1. shakespear57
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    shakespear57 Member

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    Writing with no gender

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by shakespear57, Jan 17, 2013.

    A question I've had for some time.

    Is it possible to write an entire novel without giving indication of the gender of the MC (using first person) or the main love interest?

    I like the idea of it, as it could make the story relatable to any gender, any sexuality. To each reader the main character could be boy, girl, gay, straight, whatever they wanted.

    My question is: would it work?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, the question is whether you can make it work.

    Would it be easy? Nope.

    Also, is it really worth it to try to be all things to all people? Or are your energies better spent in telling a story well and letting the reader come to his or her own conclusions?
     
  3. blenderpie
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    blenderpie Member

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    A person I know who doesn't identify as either male or female asks that people use "ze" instead of "he" or "she." So, that might help you so you don't have to avoid those words all together.
     
  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I don't think it would work entirely as people will start to make their own assumptions about the reality, unless of coarse that is the intent. It is possible.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    By trying to make it relatable to everyone, it'll end up being relatable to no one.

    To answer your question directly, it could work, but I would see it as a gimmick if there's no other point to it.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The lead character of Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar series is of indeterminate gender. The books are wonderful. However, there isn't a lot of emotional connection to the lead character - he/she is witty and interesting and narrates the action amusingly, but rarely has any deeply emotional experiences. They're well worth reading; give one a try.

    Edited to add: I missed the "relatable to anybody". I wouldn't say that these books succeed in that goal, and I don't think that the strategy of indeterminate gender is likely to support that goal.
     
  7. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    If it was a short story, I'd say go for it, give it a try. But I'm not sure about a whole novel.
     
  8. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    This has been brought up before, and for me it addresses a problem that doesn't exist. I can relate to a story about a man, or someone with different sexuality, without difficulty - gender/sexuality just isn't that important to me in a story, I'm much more interested in their personality and what they do.

    So for me at best this approach would probably have no impact, at worst it could be irritating. But that's just my opinion, if it's something you feel strongly about why not try a short story like this and see how it goes?
     
  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't appeal to me, but it's your story, if you feel strong about it, as pppg suggests write a short story or few chapters of your novel and see how it goes. It should prove good practice even if it doesn't quite work.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My own view is that your premise - that the gender of the MC must limit the abililty of readers of the opposite gender to relate to him/her - is false. The ability of the reader to relate to the character will be based on many factors, of which gender will probably not be the major one. Besides, characters, if they are presented as more than just stereotypes, will likely possess qualities associated with both genders to varying degrees.
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think doing this would make the story MORE relatable, but rather LESS relatable to most people. Especially early on, people are trying to get a picture of and a sense the character -- sometimes the reader's image of what the character looks like is different from the author's vision, despite the author even giving hints about what the character looks like, for example, even if the author has put in that the character has blond hair, a particular reader might persist in thinking of him as having brown hair. Gender is one of those things right off the bat that people need a handle on, to picture this person, and also to know some very basic things about him, including how he might fit into society. The fact that this particular character might not fit these assumptions is fine, but the reader will know that he doesn't fit them, and it will help him understand the character.

    I want to understand where the character is coming from and how that affects his interactions with society, and it's okay if they don't share all the same qualities that I have or share qualities most associated with a particular gender. I can empathize and relate to and enjoy the story of a character who is gay, even though I don't happen to be gay. I could better understand a character who is gay or transgender more than a character whose gender I don't even know, and will guess at, and it will be distracting and interfering if at any point in the story I think "wait a minute -- is this character a woman? I thought he was a man!" If I can't get any picture at all it would be extremely frustrating.
     
  12. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sure it can be done, but I'd expect it to be bloody hard to do.

    A character's gender doesn't come across just from whether they're called Paul or Pauline, or what pronoun you use. Men have different experiences growing up from women, and gay people have different experiences from straight people. This means they're going to act differently, talk differently, relate to people differently. Trying to make your characters a totally blank slate is just going to leave them feeling flat.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So your protag will never even get a name, or get a ridiculous name like I dunno, Banana? How would your characters refer to your MC?

    Personally, I'd just find it damn annoying. I wanna know whose story I'm following - if the person's name is Banana, I'll never take them seriously (for example, Raymond Feist once had a character, a main character, called Pug. And other characters called Gardan, and Ashen-Shugar - I couldn't continue because of the ridiculous names). And if you leave your protag with no names, I just wouldn't read it, personally. I once read a chapter of a book where the MC is entirely without gender or name throughout the entire dialogue - it irked me to no end. I started flicking through the book just to look for the MC's gender and name, and since I couldn't find it, I just stopped reading.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    double post - internet's fault.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good question... same goes for the narrator...

    it could be done in first person, but i can't see how it could be done in third...

    as for if it will work, that depends on the skill of the writer...
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's an avantgarde idea, if it's done for the right reasons. Posters above already mentioned that this question was asked before, and every time the answers are the same - if you can successfully pull it off then yes, it can be done. If a writing challenge isn't your motivation, then I don't think it'll work.

    I think you are wrong to assume no gender in the main character or the love interest will make it easier for readers to relate. It will in fact be so much harder that only brilliant and engaging writing and a page-turning plot could make it worth a read for a lot of people.
     
  17. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    I would have to agree with chicagoliz. As a reader I like to have some image in my brain of the MC while I'm reading. Sometimes, when an author starts out a scene, chapter, etc. without telling me who I'm reading about I'll jump ahead just so I can see who I should be imagining, then go back to reading.

    But I think it would make an interesting short story project!
     

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