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A question on grammar and the use of pronouns
From: guest (Twyla) , 130 months, post #1
Figured this board would be a good place to answer a big problem that I ran into. If there are any teachers (or someone majoring in English) out there, I need your help!

I'm in the process of writing out a trilogy I plan to mass market when I stumbled upon a conundrum. In the story, one of the the main characters (male) is forced to swap bodies with a girl. He retains all of his memories and is conscious of whom he is and his unwanted gender change.

Here's my problem: what would be the correct pronoun used when describing the that character? (Note: this is only one person in a large cast of characters. Think Frodo in the "Lord of the Rings' )

Here's my debate:

1-If I use the 'feminine' (she, her), I can avoid unnecessary filler scenes needed to remind reader of the change and be true to the new female form. They'll still be the obvious masculine traits being exhibited, but . . .

2-If I use the 'masculine' (him, his) I can reflect his true mentality. (Then switch to the feminine usage when the character eventually accepts 'her' fate, if the story calls for it)

I've read a lot of tg fiction writing over the years and I noticed that it's kind of split down the middle. Is this just an author's prerogative? Or, is there a grammatical ruling on this?

I don't want to put anything campy like a footnote stating that: from now on, Character One will be referred to as a she). I'd like for this to be as professional as possible.

Also, please don't ask about the title of the book. One must keep 'her' anonymity. Don't worry, I'll be sure to post up an entry when it's available.


From: guest (Greg) , 130 months, post #2
I don't think there's any sort of rule in the English language, so it's really up to you.

I'm of the opinion that since the character in question is still mentally a male, he should still be referred to as a "he" in the narration. I mean, the very concept of gender-specific pronouns is essentially constructed around human perception, and if the character retains his memories and personality, as readers we still perceive him as "male" in spite of his new biology.

It's also for consistency's sake because I imagine you had been referring to him as a "he" up until the swap anyway.

From: guest , 130 months, post #3
"he (or is it she now?)" for the first usage afterward would be good for comic effect...though I'm going to have to say 'he', though have some prompts here and there to remind the reader of his outside gender, I guess.

"He looked down and was reminded of his new, effeminate form" or etc.

From: guest , 130 months, post #4
It would be a feminine form, not an effeminate form.

Effeminate would be if he was male, but had feminine traits.

From: guest (devo) , 130 months, post #5
English uni student...

No rule as far as im aware. Personally, I find it better when the person is referred to as a he/him/his, unless another character is talking about them, who has no knowledge of the change.

From: guest (amy l) , 130 months, post #6
Your questions seem to be questions of flavor, rather than actual grammatical rules. There hasn't been a situation to truly study in which a character has swapped genders. Authors simply made it up and went with what they felt suited the story better.

What are you trying to get out of the story? Is this a continual struggle for the character, as you have said he was forced into the swap? Does he fight his new female form, or does he welcome it with open arms? Perhaps you can make your use of pronouns an aspect of your story. He may firmly refer to himself as a he, yet as the story progresses, and as he may or may not accept his new form, he might refer to himself as she. It's a subtle way of showing the reader that he's coming around to being a girl, without bludgeoning them over the head with it.

From: dis_guise , 130 months, post #7
I just go with the body's gender, partly to avoid oddities such as "his breasts" or "her penis." Also, if you have a character who for a lifetime has felt that he's a woman in a male body, that character's still a "he," no?

I can understand doing things the other way, mind you. I just think that following the body's gender is simplest. There's really no hard and fast rule, as body swaps are all fictional and uncommon except in a few genres. (The whole question of TS people is another can of worms.)

From: guest (ajunkie13) , 130 months, post #8
I like he as long as he maintains his male state of mind. however, as he adjusts to being female(say starts finding men a little attractive perhaps, or does not think of himself as male anymore) then i would say start using female pronouns.

From: guest (Twyla) , 130 months, post #9
Thanks for all you your advice and suggestions. I was leaning towards the "he" angle, but wasn't too sure. Now, I feel better about doing so.

To answer Amy I's question, the character will find himself forced into the girl's body. There, due to plot points, he is going to be literally stuck in that body until he dies. It's going to be a transition of him going through the denial phase to eventually (possibly) excepting his fate and embrace womanhood.

Thanks, again. You've all been a great help.

From: Chalkerfan , 130 months, post #10
In Storm Constantine's excellent book "Hermetech" a surgically created hermaphrodite is referred to as Hir or SHe (correct spelling and capitals).
During your characters mental transition to femininity could you use distinct, but recognisable terms like these?
Hope that helps.
If it muddies the waters....well that's what forums are for!

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