Reset your defaults…

Yes, gibberish for a title. It’s one skill I can excel at.

Listening to Writing Excuses the other day and MRK used the expression, defaults. The context is that we all have defaults if direct clues about people aren’t given.

Example: White Male protagonist in a story, by many including me, will be assumed to be straight. White Female protagonist ditto. These are my defaults.

The majority of characters in most novels/movies will be male.

All of these examples are also stereotypes and there are of course, exceptions to the rule. But in general these defaults hold true. When they don’t we treat the situation as odd, or unique. When is the last time a brothel scene in a book or movie was populated with an equal number of males and females?

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None of this is new to the discussion of gender in writing. The point I am trying to learn or teach myself don’t use defaults. If a characters sexual orientation or gender or species is not relevant, and doesn’t come up naturally, DON’T MENTION IT. Does the reader need to know that the engineer on my spaceship is a Slargbo from planet Xenius X? Maybe the fact Slargbo’s have two brains that function in parallel will be important at some point, but until then, the answer is no, the reader doesn’t need to know. Or yes because you want to foreshadow it. But I am only going to foreshadow it because it’s necessary. I don’t need to define my characters gender or sexuality because of my personal defaults. Nor their brain capacity.

“I better tell them this character is gay.” “I better tell them this one is bi-sexual.”

I mean really, in life do people come up to you and say, “Hi I’m Ryan and I’m bi-sexual.” No, it’s ridiculous. I don’t go around saying, “Hi, I’m Doug and I’m straight.”

Other examples of “defaults”: dwarfs in fantasies always speak with a Scottish accent, drink ale,  and have beards. (even the female dwarfs)

Or the engineer on a Star Ship always lies about long it takes to repair the ship. “Oh I canna do it in less than 4 weeks in space dock.” And then has it repaired in 4 hours using spare parts made out of lasagna.

As I am working through the Cheesy space opera novel I am making a conscious effort to populate the world with women, but treat it as the norm. I am wondering what the effect will be on the reader. For example, any side characters or “spear carriers” are women. Why? I haven’t clue, it felt right.

It will take real time to repair the ship, and the engineer will underestimate the time. There will be characters and spear carriers of various genders and orientations. Will you know who is what – only if it furthers the story.

Be Well

dcd

 

 

 

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