When does gender matter?

As part of my New Year’s resolutions to finish every story that I start, I’ve just finished Good Game, a story about a man visited by his dead father, although I think the dog steals the show—see below. For you chess players, the story is centered in the world of chess, hence the title. For anyone who doesn’t play chess, you won’t hear players wish each other “Good luck.” That would be considered bad chess etiquette. Since chess is a game of skill, most players would be offended if you wished them luck. The term used before a game and also coinciding with the handshake at the end is “Good game.”

Finally, I’m getting to the point of this blog: when does gender matter? I play chess, but I am unusual in that–I am a woman. Very few women play chess. In fact, when I taught chess both as an elective chess class and an after school chess club for middle school students, almost all of my students were boys. I had one girl only one semester in the chess elective class. I had a couple of other girls start the class and then drop it after a few days. Chess is simply a boy’s sport. Therefore, the audience for Good Game will likely be men.

Here was my dilemma. The main character in the story was a woman who plays chess. I wondered, would men read 2,900 words about a woman? Could they relate to her? And would women want to read a story about a chess player? I wanted to keep her, but I rewrote the story from a male point of view. Did I cave or was I being smart? The male perspective changed the story completely. Men react and show emotion differently than women. A man won’t cry so easily, for example. Since the story is written in first person, it is now a different story than the first draft. But, like my dog trainer says about our dog, “He is what he is.”

servicedog.jpg

As a side note about dogs, in researching the role of the dog in Good Game I ran across the Carolina Canines Web site. Service dogs trained through Carolina Canines for Service, Inc. are able to perform the following tasks for their partners:

• Retrieving dropped/distant objects
• Pulling wheelchairs and loading wheelchairs into vehicles
• Opening doors
• Carrying items/packages
• Rising to high counters
• Physical support for mobility and transfers to/from wheelchairs
• Physical assistance to recover from a fall
• Dressing or undressing
• Assisting with household tasks such as bed making and laundry

Now, we’ve got to quit working with Alex on his aggression issues–as a result of his history before being rescued–and start training him to do household chores. I’ll let you know when he starts making the bed and doing laundry.

I was not surprised to learn that the extensive training required for each service dog takes 18-24 months in basic training and 6-12 months in advanced training. These dogs are provided free of charge from Carolina Canines to people with disabilities including: cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injury and seizure disorders. This is a savings of $2,000 – $12,000 for the disabled. What a worthy endeavor. Some people do have a two to three year wait for a service dog, though.

As far as my progress on my young adult NIP, I have reached a standstill. I’m still trying to decide whether to include Pocahontas and, as a result, have lost momentum. I’ll get back to it, though. I always do. Meanwhile, I’m trying to set realistic goals and then focus on one goal at a time. My goal for today is to revise Remission, a story I wrote earlier this year, and submit it to the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. Deadline is February 1. Wish me luck.

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One Response to “When does gender matter?”

  1. […] gender of the main character to a man to reach the readers who play chess, predominately men, as previously posted. So far, the story has been rejected by one magazine, didn’t’ place in a short story contest […]

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