression. They grew much of their own food, had basic clothes, minimal comforts, and one pair of shoes each per year. There wasn’t much of a safety net, and most of their community was in the same boat. I don’t consider myself well-off, but they would have thought I was by comparison. I guess in the end it is largely a matter of perspective, and some have more of that than others. πŸ™‚

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  2. Hi Andrea! Given our current permission situation, I’ve scheduled this article as a guest post on my blog for Jan. 14th! As usual, it includes your bio/credit/link to your blog.

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