I have a question, does anyone here know what the Bechdel Test is? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I didn’t know about it until a few months ago myself. It’s actually a very interesting thing:
The Bechdel Test is a measuring stick used to rate movies. It’s a very easy test to pass, you see all you need to do is have two female characters in a scene together, and have them talk about literally any thing other than the male protagonist, at least once. Sadly, most movies don’t pass this test.
Now at this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what I know about movies or Hollywood, and while I don’t know much about the industry, I have and still do write screenplays. It’s something I do as a creative break from my novels, and it helps keep the juices flowing.
Not to mention, writing a screenplay has definitely helped me make my dialogue stronger, but that’s a post for another day.
When I learned about the Bechdel Test, I realized how true it was. I can’t remember very many popular movies where the women were given any kind of purpose in the story except to fawn over the gallant hero and sing his praises and boast his accolades.
Do you know what these characters amount to? Nothing but wall art!
Looking back at my own work, I fall into this trap too occasionally. Thankfully I have an editor who catches it immediately and deserves a well deserved swat upside the head.
If you’re half way through your manuscript, and you have ANY kind of character whether they be male, female, animal, mineral or vegetable that isn’t driving the story, then it’s either time to tweak the story or scrap the character entirely.
I actually find it kind of silly that this test only focuses on women, as I’ve seen other examples of useless character tropes:
All of these types of characters are either used to bring in a little excitement, humor, or to give you someone to hate. While this is all well and good, people often forget one giant factor in any character’s appearing in the story.
They need to have a purpose!
In No Rest for the Wicked, I had a character who was just there to be the bad guy at the right moment. He wasn’t even the antagonist! He was just a pawn in the antagonist’s game and I never stopped thinking of him in those terms. Once my editor realized something was wonky there, I went back and not only gave him a bigger role in the story, but I actually made him a real person and not just one of the caricatures you see in this post.
Moral of the story here people, is that if you can’t find some way to value your own character in driving the plot, then there’s something wrong and it definitely needs to be addressed.
So what do you think? Agree, disagree, think I’m nuts? Have you fallen into the trap of failing your own personal Bechdel Test? Do you see it everywhere you look now?
Whatever you think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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The Bro picture is property of Czar