Girls Who Want Boys

Lisa1By Lisa Dickenson

I want to talk to you about boys.

Or more specifically, I want to talk to you about how I don’t want to always talk to you about boys.  Have you guys heard of The Bechdel Test?  The Bechdel Test “asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man” [1].  How often do you watch a movie and all the women talk about is something to do with the men in their lives?  Quite often, actually, if you think about it, right?  And how often do you watch a movie and the men are only ever discussing women?  Often, yes, but not as often.  But when two or more women get together in real life, over coffee at the office or on the phone to friends, it’s quite literally a different story.

Because really, girls don’t talk about boys that much.  Sure, we talk a lot about our lives, which include our love lives: people we’re seeing, the horror of the grown-up decisions you’re facing with your partner, funny words for willies, etc.  But we also spend a vast amount of time talking about jobs, venting about how colleagues don’t see things our way, gossiping about our friends, making plans to reach our dream aspirations, for example where my friend Emma and I should live while we write our twentieth novels, but that’s also within commuting distance to a part-time career as Beyoncé’s backing dancers.

So a ‘women’s fiction’ novel in which all the women talk about is the men [2] in their lives seems unrealistic.  BUT, and this is the big, hairy, difficult BUT, a cardinal rule when writing a novel is that every scene, sentence and word should drive the story forward – should matter.  So if your novel is about romance, and the storyline is about falling in love, a four-page conversation about how your protagonist and her best friend feel about the Amanda Knox trial is, unfortunately, irrelevant.

Which brings me back to the Bechdel Test and how we can make sure we’re passing it, ensuring we have rounded and realistic characters, and that’s it’s important that it’s okay for chick lit characters to have more visibly going on than love hearts.  Don’t get me wrong – if the story is about love, pour it out onto the page like a big jug of melted chocolate.  Open up the emotions of your characters, let us see them raw, and falling, and embracing love and all its fabulousness.  But let them forge their own ways as well, let them have goals, let them love a bit of Netflix and a bit of politics and a bit of whatever else they want to love.  In short, let them be Real Women.

And if you’re a reader, I hope you’re in love with whatever book you’re reading just as much as the characters within it may be with each other, regardless of whether it would pass the Bechdel Test.  All I’m saying is that whether you’re reading or writing, let’s have fun and let’s keep it real, because who run the world?  Girls.

[1] Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test

[2] As a side-note, I also feel strongly that ‘boy-girl’ relationships should stop being seen as ‘the norm’, and actually we should be discussing how love is represented in our romantic fiction books, and not necessarily heterosexual love alone.  Frankly, I’m well bored of inequality.  Grow some balls, world, and live in the real world.  But that’s another blog post…

Lisa Dickenson was born in the wrong body. She was definitely meant to be Beyonce. Despite this hardship, she grew up in Devon attempting to write her own, completely copyright-infringing versions of Sweet Valley High, before giving Wales a go for university, and then London a go for the celeb-spotting potential. She’s now back in Devon, living beside the seaside with her husband and forcing cream teas down the mouths of anyone who’ll visit. She is sadly still not Beyonce.

Lisa’s first novel, ‘The Twelve Dates of Christmas’, won the Novelicious Debut of the Year award. Her second novel, ‘You Had Me at Merlot’, was also an instant hit with readers who were won over by her wit, charm and naughty sense of humour. Follow her on Twitter for all her book news and Beyonce-related chatter: @LisaWritesStuff.

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