Fear in Writing: My story is a sexless beast

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My story is a sexless beast

Have you ever seen a person and not known if it was a man or a woman? This happened to me yesterday at lunch. I was eating by myself (one of my favorite things to do - with a good book, of course) and the bus(person) kept walking through the room. Every time he/she did I would get just the briefest glance at his/her wide back, just missing the tell-tale signs apparent on the front of the body.

From behind he/she was shaped like a tree stump. The white polo wasn't the most flattering, as it accentuated square torso and the short drop from waist to floor. His/her hair was chopped short and spiked to glossy, black points. And the way she/he moved was no giveaway either. She/he moved like a tree stump - the entire body moving as one, no part freely swinging from any other.

I watched and waited for this person to move into a view whereby I could determine his or her sex. But she/he kept eluding me! It wasn't until the very end of my meal, when I had all but forgotten about her/him, that the body turned to reveal two sagging lumps. Aaahh.

Do you ever feel your story is like this poor sexless soul? Sans the sagging lumps, of course, but refusing to reveal itself to you, eluding you at every turn. A story can be like a mythical creature, flitting about in the clouds and performing its magical acts, or burrowing deep inside the depths of your mind, but never quite settling into view.

What do you do when your story plays the slippery game with you?
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  1. It's Pat! (SNL reference, y'all.)

    Sometimes my story doesn't reveal who the killer is. Then I have to go through all the suspects and write endings where each of them has done it. I compare and see which is stronger.

    Long process!

    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  2. Really hoping mine comes off as male, especially as all but one character is a man!

    And that is just creepy... Pat from SNL.

  3. Androgeny is just so weird. I probably would've spent the whole time trying to figure out that person's gender as well!

  4. I usually go back to my plot points and see if I veered off at some point. Re-reading the entire manuscript also helps.

    Straight From Hel

  5. I was here! LOL! Sometimes I can't offer any suggestions to you writers and authors, but I love hearing about the kinds of things you find yourselves up against and others' comments about how they deal with them. So enlightening!

  6. My story appears this way a lot in the planning stages, giving me just the bare bones. Until I start writing. Then the clouds begin to drift away and the picture is visible and articulate.

  7. And here I thought you were going to lament the lack of steamy scenes in your novel. Oh well.

    Metaphorical androgeny in stories could certainly be a bad thing, unless you're deliberately going for that effect. You're not going experimental on us, are you? :)

    And Pat, from SNL? Ick...

  8. Analogy awesomeness! :)
    yes, i have felt that about my stories, but the fact that I was able to recognize that made me feel a bit better about myself.

    And the sagging lumps mean nothing. I've seen male-cleavage. *shiver*

  9. This is so funny. I was going to post about this very thing (without making the connection to my WIP) the other day.

    I was in the post office and a...person...was standing in front of me. Okay...face, shirt, jewelry, mannerisms of a woman. Voice, jeans, chest of a man. Very confusing.

  10. That must have been a somewhat unsettling experience. As for anything I'm working on, I know the big story before I begin. Little stuff can come as a surprise, but I don't start anything not knowing where I'm going.


  11. I think of the movie That's Pat from Saturday Night Live. Yeah, character development can be difficult. Sometimes as I write they all take on a similar tone. Its important to weave in their quirks and idiosycnracies that distinguish themselves from one another.

    Team dynamics is important, and I like to have conflicts that cause splits and divisions, and the challenge is for the characters to overcome, sacrfice, and work together and come out stronger people.

    Stephen Tremp

  12. That's a fabulous analogy!!

    My ending for my nano novel was kind of like that - I needed to reread the entire thing in order to find my direction again. :)

  13. Interesting post. I can see this "person" finding their way into one of your stories.

  14. Poor thing. Gosh, wouldn't it be awful to be unidentifiable?

  15. yep, sexless, genderless, square shaped badly dressed plots - I hate em! But you just have to cajole them, take them to get their hair done and a nice spa treatment - perhaps go through their closet with them pointing out stuff that has to go. Find out that they are hiding a lot - maybe they are just so vulnerable that they don't want to be seen as sexy or manly or womanly or alive at all. then you have to take them out in the woods and shoot em. just kidding. I'm a buddhist. I'd buy them lunch and find out what the story is behind their disguise.

  16. LOL! Laughing at the analoy (and Elizabeths' Pat reference!). Yes, I've had this happen. All that can be done, I'm afraid is to step away from it. I think distance usually helps us to return with fresh eyeballs.

  17. At least you figured it out (sort of) in the end. I've seen a few androgenous people and never had the mystery solved. So frustrating! I once had a professor who dealt with X chromosome variations and lectured about XXY individuals etc--she could guess anyone's sex (or mixture thereof). A good geneticist can spot certain jaw shapes, finger shapes etc and get clues to rare mutations you may have inherited. It's amazing.

  18. Oh no. The poor girl. Two sagging lumps? That is a sad thing to have womanhood boil down to. And I am fighting to good fight to keep both myself and my book from this category.

  19. I really wanted to comment more on this yesterday (or at all, as it turns out), but I was just too exhausted AND I was having a wonderful day with my children so I can't complain too much...But here I go...

    Elizabeth- I am there, too! Though it's no the only mystery (to me) in my WIP, I don't know who the kiler will be...Sigh...

    Alex- I know, but also strangely emotion-envoking. Was this person happy being androgenous? Were they just accepting their DNA strangeness and moving forward? And how much does culture play a part (she was Hispanic)? As to yours being a male - that doesn't necessarily mean your story will be male. Does that make sense?

    Diane- It is weird, but there can be a certain appeal to it. NOT in this case!

    Helen- Great tips from a professional. I always appreciate your comments and mark them down! Thanks!

    Crystal- Duly (duely?) noted! You can always correct our posting grammar. ;)

  20. To continue...

    Tamika- Beautiful picture you paint. Unfortunately for me, the reality seems a bit grittier. But I'm fine with that as long as it is revealed!

    Simon- Sorry to disappoint. Maybe a team book is in order...You take on the steamy scenes, I write the grit, and Elizabeth adds the intellectual ardor. And experimental? I'm always experimenting...But not THAT much!

    Jm - Thank you and good to see you here! You are right, I should take pleasure in my ability to see where the murkiness lies. (As for male cleavage, I just wasn't going to go there...)

    Karen- I think you made another wonderful MS metaphor - We want our readers to feel that way almost the whole way through! Then we bash them over the head with the Truth in the end. Thanks for you comment: you made me think some more.

    Elspeth- I envy your contented process. I know you have your own frustrations, but for me the big picture is still elusive.

  21. And more...

    Stephen- Perfectly stated. Not much I can add except that I agree and I appreciate your ideas!

    Jemi- But you DID find it, and that gives me hope!

    Mason- You know I was just thinking this!

    Elizabeth- I know. But do you think she knows? One would assume...right?

    Jan- You are like a John Burdett character - Buddhist but strikingly bold. I love your comments! I, however, might shoot them in the woods.

    Carol- I just have to make myself go back, you know? Sometimes the distance becomes comfortable. And Pat is the genderless icon of our generation. How sad that we have one!

    Oooh, Lorel! That sounds like great stuff for a book! Especially a sci-fi/fantasy girl like you! Let me know if you use it!

    Tabitha- Onward, writing soldier...As for the subject of our disseciont, she was actually quite young - early 30s, I'd say. Yes, sad.