#Writing: changing a character’s gender to improve a scene

#Writing: changing a character's gender to improve a scene

For each chapter I write little notes beforehand, telling me what I am trying to achieve. Then I write to fulfil this goal.

So I have a chapter. It’s intended to introduce a character named John Sutton. My note reads:

Meet ex-mercenary John Sutton. He has just made camp with the rest of the expedition. There is tension between Sutton and Lord Trickett, whom he suspects is up to no good. Make sure that the readers get a sense for Sutton (honest, a fighter, decent guy). Introduce the idea of Flower Boys too and give a bit of a sense of the world.

Yep – not the most insightful of instructions to myself.

Thing was, once I wrote the chapter it was even more tedious and unenlightening than the note! The tension felt uncomfortable and very sterile – I could even say forced. You know – two guys meet and don’t like each other for no apparent reason. Huh? Nevertheless I ignored that and forged ahead. Yet every time I returned to review it, the chapter would bore me. I was loathe to delete it (with some others that I had recently deleted) because I had been accused by some of my beta readers of supplying insufficient background information to characters and places, and this chapter did the job (damn it).

So what to do?

A memory popped into my mind. A year or two ago on someone else’s blog (sorry – I cannot remember whose) I read that if a chapter feels boring, try changing the gender of one of the participants.


I guess it’s worth a try.

So Lord Trickett became Lady Trickett.

Here is a little description of Trickett before the sexual realignment:

Sutton was uncertain about Trickett. Trickett was short and lean, taut as a bowstring with a dancer