My current Work In Progress (WIP) is a sci-fi mystery romance taking place 100 years from now on a Greek island. Its working title is Clones (it will change) and yes, I know this is the first time I mention it.
I started writing it with a male protagonist and a female android gradually becoming a bit of his romantic interest. Together, they uncover a dastardly plot involving clones, an artist, and a reclusive billionaire.
Honestly, it’s better than it sounds. Anyway, wait till you read what happened next: halfway through the story, I realized it all worked much better if I inverted the genders! So, the protagonist is now a woman cop with a growing interest in a male android.
Which meant I had to rewrite quite a few scenes–and descriptions. While doing that, I was struck by how a scene that was fine for a woman became creepy for a man and vice versa. The whole experience made me question some of my preconceptions of gender roles.
So, I was particularly amused by a hilarious post by Alexandra Petri on The Washington Post describing what would happen if male authors described men in literature the way they describe women. Here are a few of Alexandra’s gems:
What would happen if male authors described men in literature the way they describe women
Marlowe was the kind of brunette who would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window, and only half the hole would be from heterosexual panic. The other half would be that look he gave you, under his hat brim, the kind of look you thought maybe you could cash in later in a cheap hotel room, before you saw the headache sticking out of his hip pocket.
Vronsky had once been beautiful. His hands, once white and soft, were thin and wasted from the labors of child-rearing, and his face appeared pinched and unattractive. His voice had acquired a querulous tone. His arms, once the right shape, were now the wrong shape, because of the passage of time and the moral degradation that came with it. There was a horse who suffered an awful accident, and Vronsky was like that in a way.
White-thighed Odysseus emerged from the water freshly bathed and glistening with oil /
His skin glowed like the dawn sweeping in on his swiftly sandaled feet /
The goddess beheld him with rapture
George R.R. Martin
Jon Snow’s abs moved imperceptibly beneath his tunic, firm and hard and pale like winter apples that had been harvested, sliced carefully and arrayed in rows.
His lovely ripe pectorals were barely concealed beneath his white nightshirt, and Dean looked at me as if to say, if this is America, I’d like to see more of it.
Large but delicately framed, with a pinprick red eye that lights up when he enters a room. He stops the party when he walks into a room (by killing the party with his mechanized weaponry) but you wonder what lurks under that steely exterior.
Possessing a promising body with hard, shapely curves, Buzz dresses older than his age, but manages to pull it off.
Star Wars: A New Hope
Luke Skywalker is in his late teens, pretty without knowing it.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Darth Vader could be attractive if he tried, but he has instead settled for menacing. Tall, dressed in all black with a breathing mask affixed to his face — an outfit that screams, “LEAVE ME ALONE.”
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
R2D2 is short and over 30, but he knows how to work with what he’s been given. A posterior to make onlookers swoon. Numerous well-maintained ports in which the onlooker can insert a data drive or disk.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Jar Jar Binks is unprepossessing at first glance, but the sinuous elegance of this amphibian can command a room. Clumsy and awkward and unaware of the effect he produces. Beautiful eyes, on large eye-stalks.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
With a lithe, lissome neck and large, expressive blue eyes, he looks damn good on a bicycle.
With soft, peach-fuzz skin, Kermit the Frog intrudes on the viewer’s attention not gradually but all at once. Unaware of his impact, and stronger than he knows.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The first thing you notice about HAL 9000, a glowing red boob in space, is that he’s a glowing red boob in space.
For the complete list, read Alexandra’s full post on The Washington Post.
LOL! Thanks for the chuckle!
Yay! So glad you enjoyed it 😀
So funny! Best of luck with your new book Nicholas 😉
Thank you so much, Debby 🙂
Most welcome. 😉
Thanks for being brave enough to write about those ‘inequities’.
Oh! Hadn’t considered myself particularly brave. Now I’m wondering if I’ve stepped into a minefield!
Very entertaining, Nicholas. Best wishes on the book.
Thank you so much, John 🙂
Love the twist on describing men. Good luck on your new book.
Thank you so much, Linnea 🙂
Cheers to you, Nicholas. Best wishes for continued success. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Very funny and true at the same time.
I know, right? 😀
I’ve had the same thing happen to me, so now I always ask myself, would I put it that way if the genders were reversed? I’m curious, if you don’t mind saying, what kind of scene(s) seemed creepy when it was a female main character instead of a male?
A perfect example is buying stuff. They’re pretty much stranded on an island and the rich party (the android) buys clothes for the poorer one (the human). When it was a woman android and a man human, it was fine. As soon as I reversed the genders, I had to explain why the woman has no option but to accept the expensive gift.
Ah, interesting. It does have a different cultural meaning, I see what you mean.
So hilarious! And what a cool thing to discover as you write! I’ve been facing a similar challenge in my current WIP in terms of breaking cultural gender norms in situations involving power and war. It made me aware of how both genders buy into the comfortable patterns and biases. Your concept sounds interesting, Nicholas. I’m ready for another book from you. 🙂
Aw, thank you! I was just telling Electra how something as simple as one party buying clothes for the other becomes much more loaded when it’s the guy buying clothes for the girl. It wasn’t an issue before, but I now have to explain how it comes about and why the girl has to accept.
That’s a clever list indeed!
Good luck with the work on the new book.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thank you, Pete 😀
Your character change is a great idea!
Thanks! I hope readers will agree with you 😀