Talking to myself about tropes, gender, storytelling, and woman’s shoes.

Hey, Logical Side, are you awake?

Barely. You had a bad case of insomnia last night. Which is why you think this blog post is a good idea.

Whatever. I have a puzzle for us.

No, you want to see if you’re right, and that gender is only one facet of a character, and frankly, the least important. *sigh* Okay, let’s do this. Let’s gender flip The Hunted, and see what happens.

Slide1

One caveat, Logical Side.

Caveats? On a logic puzzle?

Women’s shoes.

What about them?

When gender flipping a story, the only thing you have to change is woman’s shoes.

REALLY?! I know you only got an hour and half of sleep, and are still drinking coffee, but are you serious?

Completely. Gendered clothing is usually not an issue, a suit is a suit after all. But men don’t wear high heels (usually), so there are certain tropes that don’t apply. But that’s the only caveat allowed.

…Fair enough. The only trope we’re allowed to change or omit are shoe tropes. Let’s do this.

Okay, opening scene, Mina and her boss, Jennelle are ogling Rick.

So far so good. Nobody would question two guys ogling a woman. Although Jennelle’s mannerisms would change.

…the only thing we would have  to change is the word ‘hun’. Which is inappropriate for a female boss too, other than that, the scene stands.

Doesn’t that kill your thesis? You have to change the dialogue.

No, male Jennelle would use ‘sport’ or ‘tiger’ or something. But the verbal tick of a pet name remains the same. I think we can safely toss it under pronouns and name change. If we can change ‘her’ to ‘him’,  and give the male protag a male name, why not ‘hun’ to ‘sport’? I mean, let’s look at it.

“Ter, he’s back!”

Terry smiled as she rolled her eyes and tried to keep her attention on the invoice she was typing. She loved her boss, she really did, but some days the woman acted like a teenager.

“Terry,” Jennelle waved a hand in front of her monitor, disrupting Terry’s view, “he has a tattoo on his back! I know this because his shirt is untucked and starting to ride up. This means skin, hun.” The older woman tugged on her arm. Terry saved the invoice with a laugh. Jennelle wouldn’t leave her alone until she took a look.

and now from the male perspective.

“Ter, she’s back!”

Terry smiled as he rolled his eyes and tried to keep his attention on the invoice he was typing. He loved his boss, he really did, but some days the man acted like a teenager.

“Terry,” Jack waved a hand in front of his monitor, disrupting Terry’s view, “she has a tattoo on her back! I know this because her shirt is untucked and starting to ride up. This means skin, sport.” The older man tugged on his arm. Terry saved the invoice with a laugh. Jack wouldn’t leave him alone until he took a look.

It’s iffy, but I’ll allow it. What about Jennelle ‘smoothing her just-long-enough-for-work skirt and adjusting her top’?

Same thing as ‘sport’. Jacob unbuttoned his almost too tight for work shirt, and adjusted his tie to show a little chest hair…. or something. Something that shows off his time at the gym. The trope still stands. Attractive person adjusting their clothes to be more attractive.

Fair enough. But then we get into Mina’s panic attack and flight home. You banked that scene on Jennelle’s empathy and Mina have ‘headaches’?

Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know men had no empathy and didn’t get headaches…

Cut the sarcasm, what man goes home for a headache?

One that needs to, especially if he has history of bad ones. Men get migraines too. But this is the shoe scene. Where Mina changes into sneakers. Unless we give male Mina a gym bag… but I don’t think it’s acceptable for men to wear sneakers with their suits, ever…

But you called this as your one caveat. The one trope that you have to change, so let’s move on.  Now we’re getting into Mina running away. You deliberately played on a frightened woman garnering sympathy.

True, but a frightened man still plays on emotions, just slightly different ones. Yes, I had ‘married to the mob’ tropes in mind when I wrote those scenes, but I don’t actually come out and say it. The scenes can play out exactly the same.

Terry hurried down the back stairs, pulling her car starter out of her purse, and her taser. The elevator would take her to the front of the building, where a delivery truck would be parked. The stairs exited to the garage, though.

The five flights of concrete steps were agony. Each new landing was fraught with uncertainty, and every corner filled with shadows she peered into with fear.

Terry started the car as soon as she hurried into range, but didn’t unlock it until she was right at the door. Once inside, she locked the doors, jacked up the stereo, and breathed again. She drove calmly to the entrance. She wanted to peel out in a blaze of burning rubber, but leaving early was suspicious enough.

Compare

Terry hurried down the back stairs, pulling his car starter out of his gym bag, and his taser. The elevator would take him to the front of the building, where a delivery truck would be parked. The stairs exited to the garage, though.

The five flights of concrete steps were agony. Each new landing was fraught with uncertainty, and every corner filled with shadows he peered into with fear.

Terry started the car as soon as he hurried into range, but didn’t unlock it until he was right at the door. Once inside, he locked the doors, jacked up the stereo, and breathed again. He drove calmly to the entrance. He wanted to peel out in a blaze of burning rubber, but leaving early was suspicious enough.

You changed his purse to a gym bag.

That’s the best argument you have against that scene? Want me to make it a European carry-all?

Gods, you can be obnoxious.

So again, nothing changes throughout the going home and searching the apartment scene, other than the clothes. Even Mina’s obsession with folding her clothes can be given to a man.

That’s true! Some of your husband’s fraternity brothers were very well dressed and fastidious.

Um, Logical side, he’s your husband too.

…Get more coffee and let’s finish this.

I don’t think there’s any issues with chasing down the Speaker.

No, but there might be some issues with a female Rick punching out a werewolf, the whole upper body strength thing.

Meh. She uses brass knuckles and has been training to fight all her life, just like normal Rick. Remember the only thing we change is gender. Female Rick is still six foot three and heavily muscled. Nobody would doubt that Sonja (who is canonical the same height as Rick and heavily muscled) could punch out a werewolf with brass knuckles.

Okay, but does the waking up in a panic scene hold up. Once again, you were banking on a woman being kidnapped to garnered fear.

She woke up paralyzed. Her arms and legs alien to her.

Arms and legs?

They had changed her back. Humiliation curdled her stomach. Bile rose in her throat. She bit down on the gag and screamed. Panic rising, she threw herself to her knees, still screaming into the wad of cloth in her mouth.

“She’s up,” a vaguely familiar voice said.

“Dammit! When?” This voice was entirely unknown.

A door slammed shut. Mina screamed into the gag again.

“Just now.” Rick squatted and she wanted to rake the concern out of those gray eyes. “Mina, I want to talk to you. If you stop screaming, I’ll take out the gag.”

Mina’s breath came in hitches as she tried to calm down. She nodded. She didn’t have much of a choice.

“Okay, my partner is going to cut the gag off.” Rick’s voice fought for soothing. “No need to panic when he touches your head.”

Mina breathed through her nose, trying to tamp down her fear.

Compare. We’ll switch out Mina for Matty and Sonja for Rick.

He woke up paralyzed. His arms and legs alien to him.

Arms and legs?

They had changed him back. Humiliation curdled his stomach. Bile rose in his throat. He bit down on the gag and screamed. Panic rising, he threw himself to his knees, still screaming into the wad of cloth in his mouth.

“He’s up,” a vaguely familiar voice said.

“Dammit! When?” This voice was entirely unknown.

A door slammed shut. Matty screamed into the gag again.

“Just now.” Sonja squatted and he wanted to rake the concern out of those gray eyes. “Matty, I want to talk to you. If you stop screaming, I’ll take out the gag.”

Matty’s breath came in hitches as he tried to calm down. He nodded. He didn’t have much of a choice.

“Okay, my partner is going to cut the gag off.” Sonja’s voice fought for soothing. “No need to panic when she touches your head.”

Matty breathed through his nose, trying to tamp down his fear.

The panic, the fear, the anger… they all hold true. Male Mina is still Mina, the only thing we had to omit was the thing about her shoes.

Okay, so fear, paranoia, empathy and lust cross gender boundaries, what about when Mina reunites with Matty?

Mina rose to her feet, pushing past the Speakers, not quite believing her eyes. Matty stood in the doorway. She threw her arms around him and was rewarded by crushing pressure in return. She shook as she pressed her face into his shoulder. She had been so certain she would never see him again.

She pushed away to study him. He looked almost like the old Matty. His short nails were painted black, but they weren’t ragged. Even more impressive, his hands didn’t twitch or shake. Despite the purple bags, his eyes stayed steady, no flickering to Rick or Sam. They burned with intensity as he studied her face.

Tears stung her eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She grabbed his shirt, pulling him in for another hug.

Matty rested his arms on her shoulders, speaking into her hair. “These are Speakers. You would never have believed they didn’t force me to say the words. They had to convince you, like they convinced me.”

“And the kidnapping?”

He laughed. “I didn’t want anybody getting hurt.”

She pulled away, cocking an eyebrow at him.

His smile lit up his whole face. “What? Like you didn’t decide to attack Rick just because he’s a Speaker?”

“He punched me in the head.”

“Fine, I didn’t want anybody getting hurt more than was needed to bring you in.”

Her cheeks ached, but she couldn’t stop smiling. “You can catch a gremlin without scratching a scale, but you can’t bring me down without a concussion?”

“Sis, you are way more trouble than any gremlin.”

Mina laughed with her brother. She didn’t know if she trusted these two Speakers, but she didn’t believe that they controlled Matty.

And now, Matty reunites with Mina:

Matty rose to his feet, pushing past the Speakers, not quite believing his eyes. Mina stood in the doorway. He threw his arms around her and was rewarded by crushing pressure in return. He shook as he pressed his face into her shoulder. He had been so certain he would never see her again.

He pushed away to study her. She looked almost like the old Mina. Her short nails were painted black, but they weren’t ragged. Even more impressive, her hands didn’t twitch or shake. Despite the purple bags, her eyes stayed steady, no flickering to Sonja or Samantha. They burned with intensity as she studied his face.

Tears stung his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He grabbed her shirt, pulling her in for another hug.

Mina rested her arms on his shoulders, speaking into his hair. “These are Speakers. You would never have believed they didn’t force me to say the words. They had to convince you, like they convinced me.”

“And the kidnapping?”

She laughed. “I didn’t want anybody getting hurt.”

He pulled away, cocking an eyebrow at her.

Her smile lit up her whole face. “What? Like you didn’t decide to attack Sonja just because she’s a Speaker?”

“She punched me in the head.”

“Fine, I didn’t want anybody getting hurt more than was needed to bring you in.”

His cheeks ached, but he couldn’t stop smiling. “You can catch a gremlin without scratching a scale, but you can’t bring me down without a concussion?”

“Brother-mine, you are way more trouble than any gremlin.”

Matty laughed with his sister. He didn’t know if he trusted these two Speakers, but he didn’t believe that they controlled Mina.

Well, logical side, beyond pronouns, names, and nicknames–

And shoes.

And shoes, can the story stand, as is, with a gender flip?

I’m not sure. There are a few scenes that I wonder about. Take the first one. Would a man think that he ‘loved’ his boss?

Why not? It’s hyperbole. I don’t think anybody believes Mina’s in love with Jennelle. And remember his ‘boss’ is more like a father or cool big brother. His boss is his only family at this point in the story. Men can have emotions and emotional bonds with other men.

Okay, but does the story have the same impact? You know damned well that women in trouble garner more fear and sympathy than men.

Then why are Matty stories my betas favorite?

Because Matty is so broken and weak, yet fighting so hard to overcome it… yeah, okay this story can stand with a male protag. We’re right… if the character is well rounded, gender is probably the least important aspect, changing only minor things regarding dialogue, clothes, and possibly word choice. 

Word choice?

I’m being honest, the ‘love his boss’ phrase bothers me, but that’s because of how society views emotions in men, not ‘male’ Mina’s actual feelings for his boss. Those would be exactly the same. Jack is his only family at this point.

Okay, I’ll grant that, but other than one word choice change, and the shoes, there is no discernible difference between Mina and ‘male’ Mina?

Not that I could see. They react the same to a given situation, and their feelings are the same without having to make massive adjustment to the narrative. 

Cool. I’m going to go back to editing Monsters of Pittsburgh: Werewolves.

Slide7

Did you just plug your upcoming novella?

Shame is for people without student loans.

True that! 

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2 thoughts on “Talking to myself about tropes, gender, storytelling, and woman’s shoes.

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