writing Patron-Minette?

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

writing Patron-Minette?

Postby collectingbees » Wed May 26, 2010 6:28 pm

So, I figured that if there were any place to ask this, this would be it. As many of you may or may not already know, I am currently trying to write a fan-comic about the Mizzies (mostly Patron-Minette). It's an understatement to say that I am stuck. What makes it difficult is I want to write and develop rich, complex and real people. Then I realized: I don't have any idea where to begin to write these people. Sure, understandably, they are assassins, desperadoes, etc. , but I think that they all have an underlying respect for each other. I would go even so far as to say that they 'care' about each other. The phrases "loyalty of villains" (which I use as the title of my comic) and "fidelity of ruffians" are used, depending on your translation.

I find that Montparnasse and Babet are the hardest because they do have soft spots, but writing those soft spots in without making it My Little Ponies is a challenge.

My point it: where do you take them? Just the four members of Patron-Minette alone are a treasure trove of possibilities, but where to go?

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

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu May 27, 2010 3:33 am

Get hold of Vidocq's memoirs - even the basic abridged English translation that seems to be around cheap is good enough. It's a good sense of the types of crime, the methods of crime, and the criminal underworld in general. It helps open things up a bit.

Though I freely admit, I didn't actually read any Vidocq until last year, and I've been working on Corner of the Sky since 2002. The concept arose from a role play where I realised I could get involved in more threads by using Feuilly in that manner, and it worked well enough I had to explore it properly. Later research has told me I was on the right track, but it was really all instinct at first. (Possibly based on a too-early exposure to Oliver Twist?)

There's obviously a certain amount of loyalty - they think Thenardier's an amateur but they're willing to get him out of jail even though there's enough information between them about the rue Plumet job without him. And he got them all arrested in the first place, anyway, pushing at the "philanthropist". It's hard to tell from Vidocq how much of what he says is true and how much is self-aggrandisement (I err on the side of the latter in all cases) - Vidocq says that there's no honour among thieves and they'll vie to sell each other out. And Vidocq tries to make himself the sole hero of every adventure. Which is in contrast to the many details of teamwork among strangers that Hugo discusses, likely gleaned from his own researches and interviews with prisoners and prison guards. It seems likely that there is a text of the period that will support whatever you want to do.

The characters are characters - just like with the Barricade Boys, Hugo gave us a bit of background on several of the members of Patron Minette, several scenes in which they have actions and dialogue, and gaping huge gaps that we can fill if we choose. It's different research, certainly.

My biggest problem is writing the jobs, not the characters. Because it's the sort of research that doesn't come easily. What they do is too petty for film or tv to have paid much attention, so while I can swipe Victorian slang from mystery novels and cons from the first two seasons of Hustle, there's really a lot of breaking and entering and mugging. But it may be helpful to watch some British crime films, since there will be some class emphasis there (not saying that Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is the world's best preparation for writing Patron Minette fic, but there's potential in B Monkey for an Eponine-like character straddling the line between honest and criminal, and a few episodes of Hustle will never go amiss for the mindset of shifting job to job and not being a specialist in any one type of criminality, not to mention Danny's short cons are classics). There's too much focus on organized crime in the media these days, while Patron Minette looks more like Hugo's feeble attempt at conceptualising organised crime. (Nineteen year old mugger Montparnasse is hardly a criminal mastermind.)

But I'm fairly locked into what I need to write, which is to finish the novel that is Corner of the Sky. If I had a better grasp on the criminality, and the actual history (since it would cover the Napoleonic Wars), I'd be tempted to work more with Babet and the wife and kids he misplaced. But my tendency is to dig into background and see if the research gives me plotbunnies, and my consolation is that Hugo did his research and still doesn't exactly present us with what he wanted to.

Marianne or Marguerite, is Sue of any use here? I've only been using Mysteries of Paris as if it were an encyclopedia (because I haven't had the time to dedicate to reading the thing online), so while there's definitely some thoroughly criminal characters I've run across, how much focus do they get and are they at all helpful in this context? Or any context beyond trying to figure out how much things cost, for that matter.

(Huge caveat on all this being that I'm more of a social movements kind of person - by nature, I do enclosures and population shifts and economic statistics - rather than the individual stuff on the ground. I'm more interested in how the criminal overlaps with the working classes - that it was the plural, "working classes" rather than "working class" and plural "dangerous classes" rather than "criminal class" - than in the ways they existed in isolation from each other.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby collectingbees » Thu May 27, 2010 7:20 am

MmeBahoral, I love you. This helps me so much.

Writing 'jobs' has been so difficult, this should at least expand it a little bit. I want to keep it interesting, without being repetitive.

Also, the composition of Patron-Minette has always been a serious WTF to me. NONE of these men seem even remotely matched in any way outside of the criminality. I think mismatched is the best description I can think of, like they were some how stranded on the Island of Misfit Criminal Toys or something. Their level of "success" as gang to me is pretty incredible, considering how random the composition is. Montparnasse sort of blows my mind, because, while the other troupe members kind of make sense, he seems completely out of left field. Or am I crazy?

User avatar
Aurelia Combeferre
Posts: 8847
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:57 am
Location: somewhere with the abased
Contact:

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Thu May 27, 2010 11:58 am

The hardest part about writing Montparnasse is making him *not* psychotic or disgustingly sadistic. I seem to recall a glut of fics some years ago that made him come off that way.

@MmeBahorel: Yes, I also find the jobs hard to write. When I was doing my AU fic "Children of Pantin", I confined most of their jobs to housebreaking and robbery, with the possibility of some violence along the way. In that wacked universe, Montparnasse teamed up with Éponine and Cosette in multiple hold-up jobs in the Latin Quarter. I really don't see any of them being a swindler or conman---that's an office best left to Thenardier. I think that while all of Patron-Minette participated in the jobs, they each had their own specialties.
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

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

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu May 27, 2010 12:21 pm

No, I don't think any of them (unless maybe Babet as one of the side men?) were really con artists, but I think it helps give flavour to the general milieu in which they move and the sense of staying one step ahead (which you also get from Vidocq, only he tries to paint himself as the only intelligent one).

(ok, so it's an excuse to watch the series two opener where Marc Warren and Adrian Lester get dropped off naked in Trafalgar Square *g*. I think it was series two.)

I think i Have some scholarly takes on PM -I'll see what I can find tonight after work.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby collectingbees » Thu May 27, 2010 5:57 pm

Aurelia, it's interesting that the hardest part of Montparnasse for most people is not making him sadistic. I don't think he's as hard as he thinks he is. There is the scene after the Dog in the Garden scene where he says "oh, if they had let me, I'd have shown her the weight of my hand/ I'd have slit her throat." I think he's just been embarrassed and is trying to cover himself by acting tough. Babet scolds him that he doesn't "hit/touch women." Even his interactions with Gavorche and being the hold out in wanting to help Thenardier, he has a soft spot. Babet saying he doesn't hit women also impresses me. I think Montparnasse forgets that he's 19 sometimes.

I still can't figure out why they put up with Thenardier, either, because they think he's basically brick-stupid. I think they are fairly impressed with the wiles of his children, though.

Thus far, I've only had a silly one-shot of Loyalty of Villains that had NOTHING to do with the plot whatsoever. I mean, it really didn't. It was based on the Dog in the Garden scene and Tori Amos' 'Crucify' video. I mean, doing silly one shots like this would be fun, and I managed to do a pretty good job with everyone's personalities, but I want to have an actual plot (eventually).

User avatar
Roses for Ophelia
Posts: 486
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:14 am
Location: in my head
Contact:

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby Roses for Ophelia » Thu May 27, 2010 6:46 pm

You know what would be funny? If Patron-Minette puts up with Thenardier because it's really his wife who they respect. You know, the whole thing where she throws a rock at Javert must have won her [i]serious points in their eyes. Plus, she's always referred to as a giantess, a formidable woman and so on. As for his children Éponine's useful because she knows the city so well and is inconspicuous, Azelma basically does what she's told, and Gavroche is obviously really useful when you need someone small and inconspicuous. I think Montparnasse is at least trying to groom him for Patron-Minette. Maybe Thenardier is just a guy they have to deal with to get the services of his family? Probably not, but there's a plot bunny in there somewhere!

What i've always wondered is why Claqusous/le Cabuc went to the barricades--is he a revolutionary too? In the cut quarry scene they all appear, but Enjolras tells them off and they leave. Was Claquesous really a revolutionary,and wanted to stay? Also, it's speculated that he might be a police informer,and that's how he escapes arrest. If he is, then to what extent? There's probably a lot more to him than the fact he seems to think he's the phantom of the opera. More plot bunnies!
Rivers belong where they can ramble...

User avatar
lesmisloony
Posts: 1284
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 8:03 am
Contact:

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby lesmisloony » Thu May 27, 2010 10:11 pm

My general thought on Claquesous is that he showed up at the barricades because he just wanted an excuse to do some killings and witness some violence. Obviously Claquesous is open to more interpretation than any of the four, but in my head he's got a huge sadistic streak and the reason he stays around is because the others are a little afraid of him.
Image

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

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri May 28, 2010 12:02 am

One also has to remember that there was a sense that the police were using agents provocateurs - Le Cabuc, in the employ of the police, killing an unarmed man while "acting" on behalf of the rebellion is something that the rumour mill would have easily conceived. Enjolras acts as if the act is straightforward, but I do wonder if anyone was contemplating that possibility. (The police had already deliberately let things get out of control precisely so they could repress them more bitterly - bringing things to the point of riot, then shooting people, instead of trying to disperse crowds before anything could really happen.)

As for the rest of them:

Quoting directly from Louis Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris During the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, translated by Frank Jellinek, 1973, page 92:
How much the story of Jean Valljean and Javert owes to Vidocq, whom Hugo quotes several times - he was the model for several traits in both Valjean and Javert, the convict and the policeman - has been very rightly pointed out. The survival of these old forms, of what Hugo had learned from others, from books and especially from Vidocq's Memoirs, probably accounts for the astonishing contrast between the authenticity of the crime Hugo did not intend to describe and the artificiality of the crime he did mean to describe, embodied in Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse. In all the crime literature of the July Monarchy, even the clumsiest and most melodramatic, it would be hard to find bandits less convincing and less impressive than this quartet who, Hugo claims, "governed the lower-depths of Paris from 1830 to 1835". A most improbable government. It is hardly possible to take these small fry seriously and to believe that "owing to their ramifications and the subjacent network of their relations they had the general direction of all the villainies in the department of the Seine". The horror with which Hugo invested them does not impress us, though he added details and corrections, which are to be found on the original manuscript of Les Misérables. He first wrote of Montparnasse: "At he age of nineteen he had several corpses behind him". This he corrected to "at the age of eighteen he had several corpses behind him", and added: "More than one wayfarer lay in the shadow of this villain, with outstretched arms, his face in a pool of blood". They are small fry as villains, expressing only, and badly at that, their own criminality or a form of criminality abundantly illustrated in Vidocq's Memoirs. Indeed, Hugo tried to give an additional turn of the screw by referring to Vidocq and by bringing him in in person: "These four bandits formed a sort of Proteus, winding through the ranks of the police and striving to escape Vidocq's uncanny penetration under cover of various disguises."


Page 107, as Chevalier is talking about the geography of Paris:
In the seventh book of Les Misérables, entitled "Patron-Minette", in which the sewers were described for the first time, they still denoted only city crime, the lowest depths, "la troisième dessous," of human societies and the "great cavern of Evil". Their darkest dark was the refuge of the quartet of bandits who embodied this circumscribed form of criminality.
These beings, who were very cautious about showing their faces, were not the sort of people one normally sees on the streets. By day, wearied by their wild nights, they went to sleep sometimes in the lime kilns, sometimes in the abandoned quarries of Montmartre or Montrouges and sometimes in the sewers.

They went to earth in places "far away from other places", bearing no relations whatever to the upper levels, wholly alien to the city - threatening it, indeed, but different from it.


And this is getting horribly long - I'm going to post pages 110-115 as a link here. Because it's five solid pages of interesting analysis.

TL;DR: Chevalier thinks Hugo did better with abstracts than with individuals when it came to describing criminality. (and he totally seems to think Parnasse as a terrifying image is too over the top to succeed).
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby Marianne » Fri May 28, 2010 12:56 am

Eugène Sue would definitely be useful for Patron-Minette, since that's one of the areas where Hugo was obviously riffing off of earlier fiction on the subject, and since half the plot of Mysteries of Paris is about the criminal underworld. It might be a sensationalized and not-100%-accurate version of the criminal underworld, but what you do with that fact depends on whether you're holding yourself to higher standards of research than your canon.

Other useful things would be Vidocq's memoirs (the genesis of most of this early crime fiction), the second half of Balzac's Splendeurs et Misères des courtisanes (though really, read the whole thing, it's a lot more fun than Balzac usually is), and some of Hugo's earlier writings: Claude Gueux and Le Dernier jour d'un condamné.
[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

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby collectingbees » Fri May 28, 2010 7:58 am

Roses for Ophelia wrote:You know what would be funny? If Patron-Minette puts up with Thenardier because it's really his wife who they respect. You know, the whole thing where she throws a rock at Javert must have won her [i]serious points in their eyes. Plus, she's always referred to as a giantess, a formidable woman and so on. As for his children Éponine's useful because she knows the city so well and is inconspicuous, Azelma basically does what she's told, and Gavroche is obviously really useful when you need someone small and inconspicuous. I think Montparnasse is at least trying to groom him for Patron-Minette. Maybe Thenardier is just a guy they have to deal with to get the services of his family? Probably not, but there's a plot bunny in there somewhere!

What i've always wondered is why Claqusous/le Cabuc went to the barricades--is he a revolutionary too? In the cut quarry scene they all appear, but Enjolras tells them off and they leave. Was Claquesous really a revolutionary,and wanted to stay? Also, it's speculated that he might be a police informer,and that's how he escapes arrest. If he is, then to what extent? There's probably a lot more to him than the fact he seems to think he's the phantom of the opera. More plot bunnies!


I really like this idea for Claquesous.

Also, let's not forget that both Éponine and Gavroche are fluent in argot. The comment about Mme. Thenardier was pretty hilarious.

Seriously, thank you guys, this is really helping. My next step is to take this information and move it in a way that helps to develop PM.

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby collectingbees » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:25 pm

I think for Montponine stuff, people automatically want to make their relationship resemble something like Bill Sykes/ Nancy from Oliver Twist. Nancy is another one of those "they might have been good/pretty had they not been poor/corrupted" figures. It's not so much of a stretch if you see the way Montparnasse has been dressed in the Musical (I get the feeling that was done intentionally), but it is if you've read the book (and really thought about it carefully). I guess people aren't happy unless Éponine is being brutalized.

Needless to say, I am still having a difficult time with Montparnasse's role in the gang. Visually I think he is in stark contrast to rest of them, and perhaps, the most pitiful of the four (as indicated by Hugo's description). I remember first reading the chapter that describes them all, and getting to the Montparnasse section and being like, "wait.. what? Who?"

Likewise, what do you guys think made these four misfits form a 4-headed crime-monster together?

User avatar
lesmisloony
Posts: 1284
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 8:03 am
Contact:

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby lesmisloony » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:47 pm

They probably each represent a different kind of criminal or something. I mean, you know Hugo. You've got the big, brutish, stupid kind (Gueulemer, of course); the devious, intelligent, heartless kind (Babet); the mysterious, unknowable kind (Claquesous); and... the pretty one...
Image

collectingbees
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:23 pm
Location: this chamber has no windows and no doors..

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby collectingbees » Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:04 am

lesmisloony wrote:They probably each represent a different kind of criminal or something. I mean, you know Hugo. You've got the big, brutish, stupid kind (Gueulemer, of course); the devious, intelligent, heartless kind (Babet); the mysterious, unknowable kind (Claquesous); and... the pretty one...


"...and.. the pretty one..." LMAO. My point exactly. There is this Les Miz website that has a treasure trove of images from editions of the Brick, and there is one of Patron-Minette and the caption is "one of these is not like the other.." and I die laughing everytime I see it. But, that's just my point--he seems so.. random.

I love that Gavroche, if he wanted to, could make a fantastic edition to Patron-Minette, but would rather pester and be sassy to them instead.

User avatar
Roses for Ophelia
Posts: 486
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:14 am
Location: in my head
Contact:

Re: writing Patron-Minette?

Postby Roses for Ophelia » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:59 am

"the pretty one" is my new nickname for Montparnasse!

Patron-Minette seems to specialize in burglary, but we are told they have a hand in everything. Maybe Monty looks well dressed and respectable enough to charm some lady, get invited to dinner and case the joint and leave the windows open, and things like that. He could be their undercover guy! We're told he's charming, so maybe he's a con-artist. He's probably the best at distractions as well, as who's gonna worry if there's a 'slightly drunk' dandy walking behind them at 2 in the morning...until said dandy pulls his knife. There's lots of stuff he could specialize in.
Rivers belong where they can ramble...


Return to “Brick Meta”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 0 guests

cron