I suppose it’s time I made it official: Elly’s name is changing to Elliot. The main reason is that there are other elephant characters in print out there who have similar names. My publisher and I do not want Elly to be mistaken for any other elephant, as he’s obviously a unique little creature. At least Elliot sounds like Elly with an extra “ot” at the end, so I may occasionally use “Elly” as a nickname in conversation. I just want to clarify now so people don’t look at me funny when I call him Elliot.
This also brings up an interesting point. When I have told people about the new name, a common reaction has been, “GASP! I thought Elly was a girl! Why did you decide to change the sex?” In actuality, Elly has always been, in my mind, a boy. However, I have never “corrected” anyone who referred to him as a she. I like that Elly has been a bit androgynous. I think that whether this character is male or female is irrelevant. It is a polka-dotted elephant. Obviously, we are in the land of fantasy right now. There are no bits that need covering, and I do not have plans for Elliot to reproduce in the series. I think it’s safe to say that Elliot’s gender is a non-issue.
I originally tried writing the story with non-gender specific pronouns. I liked that Elly naturally became a boy or a girl in different people’s minds. However, this proved too difficult. The story is not about how the character is androgynous, and playing the pronoun game called too much attention to itself. To clarify, I think a gender neutral main character would be awesome, but maybe not for this project; it would have to be the focal point of the story. That said, Elliot may have a little friend who you will meet in the first book who finds it a bit easier to be gender-neutral!
To all of you who have called Elly/Elliot a girl, please, do not apologize. You can keep on thinking about her as a she, because he doesn’t mind. Elliot has much more important things to worry about, like how he’s going to get his next cupcake!!!