Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
User avatar
Aurelia Combeferre
Posts: 8847
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:57 am
Location: somewhere with the abased
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:21 am

Whoa. Never thought of it that way, Abelarda. That seems mighty plausible though.

I remember once (on another thread on this board), someone profiling Enjolras as an Extrovert-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging sort (myers-briggs typology anyone?)

I've got a different theory, but I'll post it later.
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

User avatar
sb_soprano
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:27 am
Location: On Stage at the Queens Theatre

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby sb_soprano » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:55 am

MmeJavert wrote:How about Combeferre’s older sister, who managed to be the first female student at La Sorbonne? First off, that’s a Mary Sue, no matter how you look at it or how original you make her. Second, she still has the disadvantage of being a woman, and whether or not Combeferre personally introduces Enjolras to his sister, he still won’t look at her as anything other than Combeferre’s sister. Or the petite new waitress at Musian, the one who’s helping Louison? One, a Mary Sue. Two, still a girl. Three, waitstaff that he’s always going to take for granted, especially at his usual haunts. He gives no notice to Louison, so why should he give notice to a new assistant? He may look at her, to recognize her and give her tacit approval for entrance, but to him she’s the invisible carrier of food and drink, just like Louison.

But while difficult, I can’t say that it’s impossible. Although Enjolras is not fond of women, he’s likely a fairly good person at heart. Interested in elevating the poor people to the same status as the rich. I would say you’re three times more likely to get Enjolras interested in a woman if she doesn’t try her charms on him. If she approaches him as a persion, she’s three times more likely to catch his attention than if she tries to seduce him. If you want to pair Enjolras with a girl, find a girl who won’t be afraid of his icy glare and formidable expression at first glance. Find a reason for the girl to talk to him – ‘Don’t go to Corinthe; they're looking for rebels there’ – and give him a reason to want to talk to her – ‘How do you know? And why do you want to help me?’ – and just let it go from there. I’m not saying that this is necessarily better and more believable, but Enjolras is not suddenly going to notice the one grisette who misses landing at his feet and topples him over. He’ll just give her the same icy glare as any of the other girls and continue on his way.


I both agree and don't at different points here. In paragraph one, you state: "First off, that’s a Mary Sue, no matter how you look at it or how original you make her." Really? How is that possible- the definition of a Mary Sue is, essentially, a character that is OMGPERFECT in every way and everyone loves her. You could easily have a female character who comes from an influential family, and because of that is kind of a bitch to everyone she views as a lower class than her. So no one really likes her. She may be smart, but not into everything (perhaps she's good at math, but horrid at politics and languages and studying). Perhaps Enjolras has to tutor her in politics- and she helps him with social skills or something-, and he's astounded by her inability to grasp governmental politics and civics, and how little she cares about it. By helping her to care more about governmental politics, it's still reinforcing his own character and love of Patria, but have them develop a mutually respecting relationship. Because she's from an influential family, he'd probably not like her at first, since she stood for all he was working against. Perhaps, as she gets to know him better, she chills out from her Rich Bitch-ness and "helps" in the revolution some how. Or disowns her family after she understands what horrible people they are. Or something.
There are better examples- and there obviously has to be more character development for both-, of course, but I'm just making a point. It's entirely possible to create a female OC who's not a Mary Sue and develop a mutual interest in our dear Enjolras.

[quote]Enjolras is written in such a way that making a plausible pairing involving him is quite difficult./quote]

Aye, difficult but not impossible. ;)

See, I just don't understand how Enjolras is shipped with the barricade boys. To me they're more like brothers in arms (and brothers in every form other than blood). It kind of squicks me out a little. I'm all for other, canon, homosexual pairings, but Enjolras never expresses any canon romantic indication to Grantaire/Cumbeferre/Courfeyrac/Any of the boys. So I find those harder to believe than any OC story.

That's just my two cents. Please don't get angry or flame me for it- I'm all for debating or agreeing to disagree, but that's it. :)

Also- sorry is I misspelled anyone's names here, or if something (or, hell, all of it!) doesn't make sense. It's late and I really need to get to bed before my computer becomes a very uncomfortable pillow.

Ciao~
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."- Nathan Hale
"This is a revolution- we're got to offend somebody!" -Mr. Adams, '1776'
Icon by Hannah.

User avatar
Col.Despard
Posts: 1563
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:26 am
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby Col.Despard » Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:48 am

I think your first example still sounds like it has the potential to verge on Mary-Sueism, SB - your hypothetical OC is still someone of privileged status (i.e. rich, and sounds like she has an extraordinary education for her era when even few wealthy women were tutored beyond the most elementary levels in the subjects you discuss), and someone who - again, in defiance of social norms of the age - is able to overcome the fact that the Republican movement of the period was not accommodating to women, and is accepted and eventually romantically involved with a character who categorically has no time for romance with women. Sues are often invested with a few "flaws", often so the author can point to how un-Sueish they are.

I'd really have to see how a work like that was written, as the surface premise isn't too promising but - as always - it's how the material is handed. MmeBahorel, for example, was able to write Enjolras in a relationship with an OC female character...but it's a very nuanced take, and addresses questions of Enjolras' own confusion regarding his feelings towards her (and not in the well-worn path of "OMG I just realised I'm really in LOVE with my female friend...in many ways, quite the opposite), the question of how a girl came to be so raised and educated that she can actually engage with him, and the rejection of many in their circle. The consequences of all this, too, are powerful...but I can't really go into that without spoilers for those who haven't read the stories.

On the other hand, I find it far more realistic to see him in a relationship with one of his peers...if anyone (I think a good deal of canon tweaking has to go on to get him involved with anyone, but less so if it's with one of the Amis). There are, for example, the interesting textual hints that could lend themselves to reading him as a gay character (e.g. in the litany of classical figures to whom he is compared). There are also personal interactions he has with his friends that, if read with an eye to romantic attraction, could lend themselves to that interpretation. Communicating with Combeferre with just a touch...Courfeyrac confident enough to whisper things in his ear and setting himself up close to Enjolras on the barricades...the fact he gives Grantaire opportunities even when it should be abundantly clear that he will fail him...

I'm not suggesting that he certainly was in any sort of romantic relationship (the authorial voice tells us he most certainly was not), but at least these interactions actually exist in the text, and suggest an intimacy that could be a basis from which to extrapolate. Unlike his categoric rejection of any woman who attempts to initiate a romantic advance. These people are already close to him, and they share the bond of their ideals and their shared danger. They are already his peers - you don't have to make them the exception, as you would with a female OC to bring her into his world. And certainly Enjolras is not going to go out of his world - as I've said before, there is no demarcation between his public and private life.

But, again, I stress that it's all in the handling. I'm prepared to read something that can overcome the obstacles and set him up with an OC - it just has to be well written. But that would go to a greater or lesser extent with any non-canon pairing of any character...it just depends on how much you have to reach to make it plausible. I've seen far more successful stories where he's slashed with an Ami than with an OC, Éponine or even in some instances Cosette. Far, far more.
"The principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race" - Edward Despard, 1803
http://coloneldespard.deviantart.com/

User avatar
MmeJavert
Benevolent Dictator
Posts: 2168
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2006 1:21 am
Location: Buffalo, NY
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby MmeJavert » Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:53 am

SB -- you're right, my first example of "this is a Mary-Sue" is probably too quick, but for the most part, people who tend to write characters like Combeferre's beautiful/accomplished/smart sister make them into Mary Sues. The problem is that the bit you're quoting is something I wrote YEARS ago when I used to read a lot of fanfiction, and I had never found a single NON Mary Sue OC that people wrote into relationships with Enjolras. I know, I know, not all OCs are Mary Sues, but the nature of this fandom seems to lend itself very easily to making them.

I mean, if you want to write a female OC/Enjolras story that doesn't veer too far into Mary-Sueism, I'm sure I won't be alone in saying I wanted to read it. XD I just don't think I'm capable of making a realistic female character that's not more Mary Sue than anything else. (This may be because I'm doing an intentional/serious Mary-Sue fic for fun, and otherwise just write fics with the boys and no women in them, but.)

And there definitely ARE people in this fandom who are able to write female characters including female OCs really believably and plausibly. I guess it's not impossible that Enjolras' female love interest not be a Mary Sue, but ... I definitely want to see it first before I believe it. ;)
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

~pearl jam, "dissident"

User avatar
MmeBahorel
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:12 am
Location: Washington, DC
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:48 am

But really, isn't the point that you have justify anything if you're creating an extra-textual relationship? How the characters could meet, what one character sees in the other and vice versa, how the relationship could be carried out.

Enjolras leads a more circumscribed life than the other boys, therefore his options are going to be more limited. And those options are going to end up requiring more detailed justification than Courfeyrac having a one night stand with a cute girl he met at a dance hall, because Courfeyrac goes to dance halls to get laid in canon (ok, to get Marius laid, but if he didn't do it himself, he wouldn't try to help Marius with it).

Just about anything is easier to believe if we're lead down a seemingly logical path to it. The writer has to construct that path, and with Enjolras, it has to go around a few obstacles that are steeper than for other characters.

(The fics Despard references are The Keeper of All Mystery (Chapter 4 only) and Hear Now the Tale of a Jet-Black Sunrise - which is very long and horribly depressing but also goes to show the sheer amount of work that went into the justification of a het relationship for Enjolras without it turning twee or anachronistic. The character is based on historical models from 1848, which I consider reasonable since Hugo was really talking 1848 though he used 1832 as the setting.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

User avatar
sb_soprano
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:27 am
Location: On Stage at the Queens Theatre

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby sb_soprano » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:35 pm

Thanks all for your replies- and for not biting my head off. I mention het/OCs to some people, and I wonder if I'll escape alive!

Out of curiosity, for each of you, what do you think establishes an OC as a non-Mary Sue? I'm debating on putting myself up to the challenge of writing an Enjolras/OC tale, but keeping it as real as possible. I have a character in mind (in fact, I created her for the time period, long before I knew about Les Misérables, but I want to know what your guys' opinion on what differentiates a OC and a Mary Sue.

Do you think they HAVE to a poor character, or HAVE to be French, or are your ideas of an OC more lenient? For example, the character that has been rummaging in my head is kind of based on the idea of Marguertie St. Just from The Scarlet Pimpernel. She's NOT Margot herself, of course, but has a basis much like Margot. Do you think by basing a character on someone who was already part of an earlier French culture is a good idea? (That was a weird sentence. Sorry. The phrasing wouldn't come out right. :/) Or do you think dear Marguerite herself is something of a Mary Sue?

I'd appreciate any sort of insight any of you might have toward creating a non-MS OC. I'll read over the fic that Mme. Bahorel gave me, to get a basis on what a good one is like. I think writing this story might be difficult, but good things were never without a price, right? :D
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."- Nathan Hale
"This is a revolution- we're got to offend somebody!" -Mr. Adams, '1776'
Icon by Hannah.

User avatar
sb_soprano
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:27 am
Location: On Stage at the Queens Theatre

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby sb_soprano » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:42 pm

Col.Despard wrote: ...or even in some instances Cosette. Far, far more.


Could I possibly have the name of this story? I'm simply curious as to how one would pair them up- well, pair them up in a way that makes some nuance of sense.
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."- Nathan Hale
"This is a revolution- we're got to offend somebody!" -Mr. Adams, '1776'
Icon by Hannah.

User avatar
Lara
Posts: 304
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 10:12 pm
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby Lara » Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:35 am

The main thing for me in terms of defining a Mary Sue is how quickly the character becomes attracted to her and how much work the author puts into making it seem real. If it seems shallow, I'm much more likely to call the romantic interest a Mary Sue.

User avatar
MmeBahorel
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:12 am
Location: Washington, DC
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby MmeBahorel » Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:55 am

The character has to be reasonable, for one. If, for instance, your character is not French - where did she come from, why is she there, do these reasons hold up historically, is her foreignness important or just a way of making her uncommon (and therefore sparkly)? Where does your character fit into the socio-economic spectrum of the period? How would someone of that socio-economic status interact with the canon character? If your character is acting differently to how someone of her social status would act, why is that? What gives this character the motivation to do something socially unaccepted? How does the canon character react to actions that are socially unaccepted? This is where a lot can fall apart - the OC is doing something someone of her class would never a million years conceive of doing, and the canon character thinks she's awesome because of it. Things so far outside the realm of conception for the period that no matter how radical the canon character supposedly is, there is no way he would go along. "And after we've overthrown the monarchy, women will have the vote and I'll be the president of France!" "I think I'm in love with you, little match girl!" Yeah, uhm, no.

A Mary Sue kind of has two, often overlapping, definitions. One is the transparent self-insert; the other is the super special character everyone adores and kind of takes over the story. You can have the first without her coming across as super special, but usually one likes to dress up her self insert to be better than her self, thus the combination. Sometimes, this character is merely everything the writers wishes she could be and thus is less self, more super special sparkly. It isn't about having flaws or being entirely perfect so much as it is that the character simply doesn't fit into the original framework. Oftentimes, the character is defined by something that makes no sense - I used to role play with a girl who kept making up these characters. No, Feuilly is NOT going to end up falling for an Indian girl. (Indian from India, complete with ruby embedded in her forehead. In the Paris slums.) Those were threads I went along with but never took seriously. You do things for your friends because they're your friends, right? But if you're posting publicly, you're doing things for a whole load of strangers in your audience who are less likely to be forgiving of your current obsession with some form of Indian culture. (just a particularly egregious example.)

In a way, you have to edit from the beginning. When creating a character, what are your motivations for creating the character? Why does she need to have this characteristic? What does it say about her for the purposes of the plot you have in mind? If it isn't necessary to the plot, is it necessary for the characterisation? Does it tell the audience something really important, or just something you think would make her interesting? If it isn't important, it doesn't need to go in the story. If it isn't in the story, it won't be held against you.

The biggest thing with Mary Sues, though, is that they feel out of place to the people who did not write them. They act too modern or they require the characters to act differently than they should in canon or they take up more space in the story than they perhaps should. (thus the original Mary Sue who saved the entire Enterprise and everyone loved her and she died tragically but heroically - that one character did too much in addition to being flawless and getting treatment from Spock that was out of character for him.) If the character is far more interesting to the person who wrote her than she is to any other reader, that character is a Mary Sue. Usually, we're reading fic because we want to read more about the canon character. Which isn't to say that a story that focuses on an OC is necessarily setting that OC up as a Sue, but that a Sue is always the hero of her story, even when a bare description of the plot makes it look like the canon character should be the hero.

Basically, Sues are annoying because they are out of place and take over. If your OC fits within the canon setting and within that setting interacts with the canon characters in a way logical to that setting, you're most of the way to having an OC that doesn't suck. You can do all the detailed character development you want, flaws and all, but if she talks like a Second Wave feminist, she's a Mary Sue. If she's from China, in this fandom, she's a Mary Sue. If she's a gorgeous mulatta from the Indies, you're probably writing Dumas rather than Hugo *g*.

For a character I've written that I consider a Mary Sue but that other people actually like, see Some Enchanted Evening, which is Combeferre/OFC. She has a lot in common, however, with characters from George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë, which is probably what smooths it from "self-insert" to "literary reference". Not that I wrote her to be a self-insert: Combeferre's as much me as Diana is, truth be told, but there's enough there to make me cringe.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

User avatar
sb_soprano
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:27 am
Location: On Stage at the Queens Theatre

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby sb_soprano » Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:24 am

MmeBahorel wrote:The character has to be reasonable, for one. If, for instance, your character is not French - where did she come from, why is she there, do these reasons hold up historically, is her foreignness important or just a way of making her uncommon (and therefore sparkly)? Where does your character fit into the socio-economic spectrum of the period? How would someone of that socio-economic status interact with the canon character? If your character is acting differently to how someone of her social status would act, why is that? What gives this character the motivation to do something socially unaccepted? How does the canon character react to actions that are socially unaccepted? This is where a lot can fall apart - the OC is doing something someone of her class would never a million years conceive of doing, and the canon character thinks she's awesome because of it. Things so far outside the realm of conception for the period that no matter how radical the canon character supposedly is, there is no way he would go along. "And after we've overthrown the monarchy, women will have the vote and I'll be the president of France!" "I think I'm in love with you, little match girl!" Yeah, uhm, no.

A Mary Sue kind of has two, often overlapping, definitions. One is the transparent self-insert; the other is the super special character everyone adores and kind of takes over the story. You can have the first without her coming across as super special, but usually one likes to dress up her self insert to be better than her self, thus the combination. Sometimes, this character is merely everything the writers wishes she could be and thus is less self, more super special sparkly. It isn't about having flaws or being entirely perfect so much as it is that the character simply doesn't fit into the original framework. Oftentimes, the character is defined by something that makes no sense - I used to role play with a girl who kept making up these characters. No, Feuilly is NOT going to end up falling for an Indian girl. (Indian from India, complete with ruby embedded in her forehead. In the Paris slums.) Those were threads I went along with but never took seriously. You do things for your friends because they're your friends, right? But if you're posting publicly, you're doing things for a whole load of strangers in your audience who are less likely to be forgiving of your current obsession with some form of Indian culture. (just a particularly egregious example.)

In a way, you have to edit from the beginning. When creating a character, what are your motivations for creating the character? Why does she need to have this characteristic? What does it say about her for the purposes of the plot you have in mind? If it isn't necessary to the plot, is it necessary for the characterisation? Does it tell the audience something really important, or just something you think would make her interesting? If it isn't important, it doesn't need to go in the story. If it isn't in the story, it won't be held against you.

The biggest thing with Mary Sues, though, is that they feel out of place to the people who did not write them. They act too modern or they require the characters to act differently than they should in canon or they take up more space in the story than they perhaps should. (thus the original Mary Sue who saved the entire Enterprise and everyone loved her and she died tragically but heroically - that one character did too much in addition to being flawless and getting treatment from Spock that was out of character for him.) If the character is far more interesting to the person who wrote her than she is to any other reader, that character is a Mary Sue. Usually, we're reading fic because we want to read more about the canon character. Which isn't to say that a story that focuses on an OC is necessarily setting that OC up as a Sue, but that a Sue is always the hero of her story, even when a bare description of the plot makes it look like the canon character should be the hero.

Basically, Sues are annoying because they are out of place and take over. If your OC fits within the canon setting and within that setting interacts with the canon characters in a way logical to that setting, you're most of the way to having an OC that doesn't suck. You can do all the detailed character development you want, flaws and all, but if she talks like a Second Wave feminist, she's a Mary Sue. If she's from China, in this fandom, she's a Mary Sue. If she's a gorgeous mulatta from the Indies, you're probably writing Dumas rather than Hugo *g*.

For a character I've written that I consider a Mary Sue but that other people actually like, see Some Enchanted Evening, which is Combeferre/OFC. She has a lot in common, however, with characters from George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë, which is probably what smooths it from "self-insert" to "literary reference". Not that I wrote her to be a self-insert: Combeferre's as much me as Diana is, truth be told, but there's enough there to make me cringe.



You're awesome. Seriously. Can I be your friend?

In all seriousness, thank you very much. This is very helpful.
If, for instance, your character is not French - where did she come from, why is she there, do these reasons hold up historically, is her foreignness important or just a way of making her uncommon (and therefore sparkly)?


Originally (this was when I first created her for the time period she was based around, as I have a strange habit of creating character for the time period. It mostly comes from reading historical novels and imagining how a certain person would deal with the issue.) she was supposed to be American, and came over to France with her mother and Father, as she had family there and they lost their crops over a harsh winter in New England, or for some other familial reason.

She's traditionally French, but had never lived there, she could speak the language well enough to get by- but not very well. Of course, this is subject to change. I'd need to do more research and find an area in New England that had a harsh enough snow storm around that time to completely decimate the crops of the town. I don't think that "sparkly"...do you? Too Edward Cullen-is to be believable (I mean the sparkles, not the fairy-ness...) I didn't want her to have a OMGDRAMATIC backstory- her family was normal, and her mother educated her well enough, and she went to classes at the schoolhouse. She probably didn't have enough education nor the funds to attend a college. Plus, being a woman at the time... The most dramatic thing that happened to her was, literally, drama. Theatre. I'll have to do more research on an actual theatre house of the time that was near an area that could have been hit by a horrible frost/blizzard.



I imagine that their relatives are fairly well to do, but, being American, she'd probably be a little lost. Mostly, I created the idea of Jacqueline around the idea of an actress- something I could feasibly do, as I know so much about the history of theatre. However, do you think that by doing that, it's a bit too self-insert? I do theatre (and it's my major), but, looking over the character, that's the mostly glaringly obvious thing that I can see that we have in common. I created her character around that idea- so much of her character is derived from different people I've met while doing musicals and plays.

If your character is acting differently to how someone of her social status would act, why is that?


I imagine that the social conditions in France were very different than those in America at the time, so, not only Jacq but her entire family, would be a little thrown, and would probably do things that might have been socially acceptable in America, but not in France. Again, this is just if I stay with the "from America" idea. Here's to hoping it doesn't make her "sparkly".

How does the canon character react to actions that are socially unaccepted?


I imagine that it depends on the severity of the social blunder. Probably shock and horror, I'd imagine, and then quickly pretending that they don't know the "stupid American"? :lol:

"And after we've overthrown the monarchy, women will have the vote and I'll be the president of France!" "I think I'm in love with you, little match girl!" Yeah, uhm, no.


But the Match Girl was so awesome! She overthrew the monarchy BY HERSELF. With perfect hair- and she even invented L'oreal (because she's worth it!). We all just love her! 8D

The biggest thing with Mary Sues, though, is that they feel out of place to the people who did not write them. They act too modern or they require the characters to act differently than they should in canon or they take up more space in the story than they perhaps should.


This will probably be the most difficult part about writing this story, I imagine. I'll just have to re-read Tale of Two Cites, Les Misérables, Hunchback,etc, to get a grasp on the dialect. Even translated, I don't think Enjolras having surfer speak would be kosher. :/

I have an idea...but I don't know how well it works. I mean, most OC stories I've read (not just Les Misérables ones) require some plot changing in the original work. I've read stories that change the ending- Enjolras doesn't die, etc. How much of an erroneous problem is that, in your opinion? If it works, and keeps most of the (living) characters in canon, is it worth it?

My general idea was of having her father be a doctor, and so he'd be helping save the wounded of both sides, as for the Hypocratic Oath- helping everyone, in fair judgement. Perhaps he comes across Enjolras- or someone drags him in- and her father saves him. Cheesy? Too sparkly? Perhaps I'm just being lazy and not wanting to have to write for all of the Les Amis. :oops: It's probably too contrived. If you think so, what do you imagine would be legitimate ways of them meeting? Probably just passing each other in the street at first. Maybe she asks him for directions? He's appalled at her rough French?

I'd like to write it in alternating third person narrator perspectives, that way the reader isn't constantly having to deal with the OC, and get a look at the lives of canon characters.

I'd like to challenge myself to do this, but I just want to figure out a legitimate idea to work from. I very much appreciate your help. :) Do you mind if I have you become a...beta, or sorts? Just to give feedback on what you think works and what seems to Mary Sue is, or non canon for the canon characters? If not, I completely understand- life has a way of making things...busy. To say the very least.

I hope none of that was too convoluted. It's strangely difficult to write a coherent answer to one question when you're thinking about answering the next!
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."- Nathan Hale
"This is a revolution- we're got to offend somebody!" -Mr. Adams, '1776'
Icon by Hannah.

User avatar
Marianne
Posts: 1724
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2006 2:20 pm
Location: Paris
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby Marianne » Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:11 am

sb_soprano wrote:Out of curiosity, for each of you, what do you think establishes an OC as a non-Mary Sue? I'm debating on putting myself up to the challenge of writing an Enjolras/OC tale, but keeping it as real as possible. I have a character in mind (in fact, I created her for the time period, long before I knew about Les Misérables, but I want to know what your guys' opinion on what differentiates a OC and a Mary Sue.


My personal definition of a Mary Sue is slightly unusual, but I think it gets at the heart of why they're not considered desirable characters: a Sue is a character who's shoved into an existing universe and starts warping its space-time to revolve around her. In some way or another, she upstages the canon characters or denies them their right to their own story--as soon as she enters the scene, not only is this particular fic about her, but the other characters' lives and stories and plotlines start being less about them and more about her. Once a character starts doing that, it doesn't really matter how well or badly written she is, how flat or well-developed she is--she's no longer appropriate for a (publically posted) fanfic, because fanfic audiences are there for the characters and the world of the original canon, not to see them subsumed into the awesomeness of Mary Sue McSparklypants.

Predictably, I loathe the idea of calling canon characters Mary Sues. Writing exceptional characters, or characters who are thrust into exceptional circumstances, is not fundamentally a bad thing, it's an essential part of a lot of fiction. And I also think there should be less stigma attached to writing Sues, because let's face it, it's enjoyable. They're mostly a problem in fic because they can't exist without reordering someone else's universe to revolve around them--and even then, having a couple unpublished Sue-fics going shouldn't be a matter of shame as long as you don't assume the wider fic community will want to read them. It can be fun on an individual level without being fun on a community level.

Writing Enjolras/OC without it turning Suetastic is therefore pretty difficult, because Enjolras is all about the revolution and you can't change that without yanking his character right out of its orbit. I tend to be leery of any fic where Enjolras falls in deep, all-consuming, passionate, romantic love with anyone, male or female--it's been done well (as in Col. Despard's Enjolras/Grantaire AU), but not often. A sense of partnership around a shared cause that deepens into something more, or a tumultuous and not-entirely-functional relationship that Enjolras struggles to reject in order to focus on his ideals, would be more believable ways to get him involved with someone while ensuring that the revolution remains the center of his existence. Changing plot details is one thing (I have an Enjolras/OFC plotbunny set in a barricade survival AU), changing Enjolras from "Revolutionary first, second, third, and fourth, everything else fifth" to "My OFC's boyfriend first, revolutionary second" is quite another.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

User avatar
sb_soprano
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:27 am
Location: On Stage at the Queens Theatre

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby sb_soprano » Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:42 am

Writing Enjolras/OC without it turning Suetastic is therefore pretty difficult, because Enjolras is all about the revolution and you can't change that without yanking his character right out of its orbit. I tend to be leery of any fic where Enjolras falls in deep, all-consuming, passionate, romantic love with anyone, male or female--it's been done well (as in Col. Despard's Enjolras/Grantaire AU), but not often. A sense of partnership around a shared cause that deepens into something more, or a tumultuous and not-entirely-functional relationship that Enjolras struggles to reject in order to focus on his ideals, would be more believable ways to get him involved with someone while ensuring that the revolution remains the center of his existence. Changing plot details is one thing (I have an Enjolras/OFC plotbunny set in a barricade survival AU), changing Enjolras from "Revolutionary first, second, third, and fourth, everything else fifth" to "My OFC's boyfriend first, revolutionary second" is quite another.


Yes, it's going to be difficult. Perhaps, though, his world doesn't need to be "knocked out of orbit" completely. He could very well be Revolution First and second, and boyfriend third. He may have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming at first, but it could work. Poor Enjolras. We always drag him into these things... :lol:

I have an Enjolras/OFC plotbunny set in a barricade survival AU

Hehe! My original idea of a Enjolras/OFC was one of these as well, but I'm not quite sure if it's too...Sue-ified. I don't think so, but writers rarely ever are able to see their own characters as Mary Sues. I hope that you're able to write an excellent story about it though! If I may ask, what's your story going to be about? Well, aside from the obvious, of course. :D
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."- Nathan Hale
"This is a revolution- we're got to offend somebody!" -Mr. Adams, '1776'
Icon by Hannah.

User avatar
MmeBahorel
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:12 am
Location: Washington, DC
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby MmeBahorel » Sun Feb 13, 2011 5:20 pm

In your example - if they are farmers, and thus impoverished by the loss of a year's crop, how can they afford to leave? In New England, they will be Protestant - at the time her parents settled there, there were established churches (remember, the First Amendment at this time applies only to the federal government - states are allowed to establish churches if they want to, and many did). It's not a safe place for Catholics. Religious differences, like cultural differences, are fairly keen at this period - they are markers of difference, and as most people live in villages, difference is a mark of being an outsider and thus potentially dangerous.

Bad French in Paris is par for the course - large numbers of the migrants from within France only speak their local dialect (patois) and thus must learn French upon coming to Paris. Some regions have local languages. Poor French doesn't make your character stand out nor would anyone find it appalling.

Remember the social status of actresses at the time - they were no better than prostitutes. It is not something you want your daughter doing if you can at all help it, no matter what class you are. Actresses are overwhelmingly of the working classes or theatrical dynasties, and the theatrical dynasties themselves are considered working class. You can be chaste as anything, never sleep with any of the stage door johnnies, and people will still assume you're a whore because you are an actress.

Are you still talking about the same character when you say "What if her father was a doctor and treating both sides at the barricade?"? Because now you're getting into ridiculous territory. This is what I mean by editing from the beginning. If her father is a doctor, they have no need to leave America because he can pull in a decent living wherever he goes. Is he medical degree from the US? He can't practice in France, and his medical education is inferior. If his medical degree is French - and a decent number of young men went to France for medical school if they could afford it because it had the best medical school in the world at the time and permitted foreign students to enroll - then he might have the necessary connections to conceive of returning to France. And consider the logic of having him treat both sides of the barricade - the barricade itself is going to make that impossible before it falls. How much of the fall of the barricade do you want to rewrite? How are you going to get Enjolras out of there alive and not directly into prison if you're avoiding the execution? Why would your doctor want to save him from prison rather than merely stop him from dying at the moment? These are the questions you'll have to answer for your story to make sense.

And this is what I mean by "sparkly" - your character has too many aspects that are "shiny" in the Firefly sense, that are cool and interesting and you could maybe just possibly justify, except there are too many, too many "interesting" facets that require attention and don't add up to a reasonable whole. Examples: Your character still has a relationship with her father, the doctor, even though she's an actress, and she's an actress with a poor grasp of French because she's from America. America itself is a fascinating, amazing frontier where anything is possible - think about Chateaubriand's writing. She is exotic because she is from this almost mythical place. Actress is a profession that looks better/more interesting/higher quality to a modern reader than it will to the 19th century characters. Her profession - that she even has a profession - is outside of not just the norm but the realm of expectations for the daughter of a doctor. But a modern writer would rather write a character with a profession than one who sits at home all day like Cosette because it's more interesting. And this doesn't even start to get into how Enjolras would interact with a character exhibiting any one of these traits.

I can get an American girl to Paris. I can get an English speaking actress to Paris. I might be able to combine those two, but it would be a stretch. I cannot easily get the English speaking actress to stay in Paris - I'd have to bring her in as part of the English troupe that toured Europe in 1827 and brought in a couple of Shakespeare plays, the first time any Shakespeare was performed in its entirety in Paris. I can get a doctor's daughter to Paris, but I can't justify her on the stage. I'd have to exert far more effort than the dramatic pay off would be worth to justify how a doctor would be ruined by bad weather and have enough money to emigrate rather than just migrate to the nearest city and set up practice there when the character I'm working with isn't even the doctor himself. If a trait makes the reader go "wait, what? Can that happen?", you might want to consider how many times you're doing it.

The reason Diana works is because she is firmly within her historical milieu. This specific generation of the Wild Geese is a documented phenomenon, and for hundreds of years, in any case, Irish and English Catholic families sent their children, both sons and daughters, to France for education. She dresses and studies like Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch; her ambitions are at the level of Lucy Snowe in Villette. The family background is the only thing interesting about her, and it applies to a large number of other people.

Oh, and I can be brutal - I once told a friend that I was thrown out of her story because her characters were breakfasting on croissants. Croissants are a Viennese pastry that came into Paris after all the barricade boys are dead. Admittedly, I did that because I knew the friend would appreciate the correction - I wouldn't get on most people about croissants.

Do some reading by female authors as well as pay attention to what male authors say about their female characters. George Sand started publishing at the tail end of the period covered in the novel, and some of her stuff can get didactic, but it's still helpful to see what an educated woman of the period finds important to say about women in general. I've also found George Eliot helpful, in a way, though she's English - Middlemarch will get a very good cross section of female characters between Dorothea Brooke, Rosamund Vincy, and Mary Garth. As for the men, Balzac is excellent for a general idea of how society functioned - the rankings, the way climbing can happen, the treatment of men and women and the various classes, the various prejudices of the period. Dickens won't help you nearly so much, writing later and focusing on London.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

User avatar
sb_soprano
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:27 am
Location: On Stage at the Queens Theatre

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby sb_soprano » Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:27 pm

MmeBahorel wrote:I can get an American girl to Paris. I can get an English speaking actress to Paris. I might be able to combine those two, but it would be a stretch. I cannot easily get the English speaking actress to stay in Paris - I'd have to bring her in as part of the English troupe that toured Europe in 1827 and brought in a couple of Shakespeare plays, the first time any Shakespeare was performed in its entirety in Paris. I can get a doctor's daughter to Paris, but I can't justify her on the stage. I'd have to exert far more effort than the dramatic pay off would be worth to justify how a doctor would be ruined by bad weather and have enough money to emigrate rather than just migrate to the nearest city and set up practice there when the character I'm working with isn't even the doctor himself. If a trait makes the reader go "wait, what? Can that happen?", you might want to consider how many times you're doing it.

The reason Diana works is because she is firmly within her historical milieu. This specific generation of the Wild Geese is a documented phenomenon, and for hundreds of years, in any case, Irish and English Catholic families sent their children, both sons and daughters, to France for education. She dresses and studies like Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch; her ambitions are at the level of Lucy Snowe in Villette. The family background is the only thing interesting about her, and it applies to a large number of other people.

Oh, and I can be brutal - I once told a friend that I was thrown out of her story because her characters were breakfasting on croissants. Croissants are a Viennese pastry that came into Paris after all the barricade boys are dead. Admittedly, I did that because I knew the friend would appreciate the correction - I wouldn't get on most people about croissants.

Do some reading by female authors as well as pay attention to what male authors say about their female characters. George Sand started publishing at the tail end of the period covered in the novel, and some of her stuff can get didactic, but it's still helpful to see what an educated woman of the period finds important to say about women in general. I've also found George Eliot helpful, in a way, though she's English - Middlemarch will get a very good cross section of female characters between Dorothea Brooke, Rosamund Vincy, and Mary Garth. As for the men, Balzac is excellent for a general idea of how society functioned - the rankings, the way climbing can happen, the treatment of men and women and the various classes, the various prejudices of the period. Dickens won't help you nearly so much, writing later and focusing on London.


Being brutal is fine. That's how one gets a historically accurate and believable character, no? :D And, honestly, I'd rather tell me that the whole thing was stupid now, while just in the rough draft stages, and not when it's up for other people to read.

Thats what I mean about having an iffy background, which was subject to change. Obviously, I will now. However, I kind of like the traveling theatre troupe in 1827. The problem with that is inventing a background that isn't too dramatic (erm, sparkly), I guess. Perhaps she joined to earn money, as her family was poor?

I just came across this theatre: Odeon's Theatre, which is located near the Luxembourg Gardens. According to the website: "During the days known as the "Trois Glorieuses", the theatre was the focal point of the insurrection by a revolutionary youth movement. "Right now, beneath the Molière archways, a group of armed men has moved in; and by the corner of the theatre, a student from the polytechnic school standing on a cart is handling the barrels of gunpowder." Alexandre Dumas. Though the quote refers to the July Revolution of 1830, and not the June Reb. (1832), do you think it's plausible that the Revolutionaries of 1832 could have used the theatre as a storage facility as well? Or is that stretching it too far, as it might be unlikely they were able to use it again, only two years after the July Revolution. :| It seems like it might be a plausible way for not only background, but also for them to meet, but you're obviously the more knowledgeable one by far. Would that be stretching? More than likely, if this works, she'll just be French, and disassociated with her family, as they wouldn't want anything to do with an actress, right?

Thank you for the book recommendations, though! I very much appreciate your help, and your lengthy replies.
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."- Nathan Hale
"This is a revolution- we're got to offend somebody!" -Mr. Adams, '1776'
Icon by Hannah.

User avatar
Marianne
Posts: 1724
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2006 2:20 pm
Location: Paris
Contact:

Re: Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby Marianne » Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:48 pm

Bear in mind that the Odéon is on the Left Bank, a good distance away from the site of the 1832 barricade. It's conceivable that it would be commandeered by students, being in the Latin Quarter, but our boys are on the other side of the river and the whole point of urban-warfare-by-barricades is to prevent easy movement within the city.

Also, MmeBahorel is free to correct me on this, but I have a hunch that the Shakespeare troupe wouldn't have been playing in the Odéon--Shakespeare was radical and different and Romantic in France at the time, and the Odéon was a bastion of conservative classicism.

For more on life in the theatres and on the fringes in that time period, I highly recommend watching Les Enfants du Paradis, which aside from being good for historical background is an incredible movie--one of the greatest classics of French cinema. And for the harsh realities of life as an actress, check out Balzac's Lost Illusions. It was not an honorable profession, and success on the stage often depended on being "kept" by a rich protector. A poor girl would not go into acting if she wanted to keep her dignity and reputation--far more likely that she was seduced and abandoned, or otherwise had sex outside of wedlock, and took to the stage because it was more glamorous and exciting than the life of a common whore.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre


Return to “Brick Meta”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron