I have on occasion wondered if you could write a character, change their sex afterward, and the story would still work. I’m on vacation so forgive the clumsiness of that sentence.
Jenny wrote a great short story and she never identified the sex of the character. (If she did, I missed it. Sorry, Jenny!) As far as WHAT the cop/coast guard person did in her little post-apocalyptic thriller, it didn’t matter. The character was “I,” and “I” did this or that, spoke, whatever. “I” was called by I’s last name, Jackson, and cop stuff and military stuff usually isn’t sex-oriented. They don’t have guys-only guns.
I assumed “I” was a man just because MOST cops and coast guard type people are. But had I not known Jenny was writing it, as in, if writer X was the named author, I’d have probably assumed “I” was male because I’m a guy. I don’t usually refer to myself as a woman (well, there was that one time in college…)
So I had a question. Can you write 500 words and NOT identify the sex of the main character? Can you avoid saying “Fred woke up and…” or “Betty stepped out of her painful high heels and undid her bra…”
If you wrote about just what at character does, does it matter what the sex is?
It does for one reason – you want the reader engaged. I was engaged in Jenny’s story but it would have been un-engaging if I went 2000 words I thinking that Jackson was a guy when Jackson was a lady. Your reader has to know who they are reading so they can relax and embrace who your character is. But for an exercise, it’d be fun to see what we can do. So:
- (A) Write a 500 word story about a kid lost in the snow and a cop/ranger looking for the kid. The cop’s last name is Jackson and we don’t know the sex of the characters. You can identify the kid’ sex but avoid identifying Jackson’s. And Jackson is all geared up for a long walk in the snow looking for the kid until help arrives to search, but Jackson is on the end of a double shift and needs some sleep. Go.
- (B) Write the story with Jackson as the SAME sex that you are, and when you are finished, switch the sex to the opposite. Change the “his” to “her” and stuff. See if it still works. Some will, some won’t. Go!
Don’t overthink it. 500 words. If you read this, you have to do it. Go! I need stuff to read on the way home in case I talk my wife into driving part of the trek, but you’ll learn a LOT doing this, I promise you!