Author Topic: Bechdel test question  (Read 107 times)

Offline DrCCat

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Bechdel test question
« on: April 08, 2021, 12:59:14 AM »
I was noticing that many of the the agents are putting their pronouns in their twitter bios. Not that I would lose any sleep over it, you do you, it got me wondering.

If a submission can pass the Bechdel test, what so many are starting to use to gatekeep, and so many are putting "LGBTQ+ community" on their web page would it not be advantageous to add this in the query letter? 

If so how should one write this without sounding pretentious?
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam - attributed to General Hannibal

Offline jonny_555

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2021, 03:43:44 AM »
Hello DrCCat,

I have not heard of agents using the Bechdel test for a gatekeeping sort of filter with submissions. Are you seeing this on their profiles? I know there are drives at present to focus on submissions from minority groups for sure, and calling this out in your submission if you fall into any of these categories should have some advantage I am sure. #ownvoices though will apply, at least from what I see.

I personally never use pronouns. I always use the person's first name, unless they are a doctor or general etc.

Offline Tabris

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2021, 05:17:29 AM »
Don't get me started about the Bechdel test. Two girls giggling about nail polish during a slumber party would pass, but two Black Ops sharpshooters wouldn't ["I'm taking the shot!"] if the target is a male.

The way to show the story passes the Bechdel test is to pass it. Have more than one female character in the story. Don't have your female character talk about nothing but hot men. :-)

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2021, 08:49:40 AM »
Quote
The way to show the story passes the Bechdel test is to pass it. Have more than one female character in the story. Don't have your female character talk about nothing but hot men.

Nailed it. Saying "this book passes the Bechdel test" wouldn't convince me. I've only seen one agent say that manuscripts must pass the Bechdel test, and I see why she said it that way, but Tabris is right that you can pass it (and the comparable LGBTQ+ test that I've now forgotten the name of) without actually having any good representations of women (or LGTBQ+ folks) in your story. So do what Tabris said, and just write women and other marginalized folks as fully rounded people, and you're good.

Offline jonny_555

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2021, 08:53:45 AM »
@ MKWrites_318, this LGTBQ+ test you mentioned. Does it apply to all manuscripts or only those where such characters exist?

I.e. if I send a query for a manuscript that does not feature any LGTBQ+ characters, does that mean I fail the test?

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2021, 09:51:34 AM »
Technically, yes, you'd be failing. But most agents aren't using the Bechdel test or the LGBTQ+ test as a guideline - plenty probably haven't even heard of them. If they're conscious of representation, then they're looking for good representation, not following a test.

Offline jcwrites

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2021, 12:20:05 PM »
Agents survive by following the market. Until and unless the reading public demands a Bechdel rating be displayed on the covers of the books they buy, it'll remain a nonissue in the submissions they take on.

Offline raktinope

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2021, 12:37:00 PM »
I would only mention the Bechdel test if the agent specifically calls it out in their MSWL.

Online Odd John

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Re: Bechdel Test question
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2021, 01:01:47 PM »
The original Bechdel Test essentially boiled down to "Does the novel include at least two named female characters that relate on more than a superficial level?" (Especially if they avoid a relation that only revolves around discussing men.) In other words, avoiding one-dimensional, shallow, token characters.

Of course it can be applied to any character of any minority status. Here things can get rather sticky IF multiple Bechdel Tests are required. Does every novel have to include at least two minor characters of each minority status? If done in an unwriterly, forced manner, the MS becomes crowded with inauthentic characters. Will most/all novels come to resemble each other too much? Will frankly minority stories taking place in minority neighborhoods or milieus be required to include two-dimensional majority characters? (To this I say no.)  Having said all this, I look forward to that bright future where things "end up" this way due to common subconscious conviction. In this way these characters would become convincing. In today's real world, very few people are biased against people with different eye color, or handedness. Let's hope the future allows for everyone else.

Refrain: So the characters must be at least two dimensional, not shallow, but not having to fulfill the three dimensional requirement of significant change or novel length character arcs. Sans admission from the writer (a rather unlikely event), it all begs the question, how does an Agent determine this? It seems to me the only way to know would be to read the entire MS! Good!

Thus, I might avoid using any "badges" unless the MS is frankly and directly concerned with minority themes and story.

Having said all this, the obvious exception to the exception is the original Bechdel Test subject: women. The last time I checked, women comprised 51.1% of the population in the USA. You better have at least two fully realized characters who are women. Realism, anyone? I think I might even suggest, um, more...
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 04:54:04 AM by Odd John »
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Offline jonny_555

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #9 on: Yesterday at 04:08:01 AM »
I would hate to be "forced" to bloat my character count and story just in order to have a shot at landing an agent or publisher. I'm sure most authors agree. And like Odd John says, there are just so many different factions to these diversty areas, that even if done right, you literally could have 100's of characters (x2 of course). Imagine Cast Away remade with this test: Tom Hanks roughing it with 200 other lonely people on an island, each with their own unique ball. Or the new "certified" Scooby Doo team now travelling in a convoy of buses to solve crimes.

I can completely understand why this would be important with ownvoices, and stuff like that, but for general fiction too? I'm going to, for my own sanity, go with Odd John's approach:

Avoid using any "badges" unless the MS is frankly and directly concerned with minority themes and story.

Offline Tabris

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Re: Bechdel test question
« Reply #10 on: Yesterday at 06:41:41 PM »
Aside: the Sexy Lamp Test: if any character could be replaced by a sexy lamp, leaving the story otherwise the same, your story fails the test. Remove the character.  ;D