The female character flowchart

After a discussion yesterday about the Bechdel test, which came from this 1985 comic by Alison Bechdel, I checked my WIP, "Goodbye Grammarian". I'm happy to report that there are indeed:

1. Two (named) women...
2. ... who talk to each other...
3. ... about something other than a man.

Originally applied only to films, the Bechdel test would seem to be impossible for a novel to pass if that novel is told from a male first-person POV. However, if the man is present in the scene but does not participate in or direct the conversation between two women about something non-man related, I'm going to deem that acceptable.

By the way, the "named women" thing is apparently to avoid "female character buys a cup of coffee at Starbucks, thanks female barista who tells her to have a nice day = PASS".

Anyway, wondering about your own female characters? Here's a handy flowchart from

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===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Too bad the chart is full of trope labels.

    TVTropes is not a good website.

  2. I always thought the named-character thing was because, by enormous margin, unnamed characters are minor roles. So before they can have a substantial conversation, you have to hit the prerequisite for two substantial female roles in your work.

    I was pretty happy about passing it with a male POV in my novel last year. This year, with multiple POVs in the next novel, I've utterly smoked the test. It's not really a good test - is Milk a bad movie because gay guys talk to each other all the time instead of women? - but it's something worth thinking about, as women are still frighteningly underrepresented in substantial roles in mainstream film, and in plenty of strains of fiction.

    1. I was first led to this line of thought because Neil Gaiman tweeted about one of the Sandman books failing the test. Every character in the book was a cat. With no women, FAIL.

      The test is certainly open to interpretation, but time spent arguing the fine points isn't nearly as important as recognizing the need for strong female characters.


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