is an Inexplicit protagonist gender too confusing for readers?

Do you think an inexplicit gender directed at a protragonist will be more engaging for readers?

  • Yes

    Votes: 2 5.4%
  • No

    Votes: 21 56.8%
  • Depends on the reader

    Votes: 14 37.8%
  • Other

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    37
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b1ah

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My initial aim was to write a book for a wide audience, and one way was to avoid using pronouns directing at the protagonist. This way it would be easier for readers to insert themselves. I've recently decided to restart and revise 'The Uprise of a Nobody', mainly because of the confusing mess I created when I spontaneously decided against an inexplicit gender which dropped the quality of writing dramatically.

The main issue I see is describing actions when writing. An example being 'as he wiped the sweat off his neck.'. Simply describing an action like that makes it quite difficult to avoid using pronouns. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat off Alex's neck.'? I'll have to use a unisex first name more often to replace some pronouns. I will also need to generalise or be more specific to avoid using a name multiple times. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat running down the drenched t-shirt.'.

I want this to be subtle, by not using gender-neutral pronouns like Ze/Xe/Zim/Xim/etc.
 

K5Rakitan

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You could write with a blend of first person and second person like Soramimi Hanarejima does:
 

b1ah

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You could write with a blend of first person and second person like Soramimi Hanarejima does:
That sounds like an interesting approach, I'll give Soramimi Hanarejima a read and go from there. Thanks for the advice!
 

Discount_Blade

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Don't see how it matters either way. Male. Female. I mean, what else should there be? If someone needs to have gender removed to feel "included", then they are sad little things whose opinions I don't really think should be adhered to. It's like listening to the serial killer talk about whether or not murder is called for in some particular situation.
 

BenJepheneT

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An example being 'as he wiped the sweat off his neck.'. Simply describing an action like that makes it quite difficult to avoid using pronouns. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat off Alex's neck.'?
won't this be easily mitigated if you were to write everything in first person? "I wiped the trickling sweat of my neck". it seems to be a cheat most people would use.
 

b1ah

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won't this be easily mitigated if you were to write everything in first person? "I wiped the trickling sweat of my neck". it seems to be a cheat most people would use.
Honestly, I have no idea why it didn't occur to me earlier to use the first-person perspective to describe actions. I'm already using it for internal thoughts so why not just add some action to it :blob_facepalm: I'll do a little more research on this approach so I don't have a Frankenstein situation going on! Thanks for your feedback!
 

b1ah

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Don't see how it matters either way. Male. Female. I mean, what else should there be? If someone needs to have gender removed to feel "included", then they are sad little things whose opinions I don't really think should be adhered to. It's like listening to the serial killer talk about whether or not murder is called for in some particular situation.
It's not a matter of gender but self-insertion. Don't get me wrong, when I hit chapter 20 or so, I ended up going through the whole series settling on a male protagonist. :blob_hmm: It was a mess and a mistake to say the least. I just want to reach a wider audience :sweat_smile:
 

BenJepheneT

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Honestly, I have no idea why it didn't occur to me earlier to use the first-person perspective to describe actions. I'm already using it for internal thoughts so why not just add some action to it :blob_facepalm: I'll do a little more research on this approach so I don't have a Frankenstein situation going on! Thanks for your feedback!
bruuuuuhh

you're whale cum though
 

Cipiteca396

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Don't see how it matters either way. Male. Female. I mean, what else should there be? If someone needs to have gender removed to feel "included", then they are sad little things whose opinions I don't really think should be adhered to. It's like listening to the serial killer talk about whether or not murder is called for in some particular situation.
Feel free to un-include yourself, then. You'd be the serial killer in this situation. A male would obviously be less concerned with it since there are millions of Male Protagonist stories...
Honestly, I have no idea why it didn't occur to me earlier to use the first-person perspective to describe actions. I'm already using it for internal thoughts so why not just add some action to it :blob_facepalm: I'll do a little more research on this approach so I don't have a Frankenstein situation going on! Thanks for your feedback!
Honestly, it can be difficult to tell a character's gender when reading first person. For you this may be a boon, but it can also backfire strongly when a male writes for a female character or vice versa. You may be better trying to make a specific character that people can like than trying to make a self-insert character. That kind of thing works best in a video game, rather than a book, since it can make them seem flat and lifeless.
 

Moonpearl

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It's not necessarily too confusing if it's written well, but I'd personally find not knowing the gender of a character to be less engaging, not more.

Gender (or the lack of it) is a core part of someone's identity and guides how they interact with the world.

It's a pretty major thing to have intentionally obscured from you when you're supposed to be getting in someone else's head/being guided along by a "familiar" figure.
 

Jemini

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I tried something like this once for a side character. It was a disaster. I would strongly recommend against it.

Also, you don't need to have the character match your reader's gender and ethnicity in order for them to identify with them. It all has to do with how well it's written.

I've seen writers get people to identify with rocks and balls of slime, just because they were well written. You can also ask any black anime fan. The black anime-viewing community tends to identify strongly with Goku and Naruto. Their favorite characters are characters who rise above adversity. It's not about them matching their ethnicity, it's about them being an inspiration and struggling with issues they can identify with. (EDIT: Actually, from the Naruto cast, it's Rock Lee who is seriously popular with the black community.)

Trying to invite the viewer to insert themselves into the story by simply making a character that looks like them is not just foolish, it's also a demonstration of your inability to get your reader to identify with your work via the actual working route and it shows you as creatively bankrupt.
 
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Layenlml

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Seems like your problem could be solved with a ' I refer to 'her' as a her because everyone traits 'her' like one?' Type of explanation. I dont know the setting, the context or 'Her' personality, but could work since almost every one refers to others by genders
 

Biggest-Kusa-Out-There

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My initial aim was to write a book for a wide audience, and one way was to avoid using pronouns directing at the protagonist. This way it would be easier for readers to insert themselves. I've recently decided to restart and revise 'The Uprise of a Nobody', mainly because of the confusing mess I created when I spontaneously decided against an inexplicit gender which dropped the quality of writing dramatically.

The main issue I see is describing actions when writing. An example being 'as he wiped the sweat off his neck.'. Simply describing an action like that makes it quite difficult to avoid using pronouns. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat off Alex's neck.'? I'll have to use a unisex first name more often to replace some pronouns. I will also need to generalise or be more specific to avoid using a name multiple times. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat running down the drenched t-shirt.'.

I want this to be subtle, by not using gender-neutral pronouns like Ze/Xe/Zim/Xim/etc.
Tsk tsk tsk. English is perhaps the easiest language to write about non-gendered objects/animals. Also, passive voice is now your best friend.

'Sweat ran down Alex' neck, which got an annoyed huff as response. With a quick movement of hands and a clean handerkief with 'Alex' written on it, came out a relieved sigh at getting rid of that little problem.' (or something like that)

It's going to sound fucking horrible... but write about them as you would an animal in a documentary.

Also, if your objective is for the entire audience to self insert into the character... do the second person narrator. No matter the narrative of ideas, unfortunately, languages are built around two sexes. Gender as the role a person has in society based on their sex is a social construct, but sex is a physical thing that's in our DNA and we cannot change no matter what (yet). Languages do not work for that because most began brazillians of years before contemporary non-binari people.

The easiest solution would be to never refer to Alex directly but instead what happens around the character.

Yeah... about xe/ze/xim/zim... the reader will simply think of it as 'he/him' because the phonetic diction is similar enough to default to it. Similarly as the circus a few years ago of 'womxn or womyn' back when 'men' was not wanted in the word.

Now, what is wrong with giving a gender to a fictional character? That's like giving them a certain age. No matter how you slice it, every single character is factually the same age as all others in your fiction because they're born the moment you write them.

Hope it helps a bit.
 

BlackKnightX

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My initial aim was to write a book for a wide audience, and one way was to avoid using pronouns directing at the protagonist. This way it would be easier for readers to insert themselves. I've recently decided to restart and revise 'The Uprise of a Nobody', mainly because of the confusing mess I created when I spontaneously decided against an inexplicit gender which dropped the quality of writing dramatically.

The main issue I see is describing actions when writing. An example being 'as he wiped the sweat off his neck.'. Simply describing an action like that makes it quite difficult to avoid using pronouns. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat off Alex's neck.'? I'll have to use a unisex first name more often to replace some pronouns. I will also need to generalise or be more specific to avoid using a name multiple times. 'as Alex wiped the trickling sweat running down the drenched t-shirt.'.

I want this to be subtle, by not using gender-neutral pronouns like Ze/Xe/Zim/Xim/etc.
Seems like you wanna write an interactive story. That way, the reader will be able to insert themself perfectly, since they can choose the action the protagonis’s gonna take and all.

So, just write in 2nd person POV, (using ‘you‘ to refer to the protagonist).
 
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I did try doing it on my latest project, but she end up being a girl. I wrote entirely on first person though.

It didn't matter much at the beginning since I just focused on things that didn't really require to describe her physical traits and she's all alone, but I end up having to add her gender when she's interacting with others (her family in this case).

Though when I made her back to do the usual stuff like training and experiment with her powers, I forgot she's a girl again, until she went for the yuri.

It's probably not possible for me to completely ignore the gender. maybe minimize them until it actually matters.

as for reading them, i probably prefer it defined instead gender neutral, at least for human characters. if it's something that's inherently gender-neutral, like non-humanoid mc i guess it would work.
 
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Akivien

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It's fun like making a confusion a mess of everything and i really find it fun to write in 1st person perspective.
 

Jemini

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Tsk tsk tsk. English is perhaps the easiest language to write about non-gendered objects/animals. Also, passive voice is now your best friend.

Ahh... no. It's definitely Japanese, without a doubt. Of the major world languages, Japanese is the only one with gender neutral pronouns that you can refer to a person with.

A rather famous example would be reincarnated as a slime. Rimuru's pronouns get translated as masculine, but in the original Japanese he was referred to strictly with gender-neutral pronouns. This leads to some strange chapters in the translation where suddenly the translator will switch to using the gender neutral. You always know what that's going to mean, because every single time the translator does this it turns out someone who just met Rimuru winds up referring to him as a beautiful woman or something of the sort.

(Actually, it was reincarnated as a slime that had originally inspired me to take my misguided attempt at having a gender neutral character in my story. It wasn't for any of that a-gender twitter group stuff. It was simply because I saw the whole weirdness of the translation on reincarnated as a slime, found out about the original Japanese having Rimuru referred to as truly gender neutral, and wanted to have a character like that in my story. I have thought better since. It simply DOES NOT WORK in English at all.)
 
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Ddraig

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This reminds me of how well this was done in Kino no Tabi. You do not even realize till end of Vol 1, where it is explicitly revealed, that Kino is a girl.
 
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