2200 more words and failing the Bechdel test

Day two of the NaNoWriMo challenge is done. It’s early enough that I might conceivably go back to writing but late enough that taking a break now means I’m likely to be done for the day.

I finished the first chapter of the novel. I’ve introduced one major character directly and four other major characters in backstory/exposition. And I’ve started another chapter, which introduces one more major character, though we haven’t really gotten to know anything about her yet. Today’s word count is 2,278 which leaves me less than 600 words short of one-tenth of the 50,000 word goal.

I didn’t think of this when I was laying out the outlines of this part of the story arc, but most of the major characters in this book are women. It only now occurred to me, and possibly only because I watched Joss Whedon’s 2006 speech about being asked why he writes strong women not too long ago. I like Whedon’s work just fine for the most part but he isn’t what I would call a direct influence. And I didn’t set out to tell a story about women or strong women or anything like that; the characters are who they are because they make sense in the story.

At only 4500 words I’ve only had one brief bit of dialogue, and it is between a (major) female character and a (minor) male character, so I still haven’t passed the Bechtel Test. And to tell the truth I’m not sure when I will. Looking over my story outline I don’t see that I have specifically planned out any scenes where any of these women actually talk to one another. Or are even on the same continent for that matter. I find it hard to believe that they won’t at some point, but I’m also not inclined to change the story to meet a somewhat arbitrary test.

I also don’t have any scenes planned where men talk to men about something other than women. But just because it’s not in the outline doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I’m pretty sure at some point Jed and his grandfather need to interact with one another directly in order to foreshadow what’s coming in the next book. I have a number of women talking to men and other women talking to other men. I have a woman talking to a man about a woman, but that woman doesn’t actually appear in any scenes. An earlier outline had a woman killing a man, but I’m not sure that whole scenario fits the character. Anyway, as it gets closer to the end these different story arcs have to get tied together. I’m sure I’ll get some of these women in the same room. And if they talk, you can rest assured they will either be talking about firearms or physics.

I find it interesting to observe these patterns. What I’ve outlined and written of the first and third stories is very driven by the male characters. For the second story, I’m working hard to shoehorn the male characters in! (Since the series is named for a male character,1 that guy has got to show up somewhere.)

Anyway, funny the stuff that comes up when writing. Once again, having hit my target today it feels like a real accomplishment. I definitely need more of this.

  1. Technically, he’s an alien, so I’m not even sure it’s entirely accurate to refer to him as «him». ↩︎