Precocious Prodigy

Precocious prodigy, genius gem, or crazy contrivance?

Yes, I’m questioning the age of my detective Sparkle Anwyl. Acorns of doubt were understandably planted by some comments on my Café Terrace piece for the WEP/IWSG Challenge. All were uplifting and inspire more writing.

For instance, Nilanjana Bose ended an encouraging comment of great value by writing, “…Oh, I’d just like to mention that ’20th birthday meal’ threw me for a minute, because 20 seemed too young for Sparkle to have the experience/gut instinct she has. 🙂” Likewise, Donna Hole heartened me and helped motivate me, and added, “…An intuitive detective at 20? Hmm, I’m not buying it, but I think it plays well to today’s young readers…”

Nancy Drew or Mary Sue?

Anyway, those are valid points which made me look at my timeline for Sparkle and her backstory.

Precocious Prodigy?

Not in the sense of greats like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Stuart Mills, Marie Curie, or Stevie Wonder. There are less well-known examples in other disciplines and countries if you want to learn more at Or visit:

And then there are the Fictional ones like Dexter in Dexter’s Laboratory and the talented child geniuses in Ender’s Game.

However, Sparkle Anwyl was never in the child prodigy category – not from what I know. However, as I replied to Nilanjana, “I agree Sparkle may seem young, but she has the background to give her experience – father a copper, farming family, deaf sister, vigilante at 16, met Kama at 18 just before police college so has learnt from her too…”

Note that I mentioned Stevie Wonder as a prodigy. He overcame his blindness with music, an art form which has also helped the deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Sparkle’s sister Gwawr is deaf from birth so I envisage that means as the older sister by six years, Sparkle must be responsible around her sister, and even learns British Sign Language and lip-reading.

From my observations of farmers, when I worked in the organic movement, the kids were growing up with more responsibility, caring for animals and plants, handling and driving machinery, and tasked with crucial chores. Sparkle’s family have a sheep farm and she would have had obligations as a kid, like looking after lambs and learning to work a sheepdog.  

Other occupations place similar demands on kids. Teenagers too. Think of all those young people who fight for their country – and many have died. Other services too. As a dad, policeman Marc Anwyl would be a role-model, even if his work creates domestic problems so initially his actions deter Sparkle.  

But observation might encourage her own gut instinct to kick in. Events at school – bullied as a weirdo – take her down a darker path as a vigilante, yet her fate leads her back to the police.

I reveal some formative incidents in the novel I’m editing now – Fevered Fuse, the one needing beta-readers. However, I may tweak the timeline to make Sparkle’s age fit better. I can’t change the age when she’s at secondary school (11-16) and sixth-form college (16-18), nor when she can start at police college (18), but beyond that there’s leeway.

Sparkle is still a police constable in my Café Terrace piece. But she’s only aged 21 when she qualifies as a detective, while Kama is 25 when she first appears as a Detective Sergeant. Detectives in the United Kingdom are older according to recent surveys. In most UK police forces, the youngest DC is 27 and youngest DS is 29. But there have been a few younger ones, according to my research, so they confirmed my ‘dynamic duo’ were not far-fetched.

Or are they?

Should I age my characters to add maturity, experience, and realism?

Develop their backstories?

More cases and more criminals while trudging Welsh streets means more tales and more settings.

Ffestiniog & West Highland Railway departure from Porthmadog.

8 thoughts on “Precocious Prodigy

  1. I noticed the age related comments on your WEP posting. Yes, they did make sense, but so does a Sparkle who is much older than her years because of both her background and her experience.
    Perhaps you can get round/address the issues with a line or two which acknowledges/explains her growth at a relevant point in the text. Probably the book text rather than a short excerpt.
    Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally missed the “20th birthday” thing. I definitely saw her as older than that, all the more because of the adult feel of her relationship with Kama. I have sons at 20 and 21, and while I realize they’re guys, who grow up slower, and also haven’t had her kind of reason to grow up fast, they feel light-years younger than she does. So I guess I’m voting for more stories as she works her way up a bit more slowly. I get the feeling you don’t want her to be a prodigy, so I wouldn’t make her younger than pretty much all detectives.

    So, I’ll vote for a combo of letting her age a bit, and also working in some of that backstory that explains her so well.

    BTW, I’d love to beta-read if you don’t need me before April.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Rebecca for offering to beta-read. I suspect with my IWSG Anthology commitments and the rewrite of ‘Fevered Fuse’ it may be nearer April before I can send anything. Shall I send it via The Ninja Librarian?

      I am looking at how to adjust Sparkle’s backstory and her police career to make her more realistic – one of the gals, but not better than Kama.
      As a guy, I feel girls mature more than us – UK school results put girls ahead academically.


    • Update – thanks again, Rebecca for offering to beta-read. At the rate my revision/rewrite of ‘Fevered Fuse’ is going – one or two chapters per day – it will be almost April by the time I’m ready to reveal the draft.


  3. Pingback: #IWSG – Tradition or Superstition | Writing Wings

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