We’re BACK! Despite deadlines and life chaos in general, Kelly and JJ just couldn’t stay away. Welcome to Half-Pint Happy Hour! These are short episodes where we check in, catch up, and answer questions to tide us all over until we can return to full-length content.
Question from Megan:
I’m in the process of writing my first book, and I have some concerns. Namely, I’m worried about how girls/women are represented in my book. My protagonist is male, the narrative is a close third person, and the setting (due to the cultural landscape at the moment) is predominantly male. I do have a few female characters in prominent roles, and others in tertiary roles. I’m doing my best to make them (and the rest of the cast) as well-written/rounded as I can, but I know that as it stands now, my book wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, in that I don’t really have situations where those females are talking amongst themselves with interacting with/referencing a guy. (It does happen, but off screen, so to speak.)
I’ve tried rewriting the story several different ways to try and overcome this deficit (up to and including trying to write this as a dual POV with my most prominent female character who, and trying to write my main character as a female) but it always ends up detracting from the story I’m trying to tell. Given the close pov of the narration, I can’t think of a natural way to have a conversation between my female characters that doesn’t pertain to any male character without having my protagonist eavesdropping on them (which in my current plot structure would be super creepy, forced, and out of character), and I don’t know how I would make such a conversation plot relevant enough to include it.
I want my book to have great and prominent female characters, but I also don’t want to shoehorn characters and scenes in, just so I can say I have them. Do you have any advice for this situation? How do I know when I have enough, and when when I’ve gone too far? (Can one even go too far, in this matter? Is the concern that adding more could muddy/jeopardize the main story even a legitimate one?) If I can’t change my protagonist/his story enough to add more female characters, what are some good ways to bolster the female characters I have to make them the best they can be?
Megan, you must chill. It’s gonna be ok! The Bechdel-Wallace test is just one way to measure one element of a story. Rather than trying to shoe-horn in scenes that aren’t organic to the story, instead focus on making sure that the female characters that you do have are well-rounded characters, with rich inner lives and humanity.
Question from Sara:
I just finished listening to WINTERSONG on audiobook, and I noticed there were several times it switched from past to present tense. I thought it was really effective as it only happened during encounters between Liesl and the Goblin King, and it made the reader much more “present” with them in these moments. Can you both discuss why an author might switch tenses this way and when it might be effective vs. distracting in your opinion? (P.S. I absolutely loved WINTERSONG and can’t wait for book two!).
These tense changes were intentional on JJ’s part, to achieve a heightened intimacy and immediacy in certain scenes between Liesl and the Goblin King, and she set them off in the text so the reader was aware of the change. Selecting the right POV for your story can be tricky, but we dedicated a podcast episode to that very topic!
What We’re Reading:
That’s all for this week! We’ll be back next week with another Half-Pint Happy Hour, so send us your questions on twitter via #askpubcrawl, send us an email, or leave a comment below! And we’re still planning to do a live query critique as soon as we return to full-length episodes, so there’s still time to send in your query for consideration!