1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Is it a boy or a girl?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Anders Ämting, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. So here's the scenario: The villain of the story is male, as far as gender identity goes, but doesn't have a physical body of his own. Instead he is possessing the body of a female character for pretty much his entire part of the story, directly using her body as if it was his own.

    So, the character basically has a male persona but is physically female. With this in mind, should I refer to this character and male or female? Should it be: "He threw his head back and laughed" or "She threw her head back and laughed"?

    I actually have two separate projects where a villain does exactly this, so I'd really like to know what you guys think would work best.
     
  2. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    3,030
    471
    83
    Unless he modified it to look like a man–or it is written in first person POV–I would follow the physical body's gender.

    To the reader, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck...
     
  3. kayd_mon

    kayd_mon Sage

    262
    31
    28
    I agree, you should match the pronouns to the physical description.
     
  4. advait98

    advait98 Sage

    309
    80
    28
    From the few stories I have read that involved something like this, it was mostly 'he threw his head back and laughed', and personally, I would feel more comfortable with it like that. It's the mind that makes the person, and not the body, right? Philosophy aside, the villain is male, and while the body he's inhabiting is not, male is how the reader will always see it (at least a reader like me).

    Maybe it can also depend on the POV of the characters, each of whom thinks the villain as either 'he' or 'she'.

    If you do follow the 'he', I suppose it would be prudent to remind readers that he's inhabiting a female body every now and then.

    Anyway, I feel your dilemma, and best of luck.
     
  5. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    1,228
    280
    63
    I would personally use 'he', if the character is a man then it doesn't really matter what sex his body is, does it? I guess it depends on how you present it, but if he has a male name, uses masculine titles or terms (Mr., calls himself a 'widower' or something, etc.), or has a love interest (past or present), then it could just become confusing if you start referring to him as a 'she'. Just remind the readers that he is occupying a female body at the time.
     
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,095
    1,562
    313
    I've used a similar scenario in an RP, with a dead woman possessing the body of her living brother. I wound up mixing the pronouns -- i.e. "She shook his head and shrugged his shoulders" -- because while the woman was controlling the body, the body itself was male. The possession was only temporary (and harmless), though it did happen more than once.
     
    Androxine Vortex and Ophiucha like this.
  7. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    2,888
    496
    83
    I'd go with "it." In my view, spirit possession is a violation of the victim's humanity. The neutral pronoun reflects that.
     
  8. Addison

    Addison Auror

    1,794
    359
    83
    How 'bout "It"? Then the sentence is, "It threw its head back and laughed." Or you could refer to the body actions like a puppet/; The male 'spirit/being...thing' is in control, he's the puppeteer, and the woman is the puppet. So it could be, "He threw her head with and laughed."
     
  9. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,095
    1,562
    313
    That's exactly what I said. XD
     
  10. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    1,228
    280
    63
    I think the singular 'they' is a better gender neutral pronoun, myself.
     
    Sparkie likes this.
  11. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    3,030
    471
    83
    Guys, doesn't it depends on the POV? Even if it's a male, a spirit, etc, if it's not omniscient there is no reason to call it "it", "he", or whatever, unless the POV owner thinks this way.
     
  12. Grimmlore

    Grimmlore Minstrel

    74
    8
    8
    i have read a book where this happens as a permanent thing, the author took both names and mushed them together when the possession happened.
    frank and beth becomes freth or benk franketh or bethank bad eg i know haha
     
  13. That seems like it might get confusing in the long run, though. In my stories it's much more permanent, though not irreversable. Also, neither villain has any plans on abandoning the female body in the forseeable future.

    I dunno, that makes it sound too much like they're dealing with some kind of monster. These villains aren't gender neutral entities; they are definitely men, just men who are forced to steal bodies for lack of their own.

    I also think it would be weird to refer to a main character as "it" for the entire story.

    Not what I was asking for - I'm specifically talking about gender ponouns. The villain will always be refered to by his own name, so I have that covered.
     
  14. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    611
    113
    To build on Nihal's idea, I once wrote a story with six perspective characters, all of them in some way genderqueer. Each of them had a different conception of what gender was, so each used a different pattern of pronouns when referring to the other characters. It got a little messy, but I think it worked to create an interesting ambiguity as to how these characters should be defined.

    In this case, who uses what pronoun would correspond to what they think of when they look at the possessed person. If they primarily perceive the body, they'll use feminine pronouns. If they know and are more concerned with the villain, they'll use masculine pronouns.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
    Chilari likes this.
  15. That's all well and good, but what about the narration? The stories are in third person, so I still have to pick a gender to refer to.
     
  16. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    611
    113
    If it's third person omniscient, then I'd recommend using the gender the villain thinks of himself as.
     
  17. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    660
    113
    Gender identity is about what people feel themselves to be, not about their bodies. Using "it" would be insulting - taking away humanity of one part of this entity or the other. "She" would be incorrect because it goes against gender identity. If the villain thinks of himself as "he", use "he". Body is irrelevant; identity is everything. Otherwise you're erasing gender identity and thus experience. Plus you'll piss off trans people and allies if you do it in a manner which discounts or erases gender identity because they're already in an uphill battle to have gender identity recognised as more important than biology (both socially and legally) and won't thank you for putting a rock in the way.

    Use male. You can always use female pronouns in dialogue spoken by those who are unaware of the situation, and add a couple of reminders of the situation.
     
  18. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

    986
    85
    28
    I think it would be very interesting if the character was more of a consciousness and didn't technically have a gender.
     
  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Nihal is correct. It all depends on the POV.

    When you're in that character's head, you refer to the character by how he/she sees himself/herself.

    If you're in another character's head, you'll use "she," since that's how that character will see her.

    If you omniscient, as Feo said, you'll use however the character sees himself/herself because the author knows the character's viewpoint.
     
    Sparkie likes this.
  20. Rob P

    Rob P Minstrel

    56
    9
    8
    There are many times when we confuse gender without seeing the person. Names can be misleading.

    Let's take Lee. We might assume this person is male if our only interaction is email or something until we see a picture or meet them and then we realise that person is a woman. That person was always female and their POV was always feminine regardless of how others perceived her.
     
Loading...

Share This Page