Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Your Terms" in Timeless Tales

My first published short story, "Your Terms," has been published in Timeless Tales. Here's where you can read it!

If you're going to read it, please do so before reading the rest of this blog entry, because I want to ask you some questions about it, but I'd rather the questions don't influence your reading of the piece.

My story is the last one in the magazine, plus there are author bios for everyone with commentary on why we each wrote the story we did. Mine spoke to the importance of people with invisible illnesses and disabilities being respected and being regarded as deserving agency in their lives, along with a discussion of why it's dangerous to regard people with certain illnesses and disabilities as "inspiring" for the rest of us. Its central character--though not its perspective character--is a woman with agoraphobia.

The first-person narrator does not have a revealed gender.

If you read the piece, did you "feel" the narrator as any particular gender? Would you reveal your thoughts in the comments?

Writers, have you ever done this? Written a piece with a character whose gender is indeterminate and whose identity is not the focus? Readers, what other pieces, if any, have you read with narrators of indeterminate gender? I'm curious how common it is.

Also, if you've read my story, I'd love to hear what you think. Timeless Tales doesn't have a comment option, so I don't know what people thought of it if they are readers of the magazine, and despite the fair number of "Likes" on their Facebook page, no one's answered the question of which story was their favorite in the post about the new issue.

Anyway, I'm excited that my first short story has finally gone live, and since I sold another one that will drop next year, I feel like I'm on a roll. I'm working on finishing a short story that I left on hiatus, and I'm going to try a revision on another one and start submitting more. Hopefully that short story will be finished soon. If you're interested in test-reading my next piece--a deconstruction of romance tropes in the context of a bizarre stalking incident, with heavy queer representation--please let me know in the comments!


  1. Oh wow. I totally didn't even catch that the narrator was never identified in terms of gender o-e I kind of just thought "she" was also a woman. I can't really even think of a reason, it's just kind of how I saw the conversation start out.
    That's kind of cool. I've never tried something like that :D

    1. Thanks! Seems like most people thought it was a woman, and I personally thought of the narrator as a woman when I started writing . . . until some of the phrasing sounded more like one of my male characters, and I realized I wasn't sure and didn't care. Unfortunately, if I had made it clear the character was male, I think a lot of people would have assumed he had romantic intention for coming to a woman's house. That bothers me a lot because a) somehow if it's a woman then nobody sees any romantic intent, and b) apparently lesbians and men without "get in her pants" motives don't exist?

      Did you say you wanted to test-drive my new short story? If so, is the hotmail on your Blogger profile all right to send it to?

    2. (Ahhh I didnt see this earlier).

      Yeah, that email should be totally fine :D

  2. I did notice a little ways into the story that the narrator's gender was not indicated, but I think I read them as female or feminine for a couple of reasons. First, I think I'm just accustomed to reading your stories from female perspectives (though there are obviously exceptions). But beyond that, the interaction between the two characters just makes more sense to me, at least in the context of social expectations, if both are women. I feel that if the narrator were identified as male, Hope might not open up to him as readily or feel quite as comfortable in his presence; and while her mother never physically appears in the story, it might seem a bit odd to some readers if she implicitly trusted a male stranger to keep tabs on her daughter. That's just the way I read it, though, and I'm sure there are plenty of arguments for the other side.

    I once wrote an unfinished short story in which one major character was agender but was never explicitly identified as such; instead of using neutral pronouns or something like that, I made the rather bizarre decision to not use any personal pronouns at all to describe that character. The end result was a bit clumsy and didn't do much to draw attention *away* from their gender. I was pretty young when I wrote it, and the story had various other problems, but at the time it was an interesting experiment for me.

    Sorry for the super-long comment, but in response to the last part of your post, I would love to test-read your next short story when you finish it!

    1. I agree with you about how the characters in the story might have responded differently if the narrator was male. I think readers would have too. Unfortunately, if a male visitor was alone with a female visitor and you knew they were different sexes, many people would be so convinced that the man's motivation was romantic/sexual that they might "see" flirty intention where there absolutely was none. It bothers me both because it's not that unbelievable for a straight man to not hit on a woman AND because if it's a man he doesn't have to be straight or if it's a woman she could very well be gay and have romantic intention and yet no one suspects this.

      I like the agender character idea. I think I could probably write something where the character's gender wasn't revealed and remain fairly natural, but it'd be tricky to avoid pronouns. I do it sometimes with other things. Won't say where. ;)

      Your gmail still okay to send the story? I think it's ready to be looked at.

    2. Yes, my Gmail is fine. I'm super excited to read your story!