Author Topic: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On  (Read 670 times)  

Offline Deke

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1294
    • View Profile
Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« on: March 20, 2018, 02:14:43 PM »
  Had a weird experience reading "Artemis" (which is great so far), in that I didn't realize the hero was female until page 12. Her name is Jazz so that wasn't a tipoff.

Dale Kutzera | Website

Offline MaryMcDonald

  • Status: A A Milne
  • ******
  • Posts: 4412
    • View Profile
    • M.P. McDonald
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2018, 02:30:30 PM »
Yeah, I remember wondering while I read that book too. However, gender wasn't as confusing as age. I thought she was a teenager, maybe 18 at most, until near the end of the book it mentioned something about it being ten years since...something. I can't recall, but it was then I realized the character was closer to 30 than 20.

The Mark Taylor Series-Intense thrillers | CJ Sheridan Thrillers
M.P. McDonald | M.P. McDonald | Facebook | Amazon Author Page

Offline aimeeeasterling

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 832
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2018, 04:23:49 PM »
My revision checklist for book ones reminds me that I need to get across the following on page one: who (name and gender and brief description), what, when, where, why, hookiness. Sometimes that can be a stretch!

Try Shiftless and Huntress Born for FREE!
Aimee Easterling | Aimee Easterling - Author Page | Facebook Page

Offline TromboneAl

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2674
  • Name IRL: Al Macy
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2018, 05:14:22 PM »
Added gender to my checklist.


Al Macy | Web Site | Facebook | Twitter

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 808
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2018, 05:29:21 PM »
Yeah, I need to be able to form at least a rough picture of the character in my head pretty early, otherwise it's like the mental equivalent of trying to hold on to something slippery. Like an image that your eyes can't seem to focus on. That's part of why Scalzi's "Lock In" never worked for me. He deliberately avoided saying the MC's gender because he was trying to make it gender neutral, but I could never get any sort of mental image at all of the character, and it's really hard to get into a story when I can't at least have a general idea of what the MC looks like to picture in my head.

Offline kenbritz

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 205
  • Gender: Male
  • New York
    • View Profile
    • Ken Britz
Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2018, 07:45:22 PM »
Oddly that's not a problem on the audiobook version. Rosario Dawson......... where was I? Oh yes! Good book, though hard to compare to The Martian.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

Ken Britz | Facebook | Website

Online Paranormal Kitty

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1319
  • Gender: Female
  • Texas
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2018, 07:49:11 PM »
Yeah, I need to be able to form at least a rough picture of the character in my head pretty early, otherwise it's like the mental equivalent of trying to hold on to something slippery. Like an image that your eyes can't seem to focus on. That's part of why Scalzi's "Lock In" never worked for me. He deliberately avoided saying the MC's gender because he was trying to make it gender neutral, but I could never get any sort of mental image at all of the character, and it's really hard to get into a story when I can't at least have a general idea of what the MC looks like to picture in my head.

That's interesting considering all the advice out there (which I didn't listen to) about how you shouldn't describe characters and instead let the reader fill in the details.

Offline ParkerAvrile

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 358
    • View Profile
    • Parker Avrile's Steamy Gay ROmance
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2018, 07:54:53 PM »
Yeah, I need to be able to form at least a rough picture of the character in my head pretty early, otherwise it's like the mental equivalent of trying to hold on to something slippery. Like an image that your eyes can't seem to focus on. That's part of why Scalzi's "Lock In" never worked for me. He deliberately avoided saying the MC's gender because he was trying to make it gender neutral, but I could never get any sort of mental image at all of the character, and it's really hard to get into a story when I can't at least have a general idea of what the MC looks like to picture in my head.

Artemis is first person so you're looking out of her eyes, forming a picture of her doesn't come up for quite some time. Since she nearly dies from the wonky spacesuit during the opening scene, she's got bigger issues on her mind than mulling over her gender identity... I usually see the picture of what they're seeing, is this not how most people read first person?
Visit my website for free reads & giveaways for lovers of steamy m/m romance https://parkeravrile.wordpress.com/blog/

Online Matt Helbig

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2018, 07:56:25 PM »
Quote
That's interesting considering all the advice out there (which I didn't listen to) about how you shouldn't describe characters and instead let the reader fill in the details.

I think the advice was not to over-describe the character. Describe them with no more than three characteristics to give the reader enough to form a general picture but let them fill in the blanks and make the character their own. And I believe that came from one of Orson Scott Card's books on writing.


Matthew Helbig

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 808
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2018, 08:04:18 PM »
That's interesting considering all the advice out there (which I didn't listen to) about how you shouldn't describe characters and instead let the reader fill in the details.

I haven't heard "all the advice" saying that at all. But readers are all individuals and will have different preferences on what works for them in this regard. I personally tend to need at least a basic idea (gender, approximate age, and I like some idea of body type). When writing, I tend to give characters (at least in some cases) a few identifying physical traits, and I always know their hair/eye color and use those whenever relevant.

Though my favorite series (9 books currently) doesn't describe, like, any of the characters beyond gender/age, aside from a description of the heroine's hair and vague things like "some people say she's pretty, but she doesn't think she's pretty, so she's probably pretty but not beautiful". Oh, and one character whose appearance is described more because being beautiful is relevant to her character. Then again, I listen to those on audio, where the narrator and the way he chooses to voice characters also influences the way I picture them (which of course is something totally separate from how the author chose to write it).

I think how much you describe your characters somewhat depends on your genre. If it's an action/plot focused genre, you may not do much describing what they look like because it's what they're doing that's more relevant. For a more character/relationship focused story, it's usually more important.

Artemis is first person so you're looking out of her eyes, forming a picture of her doesn't come up for quite some time. Since she nearly dies from the wonky spacesuit during the opening scene, she's got bigger issues on her mind than mulling over her gender identity... I usually see the picture of what they're seeing, is this not how most people read first person?

I haven't read Artemis, but from my experience, that doesn't change that I want to know what the character looks like. No, I for one don't read first person as if I'm seeing what they're seeing. I don't read first person stories as if I'm "looking out of her eyes". I read them like someone's telling me their story, which means I'm still picturing them in the story. And knowing what gender a character is does not require them to "mull over their gender identity". You can give subtle clues about gender, even when a character is alone in the story.

Offline ParkerAvrile

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 358
    • View Profile
    • Parker Avrile's Steamy Gay ROmance
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2018, 08:05:57 PM »
I think the advice was not to over-describe the character. Describe them with no more than three characteristics to give the reader enough to form a general picture but let them fill in the blanks and make the character their own. And I believe that came from one of Orson Scott Card's books on writing.

I don't think we need to take advice on whether or not gender is important to mention in a first person POV from a phobe.  Weir handled it correctly. Jazz is not thinking about her genitals when the story opens, there's no time for that nonsense... although maybe the very fact that she doesn't bother to think about whether she's a tab or a slot during a life-threatening emergency immediately identifies her as female, I dunno, I admit I immediately assumed she was from pretty much the first line?

We get what's important about her-- the fact that she knows what the **** she's talking about, the fact that she's living in poverty, the fact that she's ambitious and going to somehow overcome... that's what's important about her character in the opener. Not some body parts under a malfunctioning spacesuit.

ot do much describing what they look like because it's what they're doing that's more relevant. For a more character/relationship focused story, it's usually more important.

I haven't read Artemis, but from my experience, that doesn't change that I want to know what the character looks like. No, I for one don't read first person as if I'm seeing what they're seeing. I don't read first person stories as if I'm "looking out of her eyes". I read them like someone's telling me their story, which means I'm still picturing them in the story. And knowing what gender a character is does not require them to "mull over their gender identity". You can give subtle clues about gender, even when a character is alone in the story.

Weir DID give subtle clues, the (I'm thinking male) reader didn't pick up on them.

Visit my website for free reads & giveaways for lovers of steamy m/m romance https://parkeravrile.wordpress.com/blog/

Offline Jim Johnson

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 6435
  • Gender: Male
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Storyteller and Cat Minion
    • View Profile
    • Ineti Press
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2018, 08:13:55 PM »
I wouldn't mention it unless it was relevant for some reason. Consider the modern perspective on there being more than two genders and people who don't identify as any gender. I'm all for challenging perceptions. We should be able to challenge perceptions of our readers.

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 808
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2018, 08:14:23 PM »
Weir DID give subtle clues, the (I'm thinking male) reader didn't pick up on them.

Well, as I said, I didn't read that book, so I can't comment on that specific example. But I'm not sure what your insistence that a character's gender is solely to do with what their genitals look like is about. I can easily say, "I'm a woman," without it meaning nothing more or less than, "I have a vagina."

And really? "A phobe?" Nice.

Offline mama_bear

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 24
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2018, 08:32:21 PM »
Physical sex doesn't always equate to gender identity, and it oversimplifies the human condition to conflate the two.

Treat the subject with the depth your story requires. Maybe it only needs to be a footnote on page one. Maybe it's the subject of an entire novel.

Online Becca Mills

  • Moderator
  • Status: Emily Dickinson
  • *****
  • Posts: 8872
  • Gender: Female
  • California
    • View Profile
    • The Active Voice
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2018, 09:28:39 PM »
Orson Scott Card has been invoked, dismissed, and defended, all in brief. Let's leave it at that, lest the thread come off the rails.

Online Evelyn Alexie

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 159
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2018, 10:28:36 PM »
I just finished Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series. The first book won the Hugo, the Nebula, and some other important award which now escapes me. The book is written from the point of view of a... well, a "person" who cannot distinguish between male and female, and who was raised in a culture where everyone was referred to by the generic pronoun "She." Thus, the reader not only doesn't know if the narrator is male or female, they don't know the gender of almost anyone in the story.

There was a fascinating thread on Goodreads about how this is a mind-scrambling experience for English readers but people who read the books in Finnish have no problem with it. (Apparently Finnish has gender-neutral pronouns.)
If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

Offline JRTomlin

  • Status: Agatha Christie
  • *********
  • Posts: 16682
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • J. R. Tomlin on Writing and More
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2018, 12:59:58 AM »
I think the advice was not to over-describe the character. Describe them with no more than three characteristics to give the reader enough to form a general picture but let them fill in the blanks and make the character their own. And I believe that came from one of Orson Scott Card's books on writing.
I think the advice involves avoiding hokey descriptions like "She ran her fingers through her auburn hair."

Saor Alba
J. R. Tomlin | J. R. Tomlin | Writing and More

Online T E Scott Writer

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 302
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2018, 01:12:47 AM »
Much as I loved the martian, I didn't think that jazz in artemis was entirely convincing as a female character.

And I'm a laydee if that makes any difference!

T E Scott

Online Herefortheride

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1268
  • Gender: Male
  • Chengdu
  • Loving every minute
    • View Profile
Re: Tip: Mention Hero's Gender Early On
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2018, 01:54:09 AM »
Maybe it's interesting to not know the gender for a while. It makes us search for hints and perhaps consider what it is that we think define the genders. I wouldn't be bothered reading a few chapters not knowing the gender of the MC.

I feel like this mostly causes a problem when the reader is assuming male and gets jarred that his guess was incorrect.

Why not hold off on making a gender prediction. Just know that a person is going through the story.
Havenglade Mysteries (Book 1): 75%

Daughter of Dragons(DoH book4)outline and character arcs: 2%
H.C. Harrington