I’m writing a NA romance, and I just realized I may be straining to meet the requirements of the Bechdel test. I have several female characters, including my protagonist, but so much of the plot revolves around her relationship with men. Do you have any tips? Should I maybe add an unrelated subplot?


You must remember that the Bechdel test is not the height of everything and on top of that you are writing a romance, where your main focus is going to be on said romance. In order to meet the requirements of the Bechdel test, you only have to have two female characters speak once about something that is not a dude. That’s it! If you have a quick conversation about how the rent is too damn high or a five minute exchange with her mom about Christmas, you have passed the test.

The Bechdel test is a more appropriate bar for a summer blockbuster that has female leads together and a attacking villain and yet somehow they only talk about a relationship with a dude, if they talk at all. You’re dealing with a very different form of fiction that is solely focused on relationships! Relax, and focus on making your characters the best they can be. You haven’t failed anything!

In the time since this was written, the Bechdel test became the Bechdel-Wallace test.

Books and movies take up different types of space. It’s pretty simple to pass it, though. As long as you have two named female characters talk to each other about something other than a male, you’re good to go. They can literally ask if they’ve been watering their plants, and you’re solid.

Even when you’re stuck in relationship drama, you’ll still have normal things to talk about. Maybe you bought a new couch or failed an important test.

Just work on making your story work with the plot and characters, and if when it’s all said and done and you still haven’t passed the test, well, it should be easy to find a way to put it in somewhere in your story. Take a deep breath and don’t worry about it until you’re done with your first draft.

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