1. L. Ai
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    L. Ai Member

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    How characters view themselves VS...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by L. Ai, Aug 30, 2010.

    ...How the reader is meant to view them...

    For example: I have a main character who is a doctor, and I refer to her in narration as "Dr. (Lastname)" even though the other main character often calls her by her first name. She is a very professional person, no nonesense, and I want readers to think of her that way.

    My problem is with a different story. I have a female character who, for awesome plotty reasons I can't really detail, is believed to be a man. No, you really can't guess why. She knows, of course, but the story isn't from her point of view. She's a main character, but not the main character.

    Confused yet?

    Would you, as a reader, be overly confused if she was referred to narratively as 'he', when it will later be exposed she's a woman? Would it be enough to have the narrator stumble over the new information a couple of times in his own thoughts for the changeover?

    For example (not actually an excerpt):

    'It wasn't that Gabe thought Charlie couldn't look out for himself- herself. Herself. That was going to take some serious getting used to... No, he- she, dammit- had proved otherwise more than once.'

    A little smoother, of course, but you get the idea... And then just go on referring to her in the feminine artical for the rest of the book. The reader will probably figure it out before the reveal, hopefully, as long as they see it coming it won't be too confusing, right?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It'd work.

    Also, it would make the revelation of his/her true gender more of a surprise to the reader.
     
  3. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Base on these sentences, it seems like the narrator is used to referring to the char as 'he' and has trouble referring as 'her'.... which may not be the case because as you mentioned she is only believed to be a man, and hence the narrator should be used to referring her as 'her'/'she'
     
  4. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your situation reminds me of The Twelve Kingdom's Skies of Dawn. Though this one character often dresses like a man for various reasons, mostly so she isn't approached on the street. The reader knows she is a girl, but sometimes the point of view switches to a character who sees her as a man. At that point she is always referred to as a "he." I never got confused reading the book as I knew to whom they were referring and why they thought she was a man.

    I don't see how it would be confusing to continually refer to the character as "he" and when the fact that "he" is actually a "she" is revealed, switch the pronoun to "she." Though it would be confusing to the reader if the narrative jumped around like in your example. Once it's clear the character is a woman, the narrative shouldn't switch. Unless your point of view is first person or it is a specific character's thought:

    "I know Charlie can look out for himself- herself, Gabe thought."
     
  5. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    I've seen something similar done. As long as you use limited third-person POV, you should be fine with referring to Character A as "he" because Character B believes A is male.
     
  6. L. Ai
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    L. Ai Member

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    Skies of Dawn came out WHEN!? And why is it not finished and on my shelf yet!? AAARGH.

    Thank you all so much for your imput! I'll keep it streamlined. It's more a side point to the plot anyway.
     
  7. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another Twelve Kingdoms fan? Yay! It came out last March. TokyoPop has been releasing a volume each year, in March. I'm eagerly waiting the next one (Tonan no Tsubasa) which will probably be released next March, though it's not available for pre-order yet.

    And as this is off-topic, I'll have to stop here. Nice to know I'm not the only collector of these fantasy novels! :D
     
  8. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Personally, I'd refer to this character as "he" all the way up until the point where the story reveals the character to be a she. Then from that point forward, refer to her as "she". This will preserve the surprise until you actually spring it.

    If other characters in the story are unaware that she is masquerading as a man after it is revealed to the reader, I'd continue to have the characters who didn't know better to refer to her as "He" (Just because the reader knows the truth doesn't mean all of the other characters do).
     
  9. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    It's fine to refer to her as "he", as long as she doesn't carry the narrator.

    For example:

    - Jack saw Sam getting out of the van. They'd been friends for years and Jack still didn't know he was a woman.

    However, you shouldn't do it from the opposite point of view:

    - Sam got out of the van and saw Jack. They'd been friends for years and Jack still didn't know she was a woman.
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Lothgar here.
    Tell your reader what you want them to know when you want them to know it. It is up to you the author to judge the right time and place to reveal facts to, or with hold facts from, your reader.
    That is part of the creative art of writing.
    Best of luck with the story. ;)
     

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