Friday, February 13, 2009

Don't Confuse The Reader With Paper Bags

“I dunno, they had paper bags on their heads.” -- Yogi Berra, when asked whether two streakers at a baseball game were male or female.
I’m sure some of you wonder if I my lunch came from the liquor cabinet today. In the tradition of those nefarious peanut executives, I plead the fifth -- amendment or scotch, take your pick!

I put a bag over the head of one of the characters in this story. The ending doesn’t work otherwise. I do the same in another story, but I think the narrator’s gender is clear from the voice and dialog. If you don’t agree, I’d like to meet your friends.

I don’t do this often. Why? Some critiques demonstrated how the reader can get confused if the gender of a character isn't indicated in some way. As a reader, I assume the author and character are the same sex if I can't determine the gender from what's written. In my writing, if I omit the gender of a character, I have a good reason -- at least, I think I do.

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