Writers Anonymous
Writers, come in. Talk about your stories, problems, any advice you need, critique, etc. You don't have to be good, you just need to want to write! Fanfic or original fic writers, all are welcome. Read the rules before posting or risk Rhea's displeasure.
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Unfriendly Fire

I do believe you're mentioning patents, which are essentially copyrights of ideas or inventions. Copyrights only cover creative works, such as music or movies.

The patent system is absolutely broken. Look up the term "patent troll" to find many examples of companies that would buy up and sit on patents without any intentions of researching or developing them, and then ambushing companies that actually use their resources to turn ideas from paper to products.

It's also been used by major tech companies to block each others products from reaching the market.

To make matters even more exciting, there are patents which are simply "duh", such as the patenting of a computer's LED lights being used as system indicators, or the concept of processors reducing speed to prevent overheating. And I'm fairly sure those "duh" patents are going to be used for a variety of innovation-killing tasks.

4/29/2012 . Edited 4/29/2012 #331
The Lauderdale

Haha! - wait till the atomic car is on the drawing board before you say it's impossible. Wait till the non-copyright society is defined before saying it can't work.

So...are you gonna define it? I mean, I suppose one different kind of different non-copyright society would be one in which human beings have been replaced by genetically evolved rabbits who create for pleasure and don't seek remuneration for the enjoyment of their efforts by others. That's one possible definition. ;)

4/29/2012 #332
Maryilee

There are a lot of bogus books on Amazon, but most are in non-fiction because the people put stuff from Wikipedia, slap on a crappy cover and call it a book. They then re-do it with five slightly different titles. Most are very short, more like a pamphlet length and if you do the "Look Inside" and find you never even get to the content of the book in the sample, it's going to be a very short book as the sample shows 10% of the content. (My books show the first three chapters!)

The thing is, the bogus books aren't that big a problem for people uploading legit novels as the bogus books rarely show up in browsing. For instance, if you're looking for thrillers, you'll get a top 100 list, and if you choose a book from that to look at, you're most likely to continue browsing using the 'Customers Also Bought' carousel of books beneath the book you're looking at. Usually they are similar books. The algorithms are make it so the bogus books are practically invisible. If by chance, you are browsing a topic like how to grow great tomato plants, you might find one that looks okay, but then if you do the sample, and it's just the copyright and title page, that's your warning that it is one that was harvested from Wikipedia. Reviews are also helpful. If there are no reviews or only one glowing review, steer clear and find one that has more reviews--especially by reviewers who have more than that book in their review history.

As far as someone stealing my books, it has happened, but nobody as far as I know, has tried selling it under their own name. I've seen my books listed on torrent sites, but I don't know if anyone has actually downloaded them. Anyone who tried is looking to get their computer infected as a lot of those sites just use book titles to get people to download the file to install the virus or malware. Some don't even contain the books. I don't consider that lost sales as I doubt anyone trolling a torrent site is going to be someone who would have paid for my book anyway. It's a lot easier for most people to go to Amazon or some other legit site and click once to get a book automatically sent. My books are priced low enough that I think most people would consider the hassle of trying to download a torrent not worth the risk of saving a few bucks. There was one site that was charging members a yearly fee in return for unlimited books. Someone on another board found their book there, told all of us to check for our books. We did, and those of us who found our books sent a notice to the site owner. Our books were removed and last I looked, the site was closed, so there is also the fact that as writers, we are really good communicators. :-D That site looked legit and a new ereader owner might not have realized that they were buying pirated books. They are the people who might have bought a book on Amazon, but thought this site was just another ebookstore. I'm glad we were able to get them shut down.

4/29/2012 #333
Sailor Pluto

Wow I totally didn't know that...hmm is this for general chatter?

5/2/2012 #334
cathrl

No, we don't do general chatter here. This is a writing forum. Writing-based chatter is fine.

5/2/2012 #335
Corinne Tate

I think the world is a sadder place when we can't just talk to each other.

That being said, I will bow to the moderator's wishes and say that this is a writing forum, and this thread is a place to be off topic, though the topic is still writing - clear as mud?

So... this might not be the place to talk about your love of a certain music group; you can still talk about what is or isn't allowed when it comes to inserting song lyrics or mentioning the group within your story.

Right now my life is so wrapped up in writing, almost anything I say has to do with it in some way. I really appreciate all the info from Marylee and others concerning self-publishing. I just heard from my ex-husband that he's finished his first sci-fi manuscript, and he's sent it off to a publisher. He says he's revised it 8 times, and it looks very little like what he started out with. He's of course expecting the rejection letter, but he's hopeful.

How likely is a book to be picked up off the slush pile and published, with no agent? Do writers actually send whole manuscripts, or is it more like the first fifty pages and a cover letter? Do these manuscripts get returned, or does one keep killing trees with each rejection? I'm sure there's a good website, but every time I look at these sites, they're full of dire warnings about everything that can go wrong -- not exactly what I need to get my courage up.

5/3/2012 #336
Lorendiac

I think the world is a sadder place when we can't just talk to each other.

That being said, I will bow to the moderator's wishes and say that this is a writing forum, and this thread is a place to be off topic, though the topic is still writing - clear as mud?

Well, to be fair, I should point out that if you look at the line near the top of your browser window, the one that says

"Forums -- Writers Anonymous -- [and then the thread title]," and if you then click on "Forums," it will show you a list of Rhea Silverkeys's two forums on this site. The second one (http://forum.fanfiction.net/myforums/Rhea_Silverkeys/727694/) is "The WA Summer House" for miscellaneous chatter about non-writing topics. I admit I don't remember the last time I bothered to go in there and look around, but it's there if we need it!

5/4/2012 . Edited 5/4/2012 #337
The Lauderdale

I think that attempt at division just didn't/doesn't work. It's like,

"Here's this forum. If people here want to talk, we can go to that forum."

"But it's a separate forum."

"So? We should go be active at that forum."

"But we're active at this forum..."

Now, forums that create a thread or threads for off-topic chatter generally do fairly well, but we're not supposed to do that here. And of course,

"Why should we? We've got *that* forum."

"But none of us go there, because nobody else does. Because we all use this forum. So nobody goes to that forum. So some of us feel sad because 'There's nowhere to just chat.'"

"Except, of course, for all the other forums where we could go do that."

"But we don't want to go to those other forums. They're other forums: we want to 'just chat' with the people from this forum..."

And so on. ;)

Accepting this for what it is, my tendency is to post at this forum re: writing stuff (which can still be fairly social or at least amicable), but reserve most of my socializing for the Cabbages and Kings forum, which isn't rule-bound, draws smart people, and still has a few writing assistance threads.

5/4/2012 . Edited 5/4/2012 #338
cathrl

How likely is a book to be picked up off the slush pile and published, with no agent?

When he's submitted to one publisher? There's almost no chance. I don't know, or know of, any pro author who wasn't rejected multiple times before they sold their first novel.

I thought it was normally the first three pages, or maybe the first chapter, and a query letter. If it's any more than just the query letter.

You/your ex know about www.absolutewrite.com/forums, right? That's the place to ask about submissions, or just to go lurk and read all about them.

As far as being on or off topic goes...I'm certainly not going to jump on anyone for a post or two or even five which aren't about writing. But what we don't want is what you see in many of the other forums on the first page here, where almost nothing is about writing at all, and the only active threads are thousands of posts long consisting of people basically treating the forum as a chatroom. As a newcomer, I look at those forums and there's literally nothing posted there I could answer. It's just pages and pages of "how's school?" and "I'm not going to be here this weekend". Things intended only for the personal friends who were online when those messages were posted.

5/4/2012 #339
Kitsune no Tora

How likely is a book to be picked up off the slush pile and published, with no agent? Do writers actually send whole manuscripts, or is it more like the first fifty pages and a cover letter? Do these manuscripts get returned, or does one keep killing trees with each rejection?

I've been told by every creative writing teacher I've ever had to never bother sending the complete manuscript to a publisher. The first chapter is more than enough, both because it saves paper and costs when mailing. The editor who reads it will probably only read the first paragraph, or the first few pages if you're lucky before making a decision. They'll send you a letter or email asking for the rest of it if they're interested.

You should, of course, include a small introduction letter telling the editor about yourself, including any previous work you might have had published or considered in the past.

If you want your manuscript returned to you, you have to also provide the means to do so--an addressed envelope and a stamp included with the package you send them.

As for off-topicness, I'm not at all opposed to a general chatter thread, but I do see the moderator's point. I know and participate in a few forums who have suffered from that, but I also enjoy befriending people on forums, which needs a venue to develop beyond chatting about one topic. I was around when the WA Summer House was started, and we had about five people chatting for about a week before no one ever touched it again.

5/4/2012 #340
KESwriter
I have stayed away from this site for about a week and finished my last story two weeks ago. It felt nice not to have to think of new chapters and worrying that I might be losing readers or getting those "Please update soon!" messages. The problem is I have been getting these awful headaches. They're not stress-related headaches as those feel like jackhammers. This week was very stressful, but these headaches only occurred when I was done with work and free to do what I wanted. In other words: The time when I wrote. The last time I had one of these headaches I decided to just let the story brewing in my head out onto the keyboard and it produced my best reviewed work. It is funny how much tension was released from just putting the images in my head into words. Granted, I lost some sleep and some focus, but I felt more energized and a little "happier" even. Do I sound exceptionally strange right now? I think it is proof that I crave writing like air mentally in some ways. My next story will be a series of fluffy one-shots with similar themes. I am trying to keep down the stress by creating stories I can finish one sitting. This isn't exactly writer's block it is more like writer's personal preventative block. (I know there is a more clever way of writing this but I am not awake enough right now to continue.) Thoughts?
5/6/2012 #341
Hippothestrowl

Sounds like you should take the middle approach: Take it easy! Don't write from external pressures but do a little at a time when the ideas come to you - try to relax. (easy for me to say!)

I think the jackhammers might be migraine. I've had that only a few times and only briefly fortunately - but not particularly connected with any stress that I was aware of.

5/7/2012 #342
Lorendiac

I've been told by every creative writing teacher I've ever had to never bother sending the complete manuscript to a publisher. The first chapter is more than enough, both because it saves paper and costs when mailing. The editor who reads it will probably only read the first paragraph, or the first few pages if you're lucky before making a decision. They'll send you a letter or email asking for the rest of it if they're interested.

One other thing about that:

The editors at any given publishing house probably have a darn good idea of just how much of your writing they actually want to have foisted upon them when they first hear from you. And they usually are not shy about saying so, either, if you bother to do the research! In this day and age, a well-established publisher is likely to have a website which includes "Submission Guidelines" or a page with a similar title, so the best bet is to find and examine it, and learn exactly what portion of your manuscript should be sent to that particular market. If five different companies offer five different sets of rules, then you submit your manuscript (or portions of it) in five different ways!

For instance: Tor Books says on its site that they want to see your first three chapters, plus a detailed synopsis of how the entire plot will develop.

On the other hand, Baen Books has eliminated the middleman (i.e. the post office). Its website has a page for you to use in electronically submitting your entire manuscript as an attachment in Rich Text Format. Yes, they actually want everything in one package deal, without your bothering to use your printer at all!

Although I suspect that even at Baen, as you suggested about publishers in general, a lot of the stuff that lands in their "Slush Pile Inbox" (or whatever they call it) probably gets rejected in the first five minutes after an editor starts reading the opening scene of Chapter One. But if he actually wants to read your novel all the way through to the end while evaluating its potential, he has that option without needing to contact you again, asking for the later installments! On the other hand, if he wants to delete it after five minutes, it's no harder to delete a huge RTF file than it is to delete a small one!

And of course other publishers are likely to have other expectations, and it's a good idea to find out what they are and to meet them in your first submission. ("You never have a second chance to make a good first impression," or however the old adage goes.)

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #343
Hippothestrowl

Is it acceptable to submit to many different publishers at the same time?

5/7/2012 #344
cathrl

Generally, no (they have no interest in putting all the work in to decide whether to make an offer only to discover that you've sold it to someone else), but you'd have to read the rules which each specific publisher has.

5/7/2012 #345
Hippothestrowl

But if some publishers do not even reply how do you know when you can submit it to another?

Suppose you stipulate (in polite terms) a deadline of one month? eg, "Thank you for your kind attention and I await your reply in due course. If I do not hear from you within one month then I will assume you have no interest in the story and I will feel free to submit it elsewhere."

I guess that could be written much better but you get the idea. If so, what would be a realistic term? One month? Two months?

5/7/2012 #346
Lorendiac

But if some publishers do not even reply how do you know when you can submit it to another?

Suppose you stipulate (in polite terms) a deadline of one month? eg, "Thank you for your kind attention and I await your reply in due course. If I do not hear from you within one month then I will assume you have no interest in the story and I will feel free to submit it elsewhere."

I guess that could be written much better but you get the idea. If so, what would be a realistic term? One month? Two months?

Been awhile since I refreshed my memory of the "Submission Guidelines" on several different publishers' websites, but I believe they often address these points on those pages, so that hopeful authors will understand exactly what to expect (if they bother to do the research by checking that website in the first place!). I believe standard language might go this way:

"No simultaneous submissions accepted. Please allow 6 months for our response, since we always have a huge backlog waiting for our editors to sift through." Or words to that general effect.

[Edited in later: Come to think of it, a few years ago I read some online articles about "simultaneous submissions" which made it clear that, as a default rule, most well-established publishers of books and magazines HATE them and want nothing to do with them. Even if they don't say so on their websites, I suppose. You probably shouldn't risk simultaneous submission unless each publisher you're sending it to has SPECIFICALLY said they have no objections to that approach.]

There's nothing magic about the number "6 months"; I just seem to recall seeing it mentioned on at least ONE publisher's website. Others would have different rules. I think you should take it for granted, though, that the editors have zero interest in any hard-and-fast deadlines that YOU try to set in the initial cover letter.

Come to think of it, I don't know how often a company that said "please allow 6 months" would actually take the FULL 6 months to tell you they weren't interested. It might happen a lot faster, much of the time? I have no hard-and-fast statistics on "average turnaround time."

On the other hand . . . I think (and I may have read this somewhere, in an article on writing, but I can't pin down the source) -- that if the time comes when you ARE going to submit to a second publisher, then it might be a good idea to send a follow-up letter (say, 6 months after the original submission, or whatever the publisher's usual recommended waiting time is) in which you say something along the lines of: "Since it's been [x months] and I haven't heard from you, I gather you are not interested. I intend to submit my manuscript, [insert title], to another publisher. Please consider it withdrawn."

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #347
Maryilee

But if some publishers do not even reply how do you know when you can submit it to another?

I know that it might be a waste of a publisher's time, but honestly, as the author, you have to do what is right for you. Like you said, the publishers don't often send a rejection letter in a timely manner, if at all, so what is an author to do? I would give them maybe 60 days, at most. If they do contact you with interest, and you've done something else with the manuscript there's not much you can do. On Kindleboards (which has a child board called Writer's Cafe and is full of authors--many who have been traditionally published or are currently trad. pubbed with some books and self-pubbed with others), there have been more than one post where an author received a rejection letter, get this, 2-4 years AFTER they submitted. I mean, REALLY? In one case, the author self-published the book in question 2 years after submitting, and has done extremely well with it. I believe it was Baen Books, in fact, as his book is a sci-fi fantasy type book.

If any of you do get an offer from an agent or publisher, please get your own IP attorney to look over the contract. Lately there have been rights grabs by not just publishers but agents too. In some cases, if the agent doesn't sell the book to a publisher, and you fire the agent, and get a new agent who then sells it to a publisher, you might end up having to pay the first agent 15% on top of the second agent's 15%. Some publishers try to restrict what an author writes, claiming other books an author might sell would be competition. On top of that, the typical advance for a new author is between $5,000-$10,000, usually split into at least 2 payments (and the agent has to be paid out of that.). Since publishers rarely publish more than one book by an author in a year, that would restrict an author's income to just that advance! I don't know about you guys, but I'd need more than that to live on. Hence the reason most mid-list authors have day jobs. It's crazy that publishers haven't seemed to grasp that reality that self-publishing isn't just a viable alternative, but it's more lucrative for many authors. My third book is only two months old and it's already made me over 2k and I've not spent a dime marketing it. By next year, I should make at least 12k on it--which is more than a publisher would probably offer. Sorry, I tend to get long-winded on this subject. :-) I've learned so much in the last few years.

5/7/2012 #348
Lorendiac

If any of you do get an offer from an agent or publisher, please get your own IP attorney to look over the contract.

When the time comes, I will have a bit of an unfair advantage there -- I have a sister who is about to graduate from law school. Take a wild guess what specialty she's been preparing for. (No, she's not going to be a divorce lawyer! Try again!)

But as long as we're on the subject of sneaky clauses buried in the fine print, you've reminded me of something interesting . . .

Years ago, I read an online article by an author whose name I forget.

I wasn't familiar with her work, but I gathered she'd already had a couple of novels published. (Maybe more than a couple, but she was a "known author"; not just a "wannabe").

She was invited to submit a short story for a paperback anthology which would be full of similarly-themed original fiction from various authors.

This was something she had done before, with decent results, so she said sure, she'd be glad to participate.

Then the contract from the publishing house arrived in the mail. Most of it looked like standard boilerplate -- but there was one peculiar clause that she didn't remember from any previous publishing contract.

It went roughly this way (I'm loosely paraphrasing from memory): "In the event of a claim of plagiarism being made with regard to the writer's story, the publisher reserves the right to hold back any portion of the writer's share of the royalties that may seem necessary in order to settle this claim, and the writer agrees not to kick up a fuss about that sad necessity."

Of course this established author had no intention of plagiarizing anyone else's story -- but what bothered her was that there was nothing in that clause that mentioned the "claim" of plagiarism needing to be supported by anything that an impartial observer would call "real evidence" before the publisher started handing money from her royalties over to the claimant, whomever that might be! (Anyone can CLAIM to have been victimized, after all!)

So she rewrote that clause before she sent the signed contract back. She simply added a few things at the end of the key sentence. Something along these lines: " . . . and the writer agrees not to kick up a fuss about that sad necessity, PROVIDED that the validity of the aforementioned claim of plagiarism has ALREADY been demonstrated to the satisfaction of at least one court of law."

I believe her point was that without that bit about legal proof being required, the head of the publishing company could, in theory, have simply sent her a letter saying: "Sorry, you get no royalties. My twelve-year-old nephew claims you swiped an unpublished story of his. So I agreed to give him ALL your royalties as compensation. Under the contract you signed, you have no right to second-guess me on that decision -- because you agreed in advance that I could do this with your royalty money whenever I felt the need!"

I don't remember, offhand, if a "final decision" had yet been reached by the publisher, at the time she wrote this article, about whether or not they would accept and publish a story from her on the basis of the REVISED contract she had sent back. But it illustrated the pitfalls that are out there; things that could come back to haunt you in a "worst-case scenario."

5/7/2012 #349
cathrl

Thing is, Maryilee, I know you put a huge amount of work into your books, both writing and marketing them. The problem is that new writers see people like you say "look, it works"...and they think that they can do the same by asking a couple of questions online, running spellcheck on their story, and making a Facebook page. Say, a day's work.

When you self-publish, you self-PUBLISH. All that work a commercial publisher would do, you have to do yourself. It's not just a question of uploading to Amazon and watching the money roll in. It's a lot of time spent doing things other than writing.

I know you know this, because I know you've done it.

5/7/2012 #350
The Lauderdale

Random question! I'm reading Alison Bechdel's "Are You My Mother?" which has nothing to with anything except that it made me think of the Bechdel Test. For those who don't know, the Bechdel Test is a "sort of litmus test for female presence in movies and TV." To pass the Bechdel Test, the item in question must:

1. Have at least two women in it

2. Who talk to each other

3. About something besides a man.

The Bechdel Test was originally inspired by this comic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zizyphus/34585797/sizes/l/in/photostream/

So, question! Do any of your fics pass the Bechdel Test? For my stories, I gave a cursory look over them and will say...4 out of 14.

(Oh, and before anyone freaks out, the Bechdel Test has nothing to do with how good or bad a story may be. It's actually more interesting as an indicator of female presence in a broad body of work.)

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #351
Corinne Tate

This subject for me seems to fall under the "You don't even know what you don't know" category. I mean it's a wonder anyone gets published at all with so much corruption and disrespect to the writers. I can't help but feel for the writer who puts their life blood into writing a story. I mean I myself feel like some of my original stories are a part of me, or children. So they work hard to finish it, perfect it, edit and proofread it, and then they have a dim hope of making ten to fifteen thousand if they get it published? That is if they can navigate through the slush pile, waiting periods, rejection letters, disreputable agents, plagiarists, greedy publishers, lawyers, proofreaders, and anyone else who's found a way to leech off their hard work.

I guess it goes back to the basic principle - I write because I love it. It seems trying to be a "Writer" as a profession sounds like a masochistic endeavor. Is there any other career where one faces so many hurdles for so little gain?

My garbage man gets paid even if someone says he didn't pick up the trash. The cashier doesn't need an agent to find work. The bus driver doesn't need to hire a lawyer or proofreader before they can drive. A restaurant cook doesn't need to worry about someone else taking credit for his work. And they all likely make more than fifteen thousand. Even starving artists and musicians seem to have a better deal. It's kind of sad.

5/7/2012 #352
Maryilee

That's very true, Cathrl, but I guess I'm assuming someone who is submitting to agents/publishers would have their manuscript in tip-top shape and would be working very hard. I get what you're saying though. I have a friend, you might remember her from Fanlib, she also wrote the same genre of fic I did. (I don't want to name names, but I think you'll know who she is). Anyway, she also has three books out. Her writing is pretty good, and she has decent covers, but she doesn't put as much effort into formatting and has only one or two casual beta readers. Between finishing a book and uploading, it's about two weeks. I don't think she's ever re-written a scene to make it better, she pretty much just skims it for typos. I constantly go back during the course of writing as I tend to think of something later, and then realize the character said something four chapters back that now sounds stupid and I need to fix that to match what happens later--if that makes sense! lol Long story short, despite her books being out as long as mine, give or take a few weeks, her sales are much, much lower than mine. Mostly, she doesn't network. Me, I'm a chatterbox online. :-D I figure I've been a chatterbox since I first got online back in the 90s, so I might use the time I'd already be online to promote my books and my friends' books. I've tried to promote her as much as I can, but since she hasn't made any close author friends of her own, she hasn't been asked to do anything. For example, I was interviewed by a fairly large indie book reviewer on Saturday. I've had at least five or so other interviews like that over the last few years--all when the bloggers approached me. I never asked to be interviewed. She has never been asked. I wish I could help her more, but she has other priorities, and they are very legit priorities, (finishing her degree) so naturally, her time is limited.

I used beta readers for my first two books, so it didn't cost me anything, but this last book I used 4 beta readers (and thanks to the success of the other two books, I was able to send them a little thank you gift card for Amazon) and I hired an editor who works for Permuted Press, but freelances too. She was very reasonable.

I do spend time fixing up my manuscripts, but honestly, I think someone who goes the traditional route has to do the same thing. About the only thing they don't have to do is the cover, but they often don't get a choice about the cover either. I'm fortunate that my genre can get by with a simple cover so I only paid a total of $10 and that was for a stock photo for the first book. A friend added the text with Photoshop and then did the same with my other two books so that all three would match. If I had to buy a cover, there are decent covers to be had for as low as $30. They would work for first uploading and when the author makes some money, they can then spend for something fancier.

Thing is, you just never know what books will breakout. Mine didn't really 'breakout', except for a surge last June. Since then, it's been steady but many other newer authors have bypassed me. Look up Hugh Howey. He's fairly new to Kindle publishing. I think he started with some short stories back in July. Now he's a huge sensation and was written up in Pubisher's Weekly. Oh, and he wrote an awesome book called Wool. (I read the Omnibus edition, which is actually the first five short stories in one collection, since they are really just one story) I hope that I can just keep selling steadily and have readers enjoying my books. I get just enough emails from readers and posts on my author FB page to keep me motivated. It's better for my writing anyway. In June, I was so excited by what was going on, I couldn't write a lick.

So, question! Do any of your fics pass the Bechdel Test? For my stories, I gave a cursory look over them and will say...4 out of 14.

Nope, none of my stories pass the test. I can't help it that I write what I want to read. I'm not into chick lit or women's fiction, so naturally, I don't write it. My favorite characters from my fandoms were male, and so those were the ones I wrote about. There were some female characters, but they weren't the main characters.

ETA: I meant to say that I love that book, "Are You My Mother?" When my oldest son was a toddler, he made me read that book to him over and over, so lots of good memories associated with the book. :-)

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #353
Lorendiac

I've read about the Bechdel Test before, but The Lauderdale's query prompted me to bring up a list of my posted fanfics and start counting, based on what I recall of each one's plot.

I think at least 6 of my stories squarely pass the Bechdel Test. That's out of what seems to be a grand total of 40.

Funny thing is -- besides the 6, I've got several other stories in which much or all of the material features a female character as protagonist and viewpoint character . . . but those stories still don't pass the test!

For instance, if there are only TWO characters with meaningful roles in the story -- a man and a woman -- that automatically disqualifies the story, even if both characters got equal amounts of dialogue, and even if we were privy to the woman's unspoken thoughts, in detail, but not to the man's! So the woman got significantly more than 50 percent of the attention in the prose I wrote, and everything was seen "through her eyes," as it were . . . but her role wasn't sufficient to let the finished product pass the Bechdel Test!

Heck, one four-chapter story of mine had FOUR characters with speaking parts in it. One woman; three men. The viewpoint character was Talia, daughter of Ra's al Ghul (who died in the "Batman Begins" movie). The entire POINT of the story was to show how Talia could cleverly outmaneuver three older men who were senior members of a secret society with a very male-chauvinist slant to its ancient traditions. (I infer the male chauvinism from the fact that, in the relevant scenes of the original movie, we saw dozens and dozens of male members of that society -- and, I think, approximately zero female members. Also from the fact that Ra's al Ghul claimed his "League of Shadows" had been around for thousands of years without changing much.) In my fanfic, Talia manages to cleverly establish herself, with the unanimous consent of the three male executive types, as the new "temporary" chief executive of their society. The reader is given inside information regarding her thoughts and manipulative tactics; info which makes it clear that Talia believes she has found a way to make sure that "temporary leader in theory" will become "permanent leader in practice."

I don't think any reasonable reader could claim that this story was trying to suggest that women were fundamentally "inferior," nor that they didn't deserve equal billing in works of fiction, but it still doesn't pass the Bechdel Test -- because I didn't insert any other female character for Talia to chat with in at least one superfluous scene, above and beyond what was happening in the "power politics" stuff!

By the way, how do we count stories in which a BUNCH of characters, some male and some female, are all in the room at the same time, and the conversation touches on various points . . . but two or more female characters are not EXCLUSIVELY talking to each other for any great length of time in a private conversation? (Although a female may ask a question that is not about a man, and another female may respond, as part of the larger ongoing discussion.) If we count those as passing the Bechdel test, then I think I can add at least 2 or 3 more stories to my tally.

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #354
Hippothestrowl

Yes, there are a lot of grey areas. I have ten stories. Six definitely fail the Bechdel Test. Three of the others have some conversations between females though they represent only a tiny part of the whole text and one of them is an elf so I count her as equivalent to a 'woman'. The final story is almost entirely a radio broadcast with three presenters, two of whom are women and they do discuss events but whether that is a conversation I don't know. It got rejected by one website because it didn't pass their 'only 1/3rd can be interviews' test and I was too tired to argue.

Of the six failures: one is entirely a single female and nobody else. One is entirely five females and a male but they're mostly talking about him or things relating to him.

5/7/2012 #355
The Lauderdale

For instance, if there are only TWO characters with meaningful roles in the story -- a man and a woman -- that automatically disqualifies the story, even if both characters got equal amounts of dialogue, and even if we were privy to the woman's unspoken thoughts, in detail, but not to the man's! So the woman got significantly more than 50 percent of the attention in the prose I wrote, and everything was seen "through her eyes," as it were . . . but her role wasn't sufficient to let the finished product pass the Bechdel Test!

Yeah, I've got a story like that as well, in which the two main characters are a (male) Orc and a (female) prostitute. It's from his perspective but she is the chief subject of his story ("I knew this woman once...") and it certainly doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, because it doesn't meet the first criteria. Although the existence of other women is alluded to, none of them are characters in the story.

On the other hand, my WIP Orc-brat passes because, despite the *vast* imbalance of ten (male) Orcs and two girls, those two girls do a lot of talking, including a lot of non-guy-related conversation.

By the way, how do we count stories in which a BUNCH of characters, some male and some female, are all in the room at the same time, and the conversation touches on various points . . . but two or more female characters are not EXCLUSIVELY talking to each other for any great length of time in a private conversation? (Although a female may ask a question that is not about a man, and another female may respond, as part of the larger ongoing discussion.)[shrugs] I think you would count it. Where does it say that the women have to be be main characters or occupy meaningful roles, or be speaking together in private? There was actually a humorous aside in the original comic strip this comes from, in which the character who propounds the criteria says that the last movie she was able to watch was Alien because "The two women in it talk to each other about the *monster*." I don't remember Lambert and Ridley doing that in private.

It got rejected by one website because it didn't pass their 'only 1/3rd can be interviews' test and I was too tired to argue.

Hippothestrowl, what's this about? Was someone using the Bechdel test as criteria for inclusion on a web site?

ETA: I meant to say that I love that book, "Are You My Mother?" When my oldest son was a toddler, he made me read that book to him over and over, so lots of good memories associated with the book. :-)

Different book! This is a graphic novel/memoir about Bechdel's relationship with her mother. But I love the picture book Are You My Mother? as well. 8D

5/7/2012 #356
Hippothestrowl

It got rejected by one website because it didn't pass their 'only 1/3rd can be interviews' test and I was too tired to argue.

Hippothestrowl, what's this about? Was someone using the Bechdel test as criteria for inclusion on a web site?

No - I just threw that in because it was another example of a 'rule' that seems contrived and hard to see if it's useful or not. Literally what it says, no stories are permitted, more than one third of which consists of an interview. More than 9/10ths of my story consists of a live radio broadcast from the Battle of Hogwarts with three presenters relating events and talking to each other. It's been fairly well received elsewhere and is, I feel, an enjoyable story so I'm aggrieved that just because of a 'rule', their readers cannot enjoy it.

Tests and rules, eh? Guess we have to have them. BTW this is the same website where you are not allowed to mention slavery. I got round that by avoiding the word and instead had captives who were forced to work without pay.

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #357
Lorendiac

A few points:

I've seen the original comic strip that established the essence of the Bechdel test -- but I never watched the original "Alien" movie, so I have no idea whether or not there was a scene where two female characters were the only ones in sight for a minute or two as they talked about the monster (or about any other subject that wasn't a male human being).

I wasn't sure if the creator and strong advocates of the Bechdel test would feel that a few lines of female-to-female dialogue, in the middle of a conversation with lots of guys also participating, would really qualify as what they had in mind. If we assume that it fits the general definition, then I estimate that 9 out of my 40 fanfics (possibly one or two more?) may pass the test.

Captives who are forced to do hard work without getting paid for their trouble -- of course; who could possibly confuse that with "slavery"? :)

Reminds me of something in the Mad Magazine parody of the original "The Godfather" movie. I think on the splash page, someone starts to use the word "Mafia," and then a guy says: "Excuse me! I'm from the Italian Anti-Defamation League! We object strenuously to hearing that word! It perpetuates a negative stereotype!"

One of the characters says without missing a beat: "Fine! We'll just say that we are all part of a criminal organization, comprised of numerous Americans of Italian ancestry, that routinely participates in loan sharking, gambling, prostitution, extortion, and murder!"

The guy from the Italian Anti-Defamation League promptly says: "That's much better!"

(All of the above was paraphrased from memory. The point was that this had "really happened" when the movie was being made in the early 1970s -- the Italian Anti-Defamation League had objected to the word "Mafia," and it had in fact been deleted from the final script. As if any viewer could possibly fail to get the point . . .)

5/7/2012 #358
Maryilee

Just an FYI, today, right now, there is a free book on Amazon US and probably UK, although I only have the US link handy, that gives good info for anyone who might be considering self-publishing. If you don't have a Kindle, there are free Kindle apps for PC, Android and iPad, not to mention, Amazon's Cloud Reader.

I know of this author from various writing boards and he's legit and and a good guy. Please check the price before you click as I don't know how many days it'll be free.

5/7/2012 #359
cathrl

It would be ironic if something like Alien "failed" the test, given that it has strong female characters who take on "male" roles and the fact they're female is completely irrelevant to the plot. You'd think that was the whole point. I can't remember whether there's such a scene either.

Most of my stories fail the test, simply because my fandoms are almost entirely male. There isn't a second female team member for my female character to talk to so most of the times her conversations are with men. The ones which "pass", from memory, have conversations about remembering what your cover story is, the average temperature in the South Pacific, what alligators like to eat, and suitable clothes for a job interview. I can only think of one conversation I've ever written where two women talk about a man. That's in several dozen fics and over half a million words.

What I don't like about the test is the way that if you have a female character (or two, or five) who interacts with men as an equal, that's considered to "fail". It's only good enough if she has those same conversations with women. I find that rather demeaning, personally. Going back to Alien, the reason I can't remember whether you get the two female characters interacting is that it doesn't matter. They're all just characters. They talk about flying the spaceship and catching the monster. There isn't any sense of fragile flower women who are only interested in men and can only have serious conversations with other women.

5/8/2012 #360
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