Do Characters Have Secret Lives?


Sylvia: Wait, Austen meant Charlotte to be gay, or Charlotte is gay and Austen is not aware of it.

Bernadette: I just love the idea of a character having a secret life that the author doesn’t even know about.


Thinking about Jane Austen Book Club the other day, I remembered this scene. One of the characters thinks Charlotte Lucas, from the ever popular Pride and Prejudice, is gay because she tells Lizzy that she’s not as “romantic” as she is. Obviously, this raises some questions.

Can characters have secret lives separate from their authors’ wishes and intents? I know many fanfiction writers believe so. Just look at the number of Harry/Draco fics that exist.

But I’m not talking about Alternate Universe scenarios, or wishful thinking. If a character’s secret life fits within the context of the original novel, does that mean it could exist? That it does exist? Or is the text itself the final word?

And even if it is possible, is it right to usurp the author (especially when they can no longer defend their work, like Austen) by deciding for them if a character has a secret life?

I think it’s an interesting idea to have characters hiding things from their authors, though I’m not sure how I would feel if I were to find out ten years from now that Pennington is Saydie’s father or whatever. That would definitely put a new light on their relationship.

I put these questions to you. Do you think characters have secret lives?

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.