Terms of Service gender breakdown

by , under writing

It’s because of this. Roughly in order of appearance but I’ve conflated characters in the same category, even from different chapters/contexts. I changed my own criteria several times while compiling the list, but I think I agree with myself now. I’m pleased with the results, especially as I didn’t make any effort at all to get a good balance.

I wanted to do it with the WIR (well, one of the Ws in R) too, but being in R sort of precludes that, because neither has had its Cruelty to Characters Week yet so it can still change. Also, it’s a lot of work: several hours for this list. (I’ll probably have a finished novelette in a month; that will be interesting to do because it’s set in alternate 1960s.)

Some of the listed characters end up dead in the course of the book, but under ‘dead people’ I only list those we never see alive at all.


‘page’ – child in training in a noble household
‘squire’ – young person in training in a noble household
‘apprentice’ – young person in beginning training by an independent artisan or in a guild
‘journeyman’ – young person in somewhat advanced training by an independent artisan or in a guild (note that the young people in training in the Order of the Sworn are journeymen, not novices, because they’re journeymen in the Guild of Anshen; anyway, the Order of the Sworn has a temple but is not a temple)
‘guildmaster/mistress’ – the head of a guild in a town or city
‘knight’ – any fully trained person in the Royal Guards or the Order of the Sworn (I don’t have a culture-appropriate blanket term for those, but they have roughly the same function as each other in the narrative so I borrowed a blanket term from a different culture)
‘knight-commander’ – the head of the Royal Guards or of a house of the Order of the Sworn (ditto)
‘novice’ – young person in training in a temple
‘priest(ess)’ – fully trained person in service in a temple
‘high priest(ess)’ – the head of a temple

Critical to the plot

3 women: a priestess, a guildmistress, a poor girl (later weaver); a goddess.
2 men: a merchant’s son, a spy; 2 gods.

Important to the plot

8 women: a novice mistress, a novice (later priestess), a thug, a confidential secretary, a doctor, an apprentice (later midwife and guildmistress), a crown princess (later queen), a poor girl (later dressmaker).
1 androgynous: a god(dess).
11 men: a thug, a high priest, a swordmaster, a wine merchant, an apprentice (later duellist), a guildmaster, a baron, a baron’s son (later baron), a prince, a clerk (later merchant), a nobleman.

Focus in at least one scene

Or more than one one-line appearance. Some, and arguably most, of these are important to the plot or they wouldn’t have survived Cruelty to Characters Week, but not so important that they get to be in the higher category.

27 women: a high priestess, a teacher, a human trafficker, a school principal, a swordswoman, a knight (later knight-commander), a maid (later housekeeper), a housekeeper’s daughter, a midwife, a schoolgirl, a treasurer, a courtier, a messenger, a merchant, a cabin girl, a fisherwoman, a senior clerk, a squire, a priestess, 2 doctor’s daughters, a merchant’s daughter, a doctor, a student, a journeyman, a child (later doctor), a wainwright.
21 men: 2 merchants, a merchant’s son, a priest, a knight-commander, a journeyman, an elderly man, a baby (later child), 2 messengers, 2 high priests, a landlord, a senior clerk, an archivist, a doctor’s small son, a weaver, a guildmaster, a baron’s son, a miller, a brewer.

One or a few lines

From when a clerk says “Can I help you?” up to a short conversation but not enough to carry a scene.

23 women: 5 novices, a townswoman, 2 maids, a dressmaker, a swordsmith, 2 priestesses, a swordswoman, 2 bath-house clerks, a town guard, a high priestess, a lady of the manor, a clerk, a noblewoman, a school principal, a brewer, a baroness.
29 men: a crook, a cook, an obnoxious man, a student, 2 knights, a tailor, a novice, a tall priest, a bath attendant, a former fencing champion, a swordsman, a butcher, a schoolboy, a journeyman, a messenger boy, a town guard, a priest, a bystander, a doctor, a stablehand, 2 noblemen, a clerk, a boatman, a schoolmaster, a high priest, a guest.
1 unspecified: a clerk.

Brief appearance

Seen but not heard, like guards, or vice versa, like musicians.

18 women: a fishwife, a fishwife’s daughter, 2 priestesses, an old woman, a noblewoman, a novice, a squire, a farrier, a priestess, a princess, a maid, an artist, a swordswoman, a brewer’s 3 daughters, an unborn baby (I know that from another story), a dressmaker’s apprentice.
12 men: a handyman, 2 merchants, a priest, a fiddler, a donkey-driver, 3 squires, an archer, a teacher, a flunky.
56 unspecified: 2 flunkies, a toddler, 30 knights, 7 recruits, 16 guild members.
Groups: 2 different sets of guild members, sword students, knights, novices, a congregation (hundreds of people), a wedding party, dressmaker’s assistants, musicians, servants, children, university students, law students, several lots of gate guards, guests at a feast, someone’s children, shanty-town inhabitants, a wedding procession, brides, babies.

Mentioned, but do not appear

Either talked about by other characters, or present in the protagonist’s backstory or memory.

210 women: an aunt, a village priestess, 2 high priestesses, a senior priestess, a novice, a maid, a maid’s mother, a cousin, 200 wives of a foreign king, a midwife.
18 men: an uncle, a king, a captive, a knight-commander, a husband, a weaver, a guildmaster, a weaponsmith, a prince-consort, two shady characters, a squire, a boatman, a page, a foreign king, a baron’s son, a miller, a builder.
7 unspecified: 2 grand masters, baby twins, a doctor, 2 clerks.
Groups: several trafficked girls, servants, guild members, people at a meeting.

Dead people

5 women: 4 mothers, a wife, someone’s grandfather’s daughter (either mother or aunt).
8 men: a father, a two-year-old child, someone’s grandfather and grandfather’s son (either father or uncle), 2 historical kings, a sheriff, a young husband.
25 unspecified: 2 rescued sailors who died anyway, 23 drowned sailors.
Groups: historical kings and queens.


A cat, a rat, 2 geldings, 2 mares, an unspecified horse, 2 donkeys, a lizard, lots of little fishes, a roast pheasant.

Countable people: 79 women, 75 men, 57 unspecified people. Groups are mixed, except obviously the trafficked girls and the brides and perhaps the dressmaker’s assistants. Individual men are in the majority in the ‘mentioned’ and ‘dead’ categories, but that’s amply compensated for by the foreign king’s wives! As for those, only two are queens, several more favoured concubines, and the rest slaves with a fancy title, but the characters in this novel don’t know that.

1 goddess, 1 androgynous deity and 2 gods actually do something, and a fifth, the god the protagonist serves for most of her life, doesn’t have an active role in the plot at all. (Typical of him, I’d say!)

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