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». 

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