Last week, I mentioned that I had chosen to gender switch one of my Roman gladiators. He wasn’t working: I couldn’t think of a suitable back story that was engaging or would inspire empathy, his character was a watered down version of two others and was therefore too similar without being distinct in his own right. I decided that he should become a she, a gladiatrix and immediately came up with what I felt was an engaging back story.
This week, the comic book world was lit up by the bizarre tale that the hero Thor was to become a woman – something I find strange, personally considering that Thor is an ancient Norse god and it’s not as though Norse mythology had no goddesses or heroines. So this week I’ve written a flash fiction piece of a hypothetical conversation between a creator and his or her character that the writer has decided to gender swap. This is pretty generic, not aimed at any one character in particular and is gender neutral too so feel free to apply it to any of your own characters.
‘Hello character, we need to talk…’
‘Ah writer, hello. How are you?” The character sat and leaned back in the chair. ‘Listen, I’m really bored sitting around here. Can’t you give me some new things to do.’
The writer nodded. ‘That is what I want to talk to you about.’
The character punched the air in delight. ‘Excellent because, you know we haven’t really spent any time together recently. You’ve given the others some things to do and you know… not that I’m taking it personally or anything but I’m feeling a little bit left out.’
The writer sighed and reassuringly put a hand on the character’s shoulder. ‘As I said, we need to talk.’
The character’s face dropped. ‘I know what that means. You’re dumping me, aren’t you? You’re going to kill me off or something.’
‘No, no! I want us to stay together but it’s not working in its present state. Things have to change.’
‘Was it when I -‘
The writer cut the character off there. ‘No, it’s nothing you’ve done or not done. It’s not you, it’s me.’
‘Oh that old chestnut,’ the character crossed its arms.
‘It’s true! I’ve not been happy with us for a while. From the beginning I knew something was wrong and it’s about time we did things a little differently.’
‘I can change!’ the character exclaimed, throwing its arms up to plead with the writer.
‘Change – yes. I’m glad you agree. That’s precisely what I have in mind and this is what we’re going to do,’ the writer leaned forward and whispered into the ear of the character whose face went from intrigue to confusion to – at long last – abject horror.
‘Noooooo!’ the character fell to its knees, ‘you can’t do this to me!’
‘Sorry, but it has to if our relationship is to survive.’
‘But I like being the way I am. Can’t we just-‘
‘No,’ snapped the writer, ‘I’ve thought about everything else and this is the only way. It’s the way things have to be.’
‘You can’t do this to me, it’s my body. You can’t force a sex change on me!’
‘Actually, no it isn’t your body. According to copyright laws, I have complete power over it. Sorry, but you are not a real person.’
‘I thought you were different,’ the character shook its head. ‘I thought equality meant something to you but now I see you are just part of the global oppressive creativarchy!’
‘Creativarchy? That doesn’t even make sense! I’m sorry, but this is just the way things have to be.’ The writer picked up a pen, opened the notebook on the table and began to write, cross out existing notes and tear out whole pages.
A magical blue light appeared at the centre of the character, expanding out like a wave until the character’s entire body was consumed by it. In an instant, the blue light was gone and standing before the writer was a character who looked similar but clearly the opposite gender to the character that stood there previously.
The character shrugged. ‘I feel a bit one dimensional if I’m honest.’
The writer nods. ‘That’s fine; it’s because your personality and back story haven’t been fully fleshed out yet. They will come in time. You won’t stay that way.’
‘People are going to start treating me differently. I had privileges before, you know. People treated me a certain way,’ the character immediately looked concerned.
‘And you’ll have a new set of privileges. People will treat you differently and you’ll find that some people will respond more positively to you and some will respond more negatively. That’s just the nature of things.’
The character touched its new body parts, even groping those areas that would have been inappropriate in polite society. ‘I could get used to having these… I think.’
‘Do you mind!’ exclaimed the writer. ‘Do it when I’m not looking.’
The character relented and returned its hands to its sides. ‘Okay, I have time to get used to that. So, writer… tell me what you have in mind.’