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09 December 2012 @ 10:49 am
Make Mine Mulan  
I was thinking last night about the next middle grade series I want to write. Nevermind that I have two possibly three books left to write in the current series; the new and the shiny is always more exciting. Anyway, I started to wonder: how much of a lie can you sell readers?

Because the story is your general Sword of Shannara thing (I have *no problem* with treading familiar territory: nobody can tell the same story I'm going to), but my vague impulse is to Mulan it: last chapter, our 'hero' goes home, takes her hair down, and kicks back. None of the story is about worrying about being Found Out, so 'she' is 'he' all the way through.

I wonder if you can even *do* that in fiction, or if it's telling too much of a lie. This is how the original Mulan poem ends, after Mulan has returned home and put her girl clothes back on:

I step out to see my comrades-in-arms, They are all surprised and astounded:
'We travelled twelve years together, Yet didn't realise Mulan was a lady!'"

The male rabbit is swifter of foot, The eyes of the female are somewhat smaller.
But when the two rabbits run side by side, How can you tell the female from the male?

I kind of love that.

The society would apparently have to be one where women/girls didn't typically go off to adventure, because otherwise there's no reason to Mulan it, except for my general belief that books aimed at little boys in particular ought to do their best to change gender expectations. The other thought is just to make the hero a girl from the start, but I /am/ writing these middle grade books mostly for little boys (my nephews have NO IDEA, NO IDEA how amazing this is), so I'm more inclined to try turning things on their ear.

Y'know, two years down the road when I get a chance to do this idea, anyway. :)


eta: over on Twitter, when this discussion was put to them, with the follow-up of "It's a trilogy. Reveal at the end of book 1 & risk losing audience or keep it up for 3 books?", Fred responded with, "Rite of passage - 1st, conceal from reader; 2nd, conceal from world, conspire with reader; 3rd, confront world, ally with reader," which I think is a *perfect* approach. Hah! Yay!
helsinkibaby: readhelsinkibaby on December 9th, 2012 11:13 am (UTC)
I think it can work- I remember being in 4th class and reading "The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler" by Gene Kemp and being shocked at the end when Tyke is a girl! I've often wanted to reread it as an adult to see how Kemp handled pronouns etc...
kitmizkit on December 9th, 2012 12:50 pm (UTC)
I'll have to read that!
helsinkibabyhelsinkibaby on December 9th, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
I keep trying to track it down, let me know if you manage to find it! Maybe Chapters, esp the second hand section..
kitmizkit on December 9th, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
here, I said helpfully. :)
jamileigh17jamileigh17 on December 9th, 2012 01:24 pm (UTC)
I think it'd be awesome, especially if there are some clues laid down that after the reveal, the kid can mentally piece together and go "Oooh, that gives a whole different dimension to This and That scene". (Mostly because I adore when authors can pull that off without making it obvious from page 3 what the twist is. I was a puzzle dork as a child, can you tell? ;))
kitmizkit on December 9th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
It's hard not to telegraph it from page 3, particularly to an adult reader, I think. I suppose we'll see if I'm up to it. :)
jamileigh17: cheshirejamileigh17 on December 9th, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you are. You're deft enough with your plotting, and that's something that crosses over all ages. I've read some amazing MG over the years, mostly by following crossover authors, like Cat Valente and Neil Gaiman. So I have every confidence in your ability to do it! (And I also agree with Fred. The progression like that seems like it'd work amazingly well)
joycemocha on December 9th, 2012 02:39 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I agree with Fred--conceal from reader in first book, conceal from world/conspire with reader in the second, then confront the world and ally with the reader in the third. Love the concept.
The owner of a grey cat: book sarahjennielf on December 9th, 2012 02:43 pm (UTC)
I saw this on twitter and I think it is absolutely BRILLIANT!! (I would read the hell out of it with whatever gender of children I have.)

That being said, will it actually work for mainstream audiences... I have no clue, *but* I think readers, editors, publishers (especially the smarter ones) are getting to the point where they know stories like this are coming or want to read/experiment with them. You are right though, there is an honesty issue between you and your readers, but I think handled correctly, it would work, especially, if it could be a trilogy thingy as Fred said.
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kitmizkit on December 10th, 2012 09:47 am (UTC)
I shall put those on my Christmas list!
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kitmizkit on December 10th, 2012 09:44 am (UTC)
What movie, what book? I'm curious 'cause I'd like to look at examples, especially, perhaps, those that *don't* work. You can email me if you don't want to post spoilers for something here! :) cemurphyauthor@gmail.com :)
Geek of Weird Shit: sensualgows on December 9th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Oo! Fred is /brilliant/.
tamagotamago on December 9th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
I remember when my brothers got to the end of the video game Metroid for the big reveal that the power suited character they were playing was.... *gasp!* a girl! It was a fantastic moment for them. Maybe it was just that they were the right age for it, but they realized that, just possibly, there were girls in the world who also liked the stuff they liked. It was like their possible friend pool had doubled. So, I am all in favor of Mulan-ing it.