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I believe I already posted about this, say, oh, three years ago, but I can find no trace of it after scouring my tags. So, you get the dilemma presented to you again, with my apologies. But my flist has evolved in those three years and perhaps one of you out there might have new insight to give me.

So, as you clever people will have deduced by now, I have a problem.  I'm returning my attention to my ms To Be Undone, and I find myself wondering, yet again, how I can tackle the pronoun issue for my genderless beings, the Fravardin. I have a very good reason for not giving them a gender, but I won't go into here so as not to muddy the thinking waters.

I don't particularly feel drawn to the idea of using "it"* to describe the Fravardin. Imagine the gymnastics and ridiculous repetitions I would have to perform to keep from sounding like the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs: It puts the lotion on its skin.

Or a less tongue-in-cheek example from the WIP: The High Fravardin trailed its fingers over each mask, lingering on the curve of the girl’s cheek. It had carved and tinted it itself, working from the memory that, Ijad willing, would be expelled today.

Yes, for the second "it" I can use mask again, but let's face it, sometimes, in a novel-length work, it is going to be downright awkward to keep repeating either character names or avoiding using direct and indirect pronouns.

A solution I had come up with before was to copy a system I came across on the net, the Spivak pronouns. This did not receive an especially warm reception when I posted a few chapters to the OWW a while back.  I know that crits are hit or miss, anyhow, but would this avant-garde pronoun system make you put down a work? How about if the sections where the pronoun use is a bit heavier are extremely short?

Have you any alternatives to offer? I'd love hearing any advice and thoughts on the matter.
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* I know Neil Gaiman uses "it" to decent effect in Neverwhere in regards to his angel Islington, but I have more beings than that and I'll have to use the pronoun system more frequently.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
pjthompson
Jul. 23rd, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
The Spivak pronouns are a little weird, but if you established them as part of the world, people would probably come to accept them, if the rest of the story was worth the effort. I'm reading a book called A Madness of Angels right now in which an individual body sharing more than one entity alternately refers to himself as me and we or us, but that wouldn't necessarily help you. You could, however, perhaps, figure out a way to alternate it with another personal pronoun to help ground the reader, using it in ways that give hints as to what it's trying to convey. An example, only you'll do better: "The High Fravardin trailed its fingers over each mask, lingering on the curve of the girl’s cheek. It had carved and tinted it eyself, working from the memory that, Ijad willing, would be expelled today. If only ey had enough time the High Fravardin might work miracles, but time was not on its side, or on the side of the Fravardin eirselves." Er, well, yanno, whatever. Maybe that's not so skillful, but...
mnfaure
Jul. 25th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
So you think a mix of pronouns would be less confusing on the reader than one straight-up set to deal with?

My first reaction is that it will be even more confusing. :P But as the writer, I'm obviously not able to see clearly enough on this matter.

I don't know how much you remember of this story, but I've gone back and took out a lot of the "flavor" words I had, preferring good ol' English where possible, and trying to explain my concepts as clearly as possible when not. In light of that, I think the odd pronouns would work. However, my main and most pressing problem with them is: They open the book!

Surefire way to scare off new readers, I'm afraid. :(
pjthompson
Jul. 25th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know. I could just be blowing smoke out of a distaff orifice, too. I can't really tell you, "This is more/less confusing" until I see, you know? The best advice I can give you is: if it feels good, do it. :-) If it don't, don't.
frigg
Jul. 23rd, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yup, I'm with PJ. I was about to write something similar, but she did it so much better than me. :)
pjthompson
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
Heh. :-)
asakiyume
Jul. 23rd, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
I've seen people use "ze" and "hir" and things in online discussions when they're trying not to reveal someone's gender.

I think readers would get used to a novel pronoun.
mnfaure
Jul. 25th, 2010 10:25 am (UTC)
*nods* that is what I was hoping for: A little reader patience until they got used to the idea. The main problem I have is that the book starts with one of these wonky pronoun sections, before the reader has a chance to really relate to anyone/thing in the story. For structural and logic reasons, the story needs to stay the way it is; however, perhaps I could try to sneak a little more personality into the opening.

That certainly couldn't hurt. :)

This is why musing to other writers is so helpful. The (possible) solution of tweaking the opening is such a D'oh! thing, but it didn't occur to me until I started to answer you. :D

Hope your trip is off to a wonderful start, btw.
jodi_davis
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:22 am (UTC)
"In Irish, the male singular pronoun sé is used as a gender-neutral term; however, the third-person masculine plural disappeared from Irish, and the (originally) feminine siad is now used for all instances of "they"."
mnfaure
Jul. 25th, 2010 10:27 am (UTC)
Where have you been, woman?!

Ok, now that we have that out of the way: That is cool about Irish. I had no idea. It just goes to show that the concept exists in other languages (and in my opinion should in English as well :P ) and makes sense to people!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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