31 Day Blog Challenge: Day 1

Hey, everybody!

Because of my aforementioned unemployment and general need to keep busy, I’ve decided to participate in a blog challenge I found on Pinterest–apparently it came from the now-defunct whileonthisside.com.

31 day blog challenge.jpg

If you’re particularly astute, you might have noticed that this is the post for Day One.

This is the most recent photo of me, and the one I would like put on TV if I discover crude oil in my apartment:

red lipstick selfie.jpg

Of particular note in this photo:

  • my shirt, which I stole from my friend Tai and which has a pictorial depiction of the lyrics to “Friday I’m in Love” printed on the front. I like this shirt because I think it’s clever and the whole off-the-shoulder neckline thing is flattering to what my high school drama teacher deemed my “linebacker shoulders”.
  • my lipstick (MAC Ruby Woo) and eyebrows (Maybelline Eye Studio Brow Drama Pomade Crayon in Deep Brown), which look fantastic
  • my crystal pendant, which I wear everywhere
  • my hair, cut and styled by the fabulous Chisa Rollins, recent graduate of the North Florida Cosmetology Institute and CEO of the art non-profit Barbi3 Headz
  • the vitamins and Aleve on the table behind me
  • the faint outline on the wall of the whiteboard I hung up three years ago to keep track (with my roommates) of who last emptied the dishwasher and took out the trash (who says I’m type A?)

As far as introductions go…

Hi. I’m Shelby, and I’m just trying not to suck. I recently graduated from Florida State University with a double major in English (with a concentration in creative writing) and Media/Communications Studies. Basically, I can make words and tell you, in highly technical language, why Parks and Recreation is the best sitcom ever to be on TV.* I’m currently looking for a job opening that could use someone with those skills.

I like reading books, playing video games, petting animals and traveling in order to do those things in places other than my apartment. I’m not crazy about interacting with humans IRL, cleaning or cooking, but I do them anyway because in order to do the things I like, I have to be alive.

I actually really enjoy talking to people online, so if we haven’t “met” on Twitter yet, tweet at me! Tell me about stuff you like, stuff you hate, what you ate for lunch… seriously, whatever. I’m at Starbucks right now because the power is out in my apartment.

*If any of my prospective employers are reading this, my degree also carries with it a certain amount of “people skill” and advertising and marketing ability. It’s useful.

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At Staying Busy

I’ve recently learned something about myself: I hate unemployment.

This did not come as a shock. I’m bad at relaxing; I’ve always felt a nervous need to be productive at all hours of the day, whether that productivity was real or imagined. I played

staying busy

Entertaining yourself doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. I wish I knew where this image originated.

a lot of The Sims 2 when I was a kid. It felt like doing something important, because in that game you are basically God, but in reality I was just seeing what would happen if tiny animated versions of my friends from school dated each other.

This is the same sort of productivity I’ve embraced for now–the kind that keeps your mind busy, even if it doesn’t necessarily end world hunger. Sometimes creativity and activity in general have fallow periods, and that’s okay. Here’s how to deal if you’re in the middle of one yourself.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the realm of keeping oneself busy as making sure one is physically, mentally and emotionally stimulated enough not to develop adverse symptoms of boredom.

1. Spread everything out. Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t want to leave your friend’s house when your parents showed up, so you’d take forever to put your shoes on? Now’s the time to pull that niche skill set back out.

For example, my schedule this week looks like this:

Wednesday: 

  • shave below knee
  • apply for jobs
  • write thank-you notes
  • pay rent

Thursday:

  • shave above knee
  • apply for jobs
  • dentist appointment
  • grocery shop

Friday: 

  • shave Duchovny (I have taken on a freelance position as David Duchovny’s barber)*
  • apply for jobs
  • eye appointment
  • return bras to Torrid

And so on. If I were employed, I could probably take care of all these errands in a weekend (and/or shave my entire legs in the shower). However, since I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, I need to spread out my productivity or I will feel like a boss for twelve hours and then like a lump the rest of the week.

joey friends

Hey, work is work, Joe. Still from Friends.

I can’t take credit for this method of staying sane. I actually got it from an episode of Friends, where Joey, the friends’ resident expert on unemployment, schools Ross on the risks of being too productive too early in the week.

2. Explore. You don’t need a lot of money to do this. Go to a neighborhood in your city that you haven’t spent a lot of time in, go to the next town over, cross a state line and head to a flea market. Be safe, but don’t be afraid to get a little messy. If you just can’t bring yourself to leave the house–and in this summer heat, I don’t blame you–try a new show on Netflix, read a book that’s outside your preferred genre, or go on Spotify’s Explore playlist and get hip to some new artists.

3. Take care of yourself. After all, it’s something to do. Shower every day. Shave, if that’s your thing. Wash your face, moisturize everything, cook healthy meals, exercise. Experiment with makeup. Yes, even if you’re a guy. There’s no law on the books that says you can’t cover a zit or draw a glittery line on your eyelid just because you identify as a dude.

4. Develop a new hobby. I, personally, have been throwing myself into strategy-based video games like Civilization V. Your new hobby doesn’t have to make you any money or make you into a more highly effective person. It just has to be enjoyable and take up time

catherine the great

I’m currently playing through Civ V as Catherine the Great of Russia.

and mental energy. Although, I guess, if you really wanted extra credit, your new hobby could be volunteering at a shelter, phone banking for your favorite political candidate, or learning a new language. But honestly, if you’re unemployed, you’re about as capitalistically viable as a Chevy Nova already, so don’t feel bad about leaning into it.

5. Get back on the horse. If you lost your job, you should apply for three to five new jobs per day. That way you get yourself out there without going insane because oh my gosh I already uploaded my resume why do you need me to fill out an hour’s worth of employment and educational history when I ALREADY GAVE IT TO YOU? 

If you just exited a romantic relationship or got dumped by your social group–or, hell, if you moved–you should focus at least an hour or two a day on finding places to meet new people, in real life, in your geographic area. (MeetUp is a great app for this.)

Dry spells suck. They just do. But they don’t last forever.

If you’ve got time on your hands, come talk to me on Twitter. Don’t forget to like this blog on Facebook, too!

*David Duchovny’s lawyers** have asked me to clarify that this is a joke.

**That was also a joke. I’m not important enough for them to notice me. Let’s keep it that way. Also, this whole schtick was much funnier to me in the shower this morning.

At Job Interviews

In the acting community, it’s well known that auditioning is a separate skill from actual performing. The problem is that, if you don’t have an established reel of filmed performances to show casting directors, auditioning is the only way for them to get a sense of your prowess, style and look. Thanks to this, the world’s next Meryl Streep could be in a studio apartment with six roommates somewhere in L.A. because she can’t pick a decent two-minute dramatic monologue.

Job interviews are pretty much just auditions for non-entertainers. You could be the best accountant, marketer, salesperson or even casting director in the world, but if you’re also the world’s worst interviewer, you’re probably not going to get the chance to show that off. It’s an ugly system, but it’s the way it is.

So far, my bouncing back plan has been a moderate success. I had a job for about two weeks, before the company decided to outsource said job to a firm–but I walked out with a paycheck and a promised recommendation, so that’s good.

road to el dorado

DON’T SAY WORSE, MIGUEL.

My philosophy right now is “it could be a lot worse”. After two budget-related layoffs in two months, this is more out of paranoia than Pollyanna-like positivity. If The Road to El Dorado is any indication, the moment you think it couldn’t get any worse is the moment it does.

Luckily, I’m actually not half bad at interviews. I clean up good, I dress well, I know when to be funny and when to shut up (most of the time)–and since all my elementary school report cards say “A joy to have in class!”, I assume I must be convincing people that I’m good to have around, however briefly. I may not yet be great at keeping an office job, but I can sure get one like a champ.

If you’re worried about convincing others that you’re a good investment (or at least not going to be That Weird Person who hangs out at the coffee machine and makes awkward small talk), here are some tips to improve your interview game.

1. Work on your handshake. Short, firm, but not bone crunching, while making eye contact. There are YouTube tutorials for this, folks.

2. Do some recon. Google exists for a reason: finding pictures of Jennifer Lopez’s dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards.

No, wait… that’s Google Images. Regular Google exists so that you can find information about your prospective employers.

Focus on names first: the name of the company, the person who will be interviewing you, the owner or CEO of the company, any parent companies that the company operates under, any big clients the company serves if that information is public… basically any name that could come up in the interview.

Make sure you also find out the basics of what the company does and what you would be doing for them if they hired you. Try and get a sense of the company’s image. Is it fun and innovative, like Google? Is it serious and fast-paced, like The New York Times? Is it a little weird and sarcastic, like Cards Against Humanity? These are all clues as to not only how you should act in the interview, but whether you’d like working at that company at all. If you don’t speak French, you probably shouldn’t work for Le Monde. 

3. Assemble your outfit. Unless somebody at the office tells you otherwise, dress business casual for your interview. Here’s what that means specifically, but in general: get a blazer, leave your jeans and t-shirts at home, wear closed-toe shoes, and make sure nobody can see your underwear. Basically, make it so that nobody could object to what you’re wearing for safety- or legally-related reasons.

4. Clean up your social media. To some people, this means removing everything from your social media that anyone could disagree with ever, or that implies you have a life outside of work. To me, this means a) never posting anything vicious, prejudiced or illegal online and b) making as many of my social media private as possible. (Obviously Twitter is a different story.) If you’re in a creative field, it’ll be to your benefit to be social media-famous–or at least present. If you’re concerned about intersecting your professional and personal lives, make separate accounts: one Twitter feed for your work, and another for your live tweets of Scandal. 

5. Be early. Google directions from your house to the location of your interview. Find out how long it’s going to take you to get there, and then double that time to figure out when you should leave. Worst case scenario, you end up getting there 20 minutes early and have to sit and wait in the parking lot until five minutes before your interview time so you don’t look like a loser. Second worst case scenario, you get lost and end up getting to your interview on time because you left early, you well-prepared little minx.

job interview stock

“What is your biggest strength?” “I never forward chain emails.” “You’re hired.”

6. Talk like a person. Make yourself look good, but don’t lie. Don’t say your biggest weakness is that you “care too much”. Be relatively formal, but avoid stiffness. Read the room–sometimes (not always) it’s appropriate to make your interviewer laugh.

7. Follow up. Send a handwritten thank you note to the person who interviewed you. Say you appreciated them taking the time to talk to you, and that you hope you can find a way to work together in the future. If your handwriting is hopeless, you can send an email, but make sure your email signature is professional. Regardless of whether you get the job or not, it’s important to remember that you’ll eventually get job. It’s the only way to stay sane–and, as far as I know, as long as you keep applying, it’s true.

Good luck on the hunt, folks. Tell me about your job search experience on Twitter, and make sure to like this blog on Facebook!

At Bouncing Back

When I was sixteen months old, according to my mom, I still wasn’t walking. I’d pull myself up on furniture and crawl around, but I wasn’t using my feet for anything–which, considering how many tiny shoes I’ve seen in my boxes of baby stuff, was probably pretty vexing.

Concerned, Mom took me to the doctor. After a short period of observation, she says that the pediatrician turned to her and said, “She’s perfectly capable of walking. She’s just not going to do it until she can do it perfectly. She’ll probably be like that her entire life.”

So yeah, I guess you could call me a perfectionist.

I graduated from high school summa cum laude–and never got so much as a detention. I got accepted to my first-choice college with a full ride. I passed all my classes, did several internships, graduated cum laude in four years, and secured a job two months before leaving school.

Well, I thought I secured a job. Turns out, due to circumstances I won’t go into here, not so much.

I didn’t write all that to imply that the world owes me a job, although the idea that everyone deserves the means by which to procure food and shelter is not a new one (and, in fact, is one gaining traction in Switzerland as we speak). I just mean that, well, this is kind of the first time my life has gone off script–and I don’t like it.

george rr martin

 

I’m glad you’re calm, George, because your life gives me anxiety.

 

I like having a plan. I’m boggled by the idea that George R. R. Martin doesn’t outline his epic novels before writing them, describing himself as a “gardener” rather than an “architect”. Even if the job I had wasn’t necessarily my dream job, it was still something to build on. Now I’ve got nothing, and I’m not happy about it.

 

Some people, like George, like to let things happen naturally. I say if that had been cavemen’s philosophy, we never would have invented the wheel. Sometimes, you gotta take what nature gave you and make a circle out of it so your oxen can pull you to market. Or something.

Even though I know I’ll probably end up getting another job (and not, say, living in a van by the river), it’s hard not to feel shaken by this first of many hiccups. Relationships, cooking, public speaking–I’ve felt insecure about my abilities in all those areas before, but never about anything that had to do with my mind or my work ethic. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, I started by coming back here. Sometime in the past year (wow, sorry, it’s been a while, folks) I reverted back to perfectionism and forgot how to be okay with just… okay. Here’s the best way I know how to get back there from “sucky”.

What is not sucking? In the world of recovery from personal or professional Sudden Onset Suckishness (or SOS), not sucking is defined as getting back to business, full stop, no conditions. You can do it kicking and screaming, but you have to do it.

1. Don’t fear rock bottom. When I got home from my last day of work, I told my roommate I was out of a job and proceeded to cry so hard for so long that I choked on my own snot. That was my low point this time. My other Rock Bottom Greatest Hits have included:

  • the time I stayed up all night watching Parks and Recreation and drinking an entire bottle of rosé after a bad breakup
  • falling out of bed after a different bad breakup and staying on the floor, in my blanket burrito, for three hours
  • skipping class and driving out of state for a day to avoid a difficult conversation with a friend (we’re good now–sorry, Ira)

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Rock bottom is awful, but sometimes you have to live there for a little while. Think of yourself like an air hockey puck: you have to hit a wall before you can go in a new direction.

2. Make an “eff you” playlist. Mine is here. Fill yours with songs whose lyrics, genre or style fill you with enough spite to live another day.

3. Be careful how you vent. You don’t want to go on social media and diss your ex-lover/friend/employer to the whole world. Even if you’re in the right, airing your dirty laundry can make you look whiny rather than righteous. I’m a big proponent of complaining–recent studies have shown that talking about your problems can improve your mental health–but if you’re looking to have a job, a friend or a date ever again, you may want to avoid publicly ranting about how you’ve been wronged.

Some of the above advice goes out the window in certain cases. If you’ve been victimized, wrongfully terminated or discriminated against, get a lawyer and go after those other buckets. However, still tread carefully when it comes to public denouncements. Depending on laws in your state, discussing details of your case could jeopardize your chances of winning.

4. Analyze. This is my favorite part. What, if anything, did you do to contribute to the situation that you’re in? What, if anything, did others do to contribute to the situation that you’re in? (The answer could be nothing, but make sure to approach it from all angles.) What can you do differently next time, and where can you go from here? Don’t spend too much time on this, because take it from me, you’ll lose your mind, but try and get some rudimentary answers before you move on.

5. Gather cheerleaders. Call your friends, call your mom, call your dog (not on the phone,

cheerleader dog

 

Fifi is so excited for you! Photo credit: G.W. Little.

 

by their name. Does your dog have a phone?!) and get them on your team. Let them know that you’re going to need support. The ones who really love you will give it to you.

 

6. Take baby steps. (See what I did there?) Let yourself be proud of the things you accomplish, no matter how insignificant they may seem from the outside. Big tasks, like getting a job or getting over your ex, only seem daunting when you look at them as one thing. Try thinking of them as lots of things you can do over time. If you want to share your little wins with me, come talk to me on Twitter. We can be okay together.

You’re always okay by me, you guys. If you want to gush about office supplies, rant about pockets in women’s clothing or complain about… well, just about anything, hit me up on Twitter. Make sure to like this page on Facebook, too!

 

At Writing Letters to Yourself: #DearMe

Dear 16-year-old me,

Hey girl. Hope you’re doing okay. It sure has been a while… we turn 21 in a couple months. It’s bananas.

I remember how you used to look at the seniors walking around your high school and think about how grown-up they seemed. You’d daydream about how nice it would be once you were finally an adult who was sure of herself and knew what she was doing all the time.

I still think that version of adulthood sounds nice. Unfortunately (and I don’t want to scare you with this, so you can skip to the next sentence if you want to remain blissfully unaware), after a few years of talking with people much older than either of us, I don’t know that it exists. No one knows what they’re doing, and that’s especially true in high school. I know it looks like everyone around you is comfortable with who they are, but really, they’re just as confused as you.

Listen to the glasses, High School Me.

Listen to the glasses, High School Me.

Before we really get into it,  I want to tell you thank you. Thank you, High School Shelby, for being a giant nerd who was friends with primarily other giant nerds. Nerdom comes with a set of problems in high school, yes, but you never got into drugs, you didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, and you never had sex, of either the protected or unprotected varieties. That sentence probably makes you feel irrationally boring, but it makes me feel proud of you. You know what’s good for your body and what’s not. You know what you’re ready for and what you’re not. You are paranoid on a level with Cold-War-era America, and thus far that has kept you out of trouble with the law and kept you from getting pregnant. Sometimes anxiety is a good thing.

Most of the time, though, it’s not. I hurt for you. You worry so much, and it’s not your fault. I think if I could tell you one thing, it would be that you deserve to feel good. You deserve to do things that make you happy, to surround yourself only with people who make you happy, to make your happiness your highest priority.

You are worth more than letters on a report card or numbers on a scale. I can hear you asking whether you’re fat or not in a panicky voice and I know you mean to ask whether you’re pretty enough to be significant. You are brilliant and kind and funny, and you work harder than anyone I know (excluding your state-science-fair-winning dive-team-medaling Girl-Scout-Gold-Award-winning best friend, Kat, who works that hard because she draws strength from a giant-sized lithium ion battery in her left hip). Are you beautiful, good at school, well-liked? Yes. Do you need to attach that much of your worth to those facts? No.

Go easy on yourself. Work hard for the B instead of making yourself implode over the A. Eat the cupcake. Free associate sometimes, just to get your creative juices pumping. Pay attention to how your mind and body feel, and if you need help with either, ASK. You are sixteen. Nobody thinks you should be entirely self-sufficient except you.

haters

You have no idea what this is from yet. I’m so excited for you.

Pay attention to how your mom and sisters react to your friends and your boyfriend. If your mom doesn’t like someone, she’s going to let you work out the fact that they don’t deserve you on your own, because she loves you and she wants you to learn. If your sisters don’t like someone, they will be vocal about it because they love you and it annoys them when other people make you cry.

It’s okay to like what you like. If you’re more into Taylor Swift than Mayday Parade, or if you’re listening to the Wicked soundtrack for the umpteenth time while all the other drama kids have moved on to some other show, you don’t have to worry about whether people will stop liking you because of it. People who pick their friends based on music taste are kind of crappy people. Besides, Taylor Swift is cool–and she’ll only get cooler in the next five years, trust me.

I’m jealous of how much you read. Don’t worry, I still have my nose in a book most of the time, but you’re about to discover the workforce and Netflix, and those two things (not necessarily in that order) are going to eat up lots of your time.

I’m proud of you. I’m proud of how hard you work and of how often you’re beginning to try new things and of the number of adventures you want to have. I wish I could give you a hug, but spacetime doesn’t work that way, so I guess I’ll just tell you that we turn out okay. You’re gonna be fine. Embrace it.

I love us,

Future You

P.S. Spoiler alert: you and Kat are still best friends.

I’m back, baby. Follow me on Twitter @ShelbyBouck or like this blog’s page on Facebook for more non-suckage.

At Writing Thank You Notes

From the time I was old enough to hold a pencil, every six months my mom enforced a rule that some people think is archaic: sitting down to hand-write notes to people who had sent me gifts for my birthday or Christmas. The notes were usually on cute stationery that came with tiny envelopes and smelled really good in that paper-y, book-smell way, so the process wasn’t overly taxing, but to a six-year-old who would rather be reading or telling stories to her stuffed animals, it wasn’t exactly a dream way to spend an hour.

Jimmy's got the right idea. Via poehlermeyers.tumblr.com

Jimmy’s got the right idea. Via poehlermeyers.tumblr.com

I have to admit, I haven’t stayed on top of the thank-you note thing as I’ve moved into adulthood. I still write them… just sometimes the Christmas thank you notes go out in February. I am grateful. I am. It’s just that I get busy.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Maybe know I’m grateful for my gifts, and my job interviews, and the places I stay when I travel, but do the people who give me those things know that? I can say “thank you” verbally to someone who’s in the room with me or on the phone, but using good-smelling stationery and a fancy pen to send a letter takes time and effort that lets someone generous know you care.

This kind of gesture is particularly important for people who are older–grandparents, aunts, uncles–because many of them still expect thank-you notes to arrive. It’s still a good idea to write thank you notes to people who didn’t watch Happy Days every week as it came out, though, since the fact that they’re not expecting it will make your gesture that much more adorable. Here’s the anatomy of a good thank-you note. It doesn’t have to win an award–it just has to be nice.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of gratitude-related missives as writing an individualized, kind and visually pleasing note that lets its recipient know you care.

1. Stock up. You can get thank-you notes just about everywhere–Walmart, Target, bookstores, even some high-class gas stations. Get one card for everyone you’re thanking, and make sure you’ve got envelopes. Pens are a good idea, too, unless you’ve mastered the art of telekinetic handwriting projection, in which case, good job!

leg lamp gif

Via ozneo.tumblr.com

2. Be specific. Don’t be the kid who wrote a stilted form letter to all their relatives after Christmas: “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the gift. Love, [name]”. Name the gift and talk about why you liked it. If you received cash, write about what you treated yourself to with it. If a gift arrived broken, defective, or not to your taste, don’t mention it–just return it quietly and channel your joy from the store credit you’ll receive into a genuine thank-you note. If you can’t return it, just say something neutral and complimentary-sounding: “Every time I look at it, I’ll think of you”. Super sweet, super-not-indicative of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story maybe not being your thing.

This part can be easier to write for notes about favors people did with you or interactions you had. Handwritten notes for people who kept you in their homes while you were traveling or people who interviewed you for jobs are unexpected and kind (and, from an employment standpoint, can give you a real boost).

3. Make nice. Thank-you notes aren’t just about settling a debt–one nice favor for one handwritten note. They’re about making a personal connection, sometimes with folks you rarely see. Ask how the recipient is doing, as specifically as possible! “I heard you got a new kitten–how is Mr. Whiskers doing?” “Congratulations to little Karen on getting onto her school’s softball team!” “Great seeing you at Great-Aunt Sally’s Christmas dinner–I hope you had a happy new year!” Thank-you notes for job interviews don’t have to be that personal, but do include something about hoping your maybe-future employer is doing well, and how nice it was to meet them.

Wait a minute, Mister Postman!

Wait a minute, Mister Postman!

4. Deliver! I sure hope you waited to go shopping for thank-you note supplies until after you finished this article, because there was one crucial item that I didn’t mention earlier: stamps. They’re the main difference between email and snail mail, and in the digital age, they can be easy to forget. Get Forever stamps so you don’t have to worry about whether you’re including the correct postage. If you’ve forgotten how to address an envelope in the U.S., no worries; there’s a tutorial here. Don’t worry about getting your notes out late, either. Even though it’s better to be prompt with thank you notes, there’s no deadline on appreciation!

Get scribbling, readers–and thank you for being here. If you’d like to thank me for something, you can do that at this blog’s Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

At Writing Fictional Women

captain marvel logo

Please make this good, Marvel. Pleeeeease. (Also, make a Black Widow movie. Pleeeeeease.)

Overall, this has been a great year for girls and women in film, TV and literature. We’ve got Ursula K. Le Guin and Jacqueline Woodson, who each won 2014 National Book Awards (for Lifetime Achievement and Young People’s Literature, respectively). We’ve got a Captain Marvel movie in the works and two female-led action movies, Divergent and Mockingjay Part 1, making bank at the box office. We’ve got Olivia Pope, Jessica Day, Sophia Burset and a host of other women blazing trails for many interesting, unique television characters to come.

However, the reason that these characters are so notable is partly because they are in the minority. For every book, movie and television show that writes its female characters well, there are five who still rely on tropes and outdated stereotypes—or worse, outright cast women just so they can be eye candy. For some reason, after over 2000 years, writers, even the writers who write about the characters I listed above, still have trouble portraying women as humans in the media. If you’re a media professional, or hope to become one in the future, I’ve created a little guide for you and for my own reference (writer, hello); have a look and feel free to tell me anything I missed!

What is not sucking? Not sucking in the realm of creating fabricated female characters that are just as three-dimensional, active and distinct as they are in real life.

  1. Create more than one of them, and give them names. Women make up 51% of the world’s population. Shouldn’t they make up more than 30% of all speaking roles in the movies? Shouldn’t they make up more than 15% of the protagonists we root for in cinema? Shouldn’t they get their own movies instead of just cameos in every single male superhero’s movie? (Sorry. I’m still bitter about the severe lack of a Black Widow movie in our universe.) Put more than one woman in your fictional work. Extra points if they’re friends.
  2. Let them have conversations with each other about something other than a man. Fulfilling just these first two items makes sure that your piece will pass the Bechdel test. “Well, that bar’s set pretty low,” you might be thinking. Yes. Yes it is. But you’d be surprised: only a little over half of the movies released in theaters in 2014 have passed the Bechdel test. Some of the titles that passed are surprising: 22 Jump Street,
    I didn't see this movie, but I guess Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill couldn't have been the only people in it if it passed the Bechdel Test.

    I didn’t see this movie, but I guess Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill couldn’t have been the only people in it if it passed the Bechdel Test.

    Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Flowers in the Attic all featured conversations between two named female characters about something other than a man. This proves that your story doesn’t have to be sophisticated or even particularly feminist to pass this test; your dialogue and worldbuilding just have to acknowledge that there are a lot of women in the world, and they talk about a lot of stuff that’s not dudes. Your female characters’ conversation can be about anything—shoes, dinner, other women, taking over the world—except a man, and can last no longer than two or three lines, and you’ll pass the test. BUT WAIT, YOU’RE STILL NOT DONE:

  3. Write them with complex, diverse personalities. Some women are strong warriors who literally wear combat boots, kick butt and take no nonsense from anyone. That’s great. Some women are soft and kind and bake cookies and make glittery Pinterest projects. That is also great. Lots of women embody both or neither of these types and all of them are great. (Except when they’re not. Women can be villains, also, and not just because they’re aggressive businesspeople or Wednesday-pink-wearing mean girls.) Think beyond the stereotypes you’ve seen before and go big. Also consider reflecting our actual world in your fictional world by populating it with a significant number of non-white, non-straight, non-cis-gendered, bigger-than-size-6* people as well as their white, straight, cis-gendered, smaller-than-size-6* counterparts.
  4. Write them with individual motivations. Women are often daughters, wives, girlfriends and mothers. Again, that’s great. However, some women are none of these things, and even women who have partners and families have ambitions and interests outside of their partners and families. Just like men, women may have career aspirations, a desire for political power or scientific discovery, patriotic or even nationalist loyalties—in other words, desires and narratives that have nothing to do with family relationships. Explore those. They’re interesting.
  5. Write them as people. That is, after all, what we are.

*If you are a man, or writing male characters, the phrase “size 6” means almost nothing to you because men’s sizes are based on things like inseams and waist measurements, while women’s sizes are based on things like black magic and lotteries. I know. It’s nuts. Read more about it here.

If you’d like to role play as a fictional female character… maybe don’t do it on this blog’s Facebook or Twitter. But you can come talk to me about it there!