Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guest Post: Applying the Bechdel Test to One’s Own Books by Skyla Dawn Cameron

The Bechdel Test, for those unfamiliar, comes from a comic by Alison Bechdel in which a character states the requirements she has for watching a film are:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. who talk to each other,
3. about something besides a man.

Note that this does not speak to the quality of the work, nor is it a method of measuring how feminist something is. Plenty of unfeminist (and even anti-feminist) works can pass the Bechdel Test. It also doesn’t mean a work is bad if it fails this test. The point is to merely look at gender bias.

Given that I apply The Bechdel Test to the media I consume (and even bring it up when I do occasional reviews for Melissa’s My World blog), it only seemed fair to apply it to my books as well.

Bloodlines (Demons of Oblivion #1)

This is an older book of mine, originally written in 2004. Even when I rewrote it for re-release in 2011, I stuck to the existing structure and added very little, therefore I know going in that it’ll be the weaker of the books in this regard (as well as with diversity in general) as I was much less aware then.

1. There are multiple female characters: Zara (narrator), Mishka, Heaven...and that’s kinda it. There are a few mentioned but they aren’t characters with speaking roles.
2. They do speak to each other.
3. About...well, let’s see. Zara and Mishka speak about killing a man. Zara and Heaven...yes, I’m willing to give them this one, as they speak about Mishka, another woman.

Bloodlines, IMO, passes the test, though just barely.

Hunter (Demons of Oblivion #2)

Hunter opens with a young woman graduating as a Demon Hunter with Venatores Daemonum, an exiled branch of the church. She’s like any other person in a school setting: she has many peers, so this book has a large cast of secondary and tertiary characters.

1. There are multiple female characters: Ryann (narrator), Rebecca, Grace, Zara, Nicolette, Parker, Abigail.
2. They do all speak to each other.
3. About...Ryann and Rebecca discuss graduating and being Demon Hunters; Ryann and Zara discuss Zara’s possible innocence when she’s accused of a murder; Ryann and Nicolette discuss Nic’s lack of vampire-ness.

Hunter, IMO, passes the test, and better than Bloodlines.

Lineage (Demons of Oblivion #3)

Lineage, once again, has a different main characters and opens in a new world. Peri, the narrator, works as a mercenary and it’s a very male-dominated organization.

1. There are multiple female characters: Peri (narrator), Zara, Ryann, Nicolette, Delarosa, Liliah.
2. They do all speak to each other.
3. This gets a little dicey as a huge part of Peri’s focus in life is the death of her family, which included her husband, son, and daughter. She and Nic spend a lot of time together and speak about a variety of subjects. Peri and Ryann, too, have a great scene together that involves discussing portals opening and demonic-possessed school girls.

Of the short stories and novellas set in the ‘verse, it’s pretty hit or miss. The longer the work, the more likely it seems it is to pass the Bechdel Test. I will have to ponder that.

But at least my books don’t do too badly.

Why does this matter? Well, take the above rule and reverse the genders: in all sorts of movies and books there are frequently male characters who speak to each other about things other than women. That covers most films and books, actually. But finding that with female characters is...challenging. It’s a sign that, typically, men are the ones with agency and the ones who drive the story forward.

It matters because it shapes how we view things. 

This bias is so inherent that someone once told me I had a “male” problem in that there weren’t enough men in the Demons of Oblivion series. I haven’t made an actual chart but I’m relatively certain it’s fairly balanced. The core characters lean toward women because there is a same-sex female couple and, by definition, that means neither of them is a man (also? I tend to write primarily from female first person POV—the more POVs, the more women). Counting secondary and tertiary characters, the male-to-female overall ratio is likely even or might even skew male, now that I think about it. But we are so used to viewing media with an 80:20 (or, worse, just one token female and WHY is there still only one female Smurf?) balance of men to women that a close-to-equal representation seems out of proportion.

It may seem like a minor quibble to some but considering women make up half the population, gender bias is something I’ll continue to analyze, and strive to reflect a balance in my work.

Thank you so much, Skyla!! Here is a list of works by Skyla Dawn Cameron. Find Bloodlines Free at Amazon and the others for $2.99!

Demons of Oblivion Series
By Skyla Dawn Cameron

A diverse cast of characters come together in classic urban fantasy about monsters, the people who hunt them, and the occasional apocalypse. Snarky humor, magic with bite, nonstop action, a dose of romance, and at its core: broken people finding family in one another.

Also, there’s a saber-tooth cat named Sir Rodney Ballsgalore. Because reasons.

Main Series:

1 – Bloodlines
2 – Hunter
3 – Lineage
4 – Exhumed
5 – Oblivion (Coming Soon)

Side Stories & Novellas:

A Vampire Walked Into a Bar (Tales from Alchemy Red)
Whiskey Sour 
Home: A Zara Lain Story (Free at My words & pages)
Damaged: A Zara Lain Novella
9 Crimes: A Nate O’Connor Novella
Hungry Like the Wendigo (Tales from Alchemy Red)
Kami of Christmas Past: A Peri Takata Novella (Coming Soon)
Howl: A Juliette Aubrey Novella (Coming Soon)

Bloodlines (Demons of Oblivion #1)

If you're in her way, it sucks to be you.

After three hundred years of unlife, narcissistic vampire Zara Lain has seemingly done it all, and she's now making a living as a successful thief-turned-assassin. Her newest assignment seems simple enough: kill the aging leader of the O'Connor coven and his only heir, and she'll have another ten million in the bank.
But in the dangerous world of the supernatural, few things are ever “simple.”

When a massive assault decimates the continent's population of powerful witches and warlocks, and its orchestrator has vampires being hunted down and captured, Zara realizes the tables have turned and now she'll be playing the hero. Forced to join with a smart-mouthed fellow vampire, a demonologist who's also a fan of hers, a recently widowed—and frequently brooding—warlock, and her best friend's mom, Zara's grudgingly willing to do what she can to save the day.

If only people would stop ruining all her outfits...

Details: Exclusive to Kindle until January 2014 Bloodlines (Demons of Oblivion) FREE at Amazon right now!

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-4-2

Includes bonus short story “Thrall”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.

Warning: contains heavy doses of snark, a sexually confident heroine who likes killing people and has no secret heart of gold, lots of explosions, and very naughty language.

Also, some terrible stuff happens to expensive formal wear. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.

Hunter (Demons of Oblivion #2)

Predators beware.

Sometimes natural predators need to be kept in check, and for that, there's Ryann David. Orphaned as an infant and raised by an exiled branch of the church to become a warrior for God, she and her fellow members of Venatores Daemonum have trained all their lives with only one purpose: destroy all demons in the mortal realm.

But when Ryann and her team are sent to hunt down a vampire who has killed one of their own, a new world of danger, betrayal, and conspiracy greets her. Allied with an irreverent psychic detective and the very monsters she was raised to kill, Ryann will risk everything—her life, her faith, and her heart—in pursuit of the truth as the black and white existence she knew turns a murky shade of gray.

Details: Now on Kindle, AllRomanceeBooks, and Smashwords. Other sites coming soon. Hunter (Demons of Oblivion) $2.99 at Amazon right now

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-5-9

Includes bonus short story “Malice”, narrated by Zara Lain.

Warning: This book contains a demon-hunting nun. No, really. And she doesn't swear. At all. This might be quite traumatizing to you after reading Bloodlines. Reader discretion is advised.

Lineage (Demons of Oblivion #3)

Family reunions suck.

What’s a woman to do when her dad’s the antichrist, her grandma’s the devil, the end of the world is at her doorstep, and she’s out to avenge the murders of her husband and kids?

Kill everything in her way.

Quarter-demon Peri Takata exists with but one goal in mind: annihilate everyone responsible for the death of her family. Then—her need for vengeance quelled—she plans to take her own life.

Her mission brings her to vampire Zara Lain, the only known survivor of the event that destroyed Peri’s family five years ago. Hunting down a secret society of those who don’t want to be found has its challenges, however, especially when forces are working to keep the antichrist’s daughter very much alive. The apocalypse is closing in and Peri may be playing a role in it whether she wants to or not.

And when a heart long-thought dead begins to beat again with love for another, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

Details: Now on Kindle, AllRomanceeBooks, and Smashwords. Other sites coming soon. Lineage (Demons of Oblivion) -$2.99 at Amazon right now

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-6-6

Includes bonus short story “Sunrise”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.

Warning: You’re still here? After the narcissistic assassin in Bloodlines and the demon-hunting nun in Hunter? Well, now you get a sociopathic, quarter-demon mercenary. There’s lots more violence and naughty language in this one. You're welcome.

Exhumed (Demons of Oblivion #4)

Some people just won't stay buried...

Zara Lain, narcissistic vampire and assassin, cleaned up after a crazy warlock tried to build a vampire army, made some cash when the North American covens were left in shambles, got away when framed for the murder of a Demon Hunter, and dealt with some idiots who tried to jumpstart Armageddon. None of that could prepare her, however, for the moment when her lover of the undead persuasion awakens...

And promptly tries to kill her.

She’s raised a handful of orphaned baby vampires during the past six years and she knows the score: if they don’t get sane again, they have to be staked. And even if she can fix her would-be boyfriend, he’s not the only formerly deceased one in town who wants to kill her. Old enemies are back to put a cramp in her love life, ruin a good pair of heels, and just maybe end the world.

An apocalypse is nigh...and it gets a lot worse than having nothing to wear to the occasion.

Details: Now on Kindle, AllRomanceeBooks, and Smashwords. Other sites coming soon. Exhumed (Demons of Oblivion) $2.99 at Amazon right now

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-7-3

Warning: This book may cause you emotional turmoil and feelings of great pain. I'd apologize but it would be a lie; I feed on your tears. Keep 'em coming.

About the Author

Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. 

Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.

Skyla is a fifth generation crazy cat lady who lives in southern Ontario, where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. If she ever becomes a grownup, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator. 

You can visit her on the web at When she’s not writing or being glared at by cats, she’s probably on Twitter. You should ping @skyladawn and tell her to get back to work.

Find the Author: WebsiteFacebook | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest


  1. I started counting the female characters in my books by the end of this post and then tallying their conversations. This test is new to me, but it's a good one. What a fun post and I'll have to look into the Demons of Oblivion series.

  2. Wow, I love this. I never thought of this at all but it is important. Now that I think of it a good portion of the books I read will fail this test, but some also pass. :)

  3. Hmm, I never thought of doing this with books until Skyla brought it up. I know of a few books that do fail with this test. lol.

    Thank you JC for joining the tour! :D

  4. Something to think about. This is important for me in books so I better make sure I'm getting it right in my own books. The ones I'm working on as a first time author. It's getting a bit intimidating the number of things I want to make sure I'm aware of while I write.

  5. It's hard sometimes to balance both being aware with not being paralyzed by it. At some point you have to accept that yeah, maybe you miss some things, but it'll develop more as you go.

    It was odd revising Bloodlines as it was one of the earliest books I'd written, when I was about twenty-one or so. I wasn't thinking about gender bias or diversity. It has a VERY small cast and while it sort of straddles the Bechdel line, ALL of the characters are white and it's very heteronormative. That changed sharply with later work but I still cringe a little looking back, even though I was quite young and simply not aware of these things.

  6. And again, gender disapriy is not indicative of QUALITY (gods, that film "The Women"...ERASE IT FROM MY BRAIN), but I think it's important for all of us to be aware of it. Women make up 51% of the world's population but in most fiction we consume, they are an obvious minority. And that, quite frankly, bothers me. I like to see my gender represented diversely.

  7. Yep, and I'm naturally overly analytic, so it's something I've started paying a lot of attention to. It gets even sadder when you take out gender and apply it to white characters vs people of colour--rarely do two POC (or WOC) have a conversation about anything let alone a non-white person in a lot of mainstream books and films. :-(

  8. It's a deceptively simple tool to apply to things and it helped me be much more aware of what I write--it's easy to feel my work is often feminist but the actual gender disparity didn't occur to me to check. I always ask the question WHY now, when I write. Why does this person need to be male. Why does this person need to be white. Why does this person need to be hetero. Usually they DON'T "need" to be, we're just used to seeing white men as the default.

  9. Thank you so much for having me, Jaclyn!

  10. My pleasure!! Thank you so much for a great post and stopping by :D

  11. I'm just a reader, not an author, but it seems daunting to try and make sure things are just right with a story. I wish you the best of luck!! Thank you so much for stopping by :D

  12. My pleasure, Melissa :D Thanks for having me be a part!

  13. I noticed that too while checking this out. There are some right at the top of my head that would pass well, but others would fail miserably. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  14. The conversations the girls have in your books are quite entertaining LOL! Thank you so much for stopping by :D

  15. Thanks. I will keep that in mind. I wasn't a perfectionist before trying my hand at fiction. As a tech writer I learned "good enough" and assumed that would carry over. But instead I stopped writing as it was to hard to do it all right out of the gate.


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