Do Characters Have Secret Lives?

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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.

Beauty and the Beast: Hidden in Plain Sight

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If you want to be trapped in a total time-suck, visit TVTropes (although my poison of choice is actually Oh My Disney). But I braved TVTropes the other day to find inspiration for my Beast character, and stumbled across something completely different.

A lot of my favorite couples from literature and television are basically Beauty and the Beast. Who knew?! (You probably did…)

I’ve made a list of these couples, plus one or two I thought of on my own that weren’t cited as examples but still qualify. We’ll start with the no-brainers and work our way down:

  • Belle and Adam (the Beast): Honestly, I can’t believe they forgot to include his name. But the Disney version is one of my favorite movies, and probably my favorite classic retelling of the fairy tale. And who doesn’t love a good musical?
  • Rumpelstiltskin and Belle: Once Upon a Time’s interpretation, heavily based on the Disney one (not surprising, considering it’s a Disney show). Remember the famous Beast-giving-Belle-a-library scene? OUaT has two of those. TWO. Rumpel better not mess up again, he’s run out of libraries to gift-wrap.
  • Erik (the Phantom) and Christine: No matter how many times I see this musical, I always hope that Christine will choose to stay with the Phantom. Erik will say “fine, take Raoul and go,” and she’ll say “No, I actually chose you! He can drown for all I care.” Don’t take this the wrong way, Erik, but I want you to wear your mask all the time. It’s awesome.
  • Cyrano and Roxane: If you haven’t read/seen this yet, do so! It’s so amazing. Really depressing, but amazing.
  • Sandor (the Hound) and Sansa: I know, this relationship is slightly creepy and there’s a huge age gap, but I love them. Classic beauty and the beast here, because Sansa brings out the best in Sandor.
  • Jaime and Brienne: Same series, different dynamic. Jaime’s the pretty one, Brienne’s the honorable one. And they both bring out the best in each other!
  • WALL-E and EVE: WALL-E is the ugly little robot with a heart/processor of gold, and EVE is the beautifully sleek robot who learns to love. So adorable. And the ending is just perfect!
  • Tiana and Naveen: Disney, stop crossing-over your own stories. What’s interesting is that this couple doesn’t fall in love until they’re both frogs.
  • Tohru and Kyo: Fruits Basket starts out cheery, but it’s actually really dark. Almost every character is damaged, and Tohru’s gentle nature helps to heal all of them, but none more than Kyo. He’s always been told he’s a monster, so he finally started to believe it, and revel in it.
  • Rachel and Tobias: Tobias is the “cursed” one, trapped as a hawk, but Rachel is the one who is ruthless and out of control. I never even considered aligning them with Beauty and the Beast, but it makes total sense now!
  • Buffy and Spike: Spike doesn’t have a soul and works hard to be evil, but Buffy makes him want to be a better man. What’s interesting is that she’s not even very nice to him (she hates him for a long time), but he changes anyway to try and be worthy of her.
  • Antimony and Reynardine: Reynardine is a body-snatching demon who accidentally ends up under Antimony’s control. Their relationship has its bumps, but he’s definitely mellowed out under her influence. And is fiercely protective of her. I just wish she would notice him!
  • Elizabeth and Darcy: Arrogant and rude Mr. Darcy versus the “tolerable” Elizabeth with fine eyes. It takes a direct confrontation to make Darcy realize what a beast he’s been, but he makes his amends in time for a happily ever after.*

That’s my list! Are any of your favorite couples on here? Go ahead and add more in the comments!

* Mileage varies according to your fanfiction.


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.