So, my daughter came home for Christmas, which is enough of a Christmas present for her mother and I. While on the Greyhound she passed the time reading a trade paperback edition of my book, Debt’s Pledge. When she pulled the book out of her backpack she told me she was only three quarters of the way through. I asked her what she thought about it.
“Well, first thing; your book would not pass the Bechdel Test”, she said.
For those of you who don’t know, the Bechdel Test (sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule) is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule.
I thought about it for a moment and realized that what she had told me was very true. There are several women characters in the book, and most of them are strong characters. Some are more feminine than others but none are shrinking violets. However, the book’s main character is Jefferson Odett and the entire book is told from his point of view. It’s not told in the first person, but the third person narrative is deliberately limited to Odett’s point of view. That makes it kind of difficult to pass the Bechdel Rule.
I admitted as much to my daughter.
“Also,” she continued. “Why do all the women characters all have to have some sort of relationship with Odett? It’s like they’re all there just as sex objects for him”
“Wait,” I said, trying to think. I’m writing the sequel but the details of the first book aren’t as fresh in my head as they are in hers. “What about Amy Brown, the guildswoman?” I asked.
My daughter nodded. “Yeah, I was hoping that she would be different, but then you ruined it by having them kiss!”
Oh, yeah. I’d forgotten about that. “Well… okay… but…”
“And where are the feels, Dad? The book has no feels!”
“Feels? The book’s got feels!” I protest.
“No it doesn’t” said my wife, which caught me off guard.
“I thought you loved my book.”
“I do. But you’re daughter’s right. It’s got no feels.”
At this point I felt a bit out of my depth. “Well… I set out to write a vary manly book…” I heard myself saying. “It’s a manly book… for manly men!”
They both looked at me like I was some sort of special mental case. I felt a bit like one.
“Well…” I sputtered. “The sequel will be better.”
“Dad,” my daughter said. “You know you wouldn’t get this kind of honest criticism from someone who didn’t love you, right?”
It was true. I had received a negative review… honestly, the worst review the book has garnered so far, from the two people whose opinions I value the most… and yet, I never felt so loved.
Family is funny that way.
Whatever your faith, however you choose to celebrate (or even if you don’t), I hope you all have a good holiday season and that it is filled with warmth and love.