Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
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Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Postby MmeJavert » Sat Oct 14, 2006 6:04 am

Note: This was written in 2004. I just copied/pasted it, so it may show its age, and betray opinions that may have changed slightly. It's still worth posting. XD

Enjolras is a complex character, despite the musical’s representation that many fangirls have fallen in love with. Writers like to write Enjolras, whether giving him to a pretty Mary Sue or Grantaire, or perhaps making a different pairing. Or even not writing him into a romantic situation at all, although those are much rarer.

Almost every devoted Les Mis slasher tries their hand, at least once, at writing Enjolras/Grantaire slash. At once it makes perfect sense and no sense at all. One-sided, it’s canon. Mutually, well, it’s one of the most difficult pairings to make work plausibly and well. One of the tried and true formulas to get Enjolras into bed with Grantaire is to fill him full of alcohol. It’s easier that way.

But I don’t think that works so well. Enjolras doesn’t love. Doesn’t drink. Doesn’t like Grantaire. In the book he’s portrayed as asexual. He doesn’t know what love is, he doesn’t know what it means to love. Plying him with drink isn’t necessarily going to work. If he’s repressing sexual feelings, then sure, the drink is going to help him unrepress. But if he has no feelings to repress, then getting him drunk really isn’t going to accomplish anything.

In my opinion, if you’re going to try to get Enjy in bed with R, things are going to have to go a little bit differently. Alcohol optional, in my approach.

First order of business, you have to have a reason for Enjolras to look at Grantaire as something other than a drunken slob. Give him a way to see the man as something other than that. To find something appealing in him. You know. The same as every other romance is supposed to work. Enjolras is not going to suddenly go from hating him to realizing that the hatred is just repressed sexual tension or somesuch. Enjolras will hate him for what he is unless he is given a reason to think otherwise.

Who, exactly, is Enjolras? When I say the name, what image does this give? Enjolras is a young man, a student in Paris, a rich only son. A member of the bourgeois, though he wouldn’t admit to it, wouldn’t agree to it, wouldn’t do anything other than reject it. He is the leader of a radical seditionist group, one of many at the time in Paris. Whether or not he is a good student is not specifically known; it is speculated that he must be among the brighter students at the university but we cannot say for certain. For all we know he may be dumb as a sack of bricks in all areas but those of politics. He knows about the Revolution of ’89, and he has the same ideas as those revolutionaries had then, except he doesn’t want it as extreme as they do. He wants to overthrow the monarchy, get rid of the king, throw out all the social classes, and turn France into a republic, and he believes that his small fraternity of men can recruit enough of the people of Paris to produce the result he wants. Obviously he doesn’t succeed, but the outcome of this revolt of his is, for the most part, irrelevant to most fanfic written about him. Enjolras either doesn’t have a personal life, or has such a very little one that it’s not worth mentioning. His mistress was the Republic, as Victor Hugo tells us, and he dropped his eyes before all else. He repudiated woman, ran from them when approached by them, and refused all the luxuries his friends took part in. He was angelically beautiful, looked seventeen at twenty-two, and yet had the brains and the balls to plan a revolution. This is Enjolras. His life is the Republic. No more. He disdains those who do nothing in life, who indulge in pleasure their whole lives – mostly this refers to the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats – which is why he refuses to give Grantaire any more thought than that the man is irritating, a reprobate, a drunkard, a symbol of a life gone to waste. He doesn’t look past the alcoholism, the slovenliness, the ugliness, or anything else Grantaire may look like. It doesn’t occur to him that Grantaire may actually be a decent person, because he neither looks nor acts like one.

Certainly it’s fun to write a story where Enjolras accidentally gets drunk – whether Courfeyrac exchanges his glass of water for a bottle of champagne or he gets so stressed out by the revolution that he impulsively demands a bottle of Musain house wine from Louison after a meeting – and somehow manages to get into bed with Grantaire – usually Enjolras gets too drunk to figure out how to get home and since Grantaire is a) the only one left in the café and b) quite willing to do anything for his golden idol, he’s the one that gets Enjolras home, and one thing leads to another and there’s sex between two drunk boys, and then when Enjolras wakes up in the morning, he’s either angsty or pissed. It’s the same formula time and time again, and while it doesn’t exactly get boring, because something’s varied every time, still it’s nice to see it done in other ways.

Obviously Victor Hugo didn’t intend that a hundred some-odd years after his story was published, that dozens of female fans of it would write all sorts of fictional stories involving his male characters having sex with each other, and many of us joke that the poor old man is turning madly within his grave for what we’ve done to his characters. Occasionally, the writer doesn’t care how believable the character is, but many times that’s one of the more important elements in a story. And to me, to make Enjolras believable, you can’t just suddenly shove wine in front of him, expecting him to drink it and become inebriated. You can’t just leave him alone in a room with Grantaire and expect they’ll have sex. There has to be a reason behind it. And no, “but he’s drunk!” isn’t a reason. Because if Enjolras were in such a situation, he’d get up and leave behind the drunkard and his wine. You have to find for him a reason to turn to drink. You have to find a reason for him to look at Enjolras, drunk or sober or no. And if a fanfic writer can give a reason for Enjolras to be drunk, give a reason for him to look at Grantaire, give a reason for him to agree to go to bed with him, then that’s a story I’ll be glad to read.

So maybe this discourages you. Maybe you’re thinking, “okay, so slashing him with R is harder than I thought,” so why not try it with a girl? If it’s not equally difficult, then I would say it’s more so. Enjolras runs from women, won’t look at them. All he sees is the skirt. He’s emphatically not interested in women. His fraternity was probably well-known for refusing women entrance, an idea which many fic-writers have embraced. He won’t look at women, won’t have anything to do with them. All women are the same to him, and he’d much prefer they keep their distance from him. Not that the girls of the Latin Quarter don’t try, though. They’d throw themselves at his feet, from what Hugo says, and still he’d walk right past, no more than if they were a stray cat or dead bird on the street. A woman would have to do something extremely daring to catch his notice. She’d have more chance following Éponine’s example and dressing as a boy, and sneaking into his political meetings, than trying to catch his eye on the street. Enjolras/grisette is even less likely than Enjolras/Grantaire.

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.

Laurel has written an article to help Mizfic writers recognize and fix their original characters-become-MarySues, an article which is hosted over at the LMFFI. One of the ways to recognize a Mary Sue, according to her article, is by their relationship with one of the characters; the character gets more Sue-points if they are paired with an “unattainable, like Javert or Enjolras.” She says this with good reason. Enjolras is written in such a way that making a plausible pairing involving him is quite difficult. He is not inclined to romance, doesn’t know how, doesn’t care to know. Whether male or female love interest, he simply does not want it.

All right. You’ve given up on Enjolras/Grantaire, and now on Enjolras/Suzanne Marie Sophia Francoise, isn’t there anyone else that might work? Many writers are fond of Enjolras/Combeferre. It’s much easier than either of the first two ideas, primarily because Enjolras already talks to Combeferre, fairly regularly. Combeferre is described as Enjolras’ right hand man, and may well be his closest friend – most fanfic writers already take this fact for granted. So why not let him have deeper feelings for his best friend? Could that, perhaps, be the very reason he won’t look at women? His relationship with his best friend? The reason he won’t give Grantaire a chance? Because he doesn’t need to? It’s quite possible. But does Enjolras necessarily look at Combeferre this way? And if he does, what tipped the scales from friendship into deeper, romantic love? It’s not likely that Enjolras will glance over one day and suddenly realize how good-looking his friend is. But if this is the relationship that works, then how does it happen. Does Enjolras approach Combeferre? Or does it go the other way around? And how does Enjolras handle this change, from regarding Combeferre as his lover rather than his best friend? Does it work? Combeferre, himself, may not be interested. Combeferre may be interested in women, not in his “best friend,” like that. To work well, the relationship has to be mutual. Grantaire already is interested in Enjolras, and half the grisettes in Paris want him, so that half of the relationship is already set for them. But for his friends, you have to work out not only how Enjolras falls, but how the other member of the pairing falls. Making two characters realize the romantic potential with the other is not as easy as it sounds; it may even be easier just to find a reason for Enjolras to take an interest in a street grisette or Grantaire.

All this being said, however – Enjolras can be slashed, and it has been done. It has been done quite well, on occasion. It’s even worked using the cliches and standard methods which I’ve mentioned. Which just goes to show you that there’s more than one way of writing Enjolras fic. More than one right way. It helps if a writer knows who Enjolras is, can characterize him as if he were a character she herself made up, rather than just regurgitating the lines Victor Hugo gave is. It helps if a writer knows what kind of situation she’s putting her Enj into and what she’s going to have to do to get him there. If the alcohol and the crying on R’s shoulder works for her, then hey, more power to her. I’ll read it. I’m just saying that this essay is my way, my idea, of how it could/should be done. Agree/disagree as you will.

As I said before, Enjolras is a complex character. Canon, in the case of Les Mis, is quite flexible, and what is ooc to one reader may make perfect sense to another. Use whatever methodology you wish; just make sure it works.
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"

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Mon Oct 16, 2006 2:58 am

I have only one question. What does "meta" mean? (I'm a n00b, a total n00b...)
Vive l'avenir! Vive la France!

"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age." -Victor Hugo

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Postby MmeJavert » Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:28 am

Meta = discussion.
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"

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:41 am

Ah, okay. Well, I found this quote related to Enjolras: "Woe to the love affair that should venture to intrude upon him!" And that is why you will never see a slash fic starring Emile Enjolras. (that's my Enjolras's name)
Vive l'avenir! Vive la France!



"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age." -Victor Hugo

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Postby MmeJavert » Mon Oct 16, 2006 4:02 am

Hee. XD Well, there's nothing wrong with writing Enjolras slash -- I write a large amount of it -- but I do like to see nonslash Enjolras fic too. Post it when you've written 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"

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Postby Vana Tuivana » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:00 am

"Woe to the love affair that should venture to intrude upon him!"


But does that sentence necessarily preclude ANY romance involving Enjolras? One might argue that this only means that any love affair in which he engages will be sure to end unhappily, because he simply cannot devote any attention to anything that doesn't have to do with his revolution. The way the sentence is constructed leaves a bit of leeway in the interpretation, and I think one might also get out of it simply that Enjolras and love affairs don't work well together.

(Slashy moment here: as I was looking up that reference to be sure of its context, I came across another sentence in the same paragraph:

He hardly saw the roses, he ignored spring, he did not hear the carolling of the birds; the bare throat of Evadne would have moved him no more than it would have moved Aristogeiton; he, like Harmodius, thought flowers good for nothing except to conceal the sword.


The reason the "bare throat of Evadne" (the woman who loved her husband so much that she threw herself onto his funeral pyre) wouldn't have moved Aristogeiton isn't because Aristogeiton is some asexual, chaste statue -- in fact, he's famous for being a lover! He was the lover of Harmodius, and the two are famous for dying together after assassinating the tyrant Hipparchus.

So take from that what you will, but this, along with a few other classical references throughout the book, makes me even more inclined to think of Enjy!slash as reasonable.)

[/pedantry] :roll:

...And now I have a strange desire to write an essay on the evidence that E/R WORKS because of these classical references. Drat.

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Postby MmeJavert » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:05 am

You should. :D The classical references Hugo makes all throughout -- especially in R's drunken ramble(s) -- give me all kinds of joy.
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"

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Postby Vana Tuivana » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:11 am

I shall. (ohgodohgod what am I getting myself into?)

But it'll have to wait until after November, because I can only focus entirely on two things at once, and NaNo and schoolwork is going to be it for me this year. :)

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Postby MmeJavert » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:12 am

Hee. Use it as a procrastination device during November. Because everyone procrastinates on their NaNo.
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"

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Postby Vana Tuivana » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:35 am

I knoooow, but I was planning on using my frickinlong Medieval Lit paper as procrastination device for my NaNo... hmm, maybe I could use this essay thing as a procrastination device for the procrastination device? Metaprocrastination?

(I blame you for starting a meta discussion. Meta = weird synapses going on in my brain.)

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Postby MmeJavert » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:38 am

:D *is happy to take the blame* Anything for more intelligent meta, especially in this fandom.
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"

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:41 pm

I took that quote two ways:

1. Any relationship with Enjy is doomed to fail.
2. The word "intrude" tipped me off mostly... that Enjy just isn't interested in that at all.

So, think of that as you will, take it with a grain of salt, please, and if you insist on shooting, "Vive l'avenir! Vive la France!"
Vive l'avenir! Vive la France!



"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age." -Victor Hugo

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Postby Frédéric Dumont » Wed Nov 22, 2006 12:51 pm

At least you die dramatically. :lol: Don't worry, I won't dig up the pistol now. I'm too lazy to load it, anyway. :lol:


Right, my own way of dealing with Enjolras as a character... To me, writing Enjolras comes quite easily, way easier than writing Valjean, for example. When I work with him, what I mainly have in mind is that he is set on one purpose which he believes in fanatically, and that he has a belief to shatter mountains. This black/white view of the world is aided by the fact that we actually gave him a fantasy surrounding; he sees himself as a "soldier of the light" (see Chapter 3) battling the darkness. Take a young, dreamy Robespierre crossovered with Luke Skywalker, and there you are. :wink:

On the other hand, he does have a life. He has his friends and their activities, and the everyday chores of the village, and besides he works for the administration and court, where he is of course in his element. He comes with considerable knowledge, but in his new surroundings there is much to learn for him yet (as shall be seen in Chapter 12, in fact - Enjolras and Combeferre at work under Orvar's direction).

But we don't intend to leave him a static character. In Chapter 3 he still has his dreams, in Chapter 6 they become more closely formulated (I picked a mythological hero for him to idolize just as the onslaught of darkness begins - foreshadowing, foreshadowing...), but in Chapter 7 already we see in his confrontation with Orvar, the veteran and pragmatist, that despite his "experience" at the barricade he just isn't ready for a mythological war yet. And that's where his development begins.

I can't analyze it all now because otherwise I would be spreading spoilers and Cric would surely whack me with a chair leg for it :lol: , but I can say this much: While his basic view of the world does not change, still some changes will be noticeable.

Romance? No, not really. Not on his side, anyway. Yes, Grantaire would be interested, but he mostly meets Grantaire's behaviour with mild annoyance, except at some points where he suddenly is astounded at Grantaire's actions and values them. Not the slightest thought of romance occurring to Enjolras, though.
Éponine shows some interest as well, but he's not interested in any relationship, so he is not interested in her. He suffers her company since she is on his side, but there is no more he desires.
Of course he is close with several of his friends, but this is friendship and nothing more.

But since I shouldn't give away too much, I'll stop right here. Maybe I'll do some more analyzing later on. :)
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Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:45 am

When I try to write about Enjolras, I need to see him as something beyond the 'fearless leader' violent stereotype that I've seen done to death in fic. After all, wasn't he a young man who found some repulsion in having to kill people? And he did give Grantaire a chance at the Barriere Du Maine. So while he is more serious than most of his comrades, he does have a little sarcasm/nonchalance in his speech.

This is why I give Enjolras some hobbies, some things to do outside Cafe Musain, even minor parts in the escapades of Courfeyrac, Bahorel, etc. And I try to write him as 'occupied enough not to be perpetually angsty'.

In my story, I am pairing Enjolras up with Éponine, and the challenge here is not to have Enjolras turn as sappy as Marius when he deals with Éponine. None of that 'forget him I'm better' thing that I see sometimes. Not even in the later parts of the story when they are together.

Enjolras does not think highly of Éponine at first (read Chapter 2 to see one of the reasons). Éponine still is not over Marius when she first meets Enjolras (or learns his name). And I have that dangerous Montparnasse lurking around the place too. Definitely not an ideal romance for anyone.

In general, Enjolras would only deal with a girl in a metaphorical-symbolic sense (Enjolras/"Patria" or some personification). Seeing this slightly dysfunctional aspect of Enjolras' life come to the fore to meddle with his work and revolution is actually, in my opinion, amusing. How far is he going to go for anything? Even I am not certain myself.
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Postby Frédéric Dumont » Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:31 pm

... linkage? :D
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