Les Miserables Fanfic Discussion Forum
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Mam'zelleCombeferre

I know that both of you are very adept at writing a highly believable portrayal of Grantaire, and I just wanted to ask what you did to get such a good understanding of his character. I have recently begun writing an AU Barricade fic surrounding Grantaire, and I like what I have so far, but I feel like there is something missing from my characterization of him. I would love your input on this, and if you are curious I can send you what I have so far of chapter one (just around 1,000 words so far). Thank you!

5/6/2012 #1
storytellers

Oh, yay, a new Grantaire fic! I would, of course, love to read what you've written.

You're asking a tough question. Grasp of the character is, unfortunately, something rather subjective in a fandom. You have made us both blush here, I'm sure, but the thing is, my separate Grantaires don't even have the same personalities. In general, I would say it's more about building an interesting and fleshed-out character that fits the story more than trying too hard to pin down an idea of what he 'should' be.

They introduce themselves to you, characters. They come with their story and you get to know them like you get to know a real person. I don't feel like I am inventing things when I create a character - I usually feel like I am discovering things. I try doing this with them and it somehow doesn't fit but the next thing fits and I know I have caught the right bit of story floating in the air.

Okay, enough semi-poetic nonsense. I'll try for useful advice though you may not find it useful or you may not even need it.

I don't know what kind of style your story has but for the purpose of this I will assume you are writing something that requires careful characterization rather than a more fun and campy piece.

When writing a Grantaire, I think at first one should try to avoid what Hugo has already said rather than follow it. I don't mean contradict it, I mean just avoid repeating it too much. Yes, we know Grantaire is a cynic and he thinks Enjolras is the world and you can say that but it doesn't add much. This is sufficient characterization for the purposes for which Grantaire is used in LM but not for a story centered around him. What does he want _other_ than Enjolras as a friend/lover/whatever? What is his main motivation, his strongest character trait that would drive a story about him? If it's something you have experienced too, that helps a lot.

Sometimes little everyday things help too. Imagine a story about Grantaire really really wanting a pastry and being unable to obtain one. Don't you sympathize? It's such a human little thing, no great purpose behind it but he just really really wants that pastry. Inserting small moments like that is usually useful for building a character. I would also try to pin down their physicality - how they look and move and their gestures. Don't be grotesque for the sake of it but try not to make things too pretty. He's a drunk. That doesn't necessarily mean he will be vomiting all over the place but there has to be something there which shows that he is drunk more than the sentence "Grantaire was drunk as always".

Sometimes you see or read something and you go 'oh, yes, this is what I need here'. Here's an example and credit goes to Abelarda again - my Grantaire from "Prayer" came about because of a miniature oneshot of hers involving Grantaire and a prostitute which I found rather inspirational. He longs for interaction, physical and emotional, that's the main thing about him, his core human quality. The rest of him is built around that and, of course there have to be some elements of his character which are on conflict with that need.

Anyway, I think that's enough babbling from me for now :)

5/6/2012 #2
TWSythar

Definitely blushing, thank you so much for the compliment.

What makes a good Grantaire is a very difficult thing in this fandom, what is one reader's good Grantaire characterisation is another reader's OOC. It's all quite objective. I'll go through the various R's I've written in the past and see what I can tell you about them to see if that will help.

In general I think what storytellers is saying about discovering the underlying motivation, the person beneath is a really good place to start. Most of the time the character will expand as they go and let you know more and more about them the more you write them.

For instance, when I was developing Perceval I wanted to create a relatively normal young man and then find out why that young man became such a cynic. What was it that created his state of mind, why does he drink, what is his motivation for clinging to his low opinion of the world even though he obviously longs to travel on the ideals of hope which Enjolras offers. Perceval himself may or may not be a good characterization of Grantaire depending on your opinion and whom you're talking to, but I found that by defining what exactly pushed him into that mindset I was able to build his personality and character from there until he decided to talk to me properly. On the other hand sometimes it's an environment or plot twist that will help with the characterization.

Another Grantaire I have written in the past is a Grantaire who was a Surete spy on les Amis. He pretended to be a drunk to make himself more invisible a presence, but as he fell in love with Enjolras and became friends with the Amis he really did become a drunk and thus blurred the line between his 'act' and his 'reality'. In this case it was the situation that helped me develop his character - by then being able to ask 'how would that affect a person?' and 'what would that make him act like around the others?' and other questions that helped me form his character.

I do agree that it helps to think beyond what Hugo tells us to what he doesn't tell us and try to flesh out the 'other' side to the character, the off-screen side which might not even show up in the story but will allow you to understand him better and work with him better. I hope that helps!! And any other questions, feel free to throw them out there.

5/7/2012 . Edited 5/7/2012 #3
Mam'zelleCombeferre

First off thank you both for responding so quickly and with so much detail. You don't know how happy that made me. :)

I definitely agree with both of you that a character, whether in fanfiction or in original writing, must be discovered and not merely invented. I suppose my biggest fear, although it is somewhat irrational considering no one is ever going to be able to write each character just like Hugo did, is making Grantaire too OOC. I agree with you, TWSyther, that it is all very objective, between the reader's own preferences, and the authors interpretations, but I fear crossing a sort of line where Grantaire doesn't even appear to be Grantaire anymore.

Storytellers, you are right in thinking that my story does require more careful characterization than some stories. It involves the aftermath of the barricade, and what would happen if Grantaire had survived. I think I did a fairly decent job creating an atmosphere for the setting, as my background is poetry vs. prose, but characterization has always been a weak point for me, and I have been trying to rectify that.

I've been thinking about this since Sunday, and I think I have a skeleton of the back story for my R now though. My Grantaire at the moment, was very much like Lucien Chardon from Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac when first coming to Paris. He is young with high ambitions, and the motivation to reach them, but he doesn't have Lucien's talent nor looks to supplement them. He apprentices himself to Antoine Gros, a classicist painter in the 19th century, and realizes that while he is by no means untalented, he does not have it to an extreme enough degree to be completely successful as a painter. When he comes to terms with this, he is disappointed in himself. His family was by no means extremely supportive of his artistic endeavors, and treated it almost as sort of phase he was going through. He quits his apprenticeship, and sets himself up as a street corner portraitist in order to earn some pocket money. In his daily interactions with people of all levels of society, and his close observance of them as he paints them, he begins to see things that he doesn't like in the world. The vanity of the rich, the coarseness of the poor, the suffering of the small homeless children, and the inattention to this by the wealthy disturbs him, and instead of reacting like most of the Amis, he thinks that there is nothing he can do about this, and is swallowed by his own feelings of inconsequentiality and helplessness. He starts to drink, to gamble, and becomes the Grantaire we know in the brick. He attaches himself to the Amis, because to him they represent light and freedom, and Grantaire feels oppressed by the facade the world and he himself puts on everyday. Enjolras, in particular, soars, and Grantaire feels buried under the muck of the world, so it is natural that he looks up to him.

This leads to my next issue. For all intensive purposes, Grantaire should have no desire to continue living after the barricades fall. I can't figure out what is keeping him from just allowing himself to be captured or simply picking up a bayonet and ending it all right there. I mean all his friends are dead, at this point he doesn't know Marius has survived, and they are the only people he really looks up to. All that is before him now is a bleak world where no one really acts the way they mean to, and everything is hidden behind a mask. The entire world is a facade, so why does he leave the barricade? I can't seem to come up with any sort of reason for this.

As for sending you what I have written, storytellers, I will try to do that as soon as possible. If I forget, do not feel bad about prodding my memory with a few friendly reminders. I tend to be a little forgetful about these type of things.

Thank you both again for the lovely advice! It really helped a lot!

5/8/2012 #4
TWSythar

If you'd like my opinion on it, I'm more than happy to look it over as well - either PM it to me or I'll PM you my e-mail address if you'd prefer. :)

It sounds like you're building a strong background to your interpretation of Grantaire. As to OOC/IC - yes there's a lot that's due to perception especially when you're dealing with characters like Grantaire where you have to glean a lot about him from his rambling speeches and the rather mysteriously unexplained character basics Hugo gives us. We don't know anything in particular about his past or his background so there's a lot of extrapolation necessary if you do decide to delve into his background. Some things are decidedly OOC (whether this in itself is a bad thing is up for debate, really. Sometimes OOC characters are amazingly fun to read and tend more towards the AU 'what if this had happened how would that have affected...') like wrote a Grantaire once who was an architect and had five children. He was a total sweetheart, but completely out of character. I didn't mind too much as it was in a role-playing setting where I wasn't writing serious fiction, but he really wasn't a Grantaire except in name.

My advice is to question where your concerns about IC writing are coming from. If your aim is to write a story which is as close to Hugoian in style as humanly possible then you should be concerned abouthow well your Grantaire matches up to the Brick Grantaire in nuance. If it's more a concern in general about moving OOC and less about the thematic style you're trying to build - then try writing the character as it feels natural and addressing the characterization issues afterwards. There's a strong possibility that you will find your fears had less foundation than you thought. I often find that I will stres out about keeping a character in character only to find that once I start writing them and stop listening to my inner critic things flow better. Does that make sense?

Your background sounds well thought out and like it would give you the ability to nuance Grantaire with the artist's point of view.

As for why Grantaire doesn't just kill himself - there could be reasons. Does he think that dying by his own hand would defile Enjolras' barricade and make Enjolras angry? Does he just not have the nerve? Does the horror of what's happened push him into leaving first - a flight response - and then he turns to drink to blot out the images and voila it's several days later, he's still alive and everyone is still dead? Does he feel like he would be dishonouring their memory to kill himself where they all fought to live? It does depend very much on the character so those are just some very general suggestions.

5/8/2012 #5
storytellers

Now, I'm going to be utterly and completely honest but I hope I don't say what I think with the wrong words. Feel free to point out if I'm not making myself clear or if what I'm saying sounds wrong to you, it just might not be exactly what I mean. And sorry for long rants in advance but hey, it's a forum, I can rant if I want to :P :)

First of all - so far so good, as far as I'm concerned. Solid background and everything. A rather canonical background too. Gros is the only thing we know about Grantaire's past occupations so one has to either include it if trying to be IC or else one has to decide that he was joking in that paragraph. He _might_ be - it's Grantaire. But he sounds more like he isn't. My fanfic Grantaires tend to be painters as well at least to an extent even though I like to imagine they took up a great big multitude of things and just didn't finish anything properly (one of my main things about my Grantaire in 'Prayer'). So you've done your homework and everything seems fine.

Here's where I'll rant a bit, for fun as much as for anything else.

I do have to wonder _why_ you are so worried about ICness considering that you are obviously not trying to write a Grantaire who is an astronaut/exotic dancer in the little known 'Sexy Astronauts' society in Paris in 1832. That would be kind of hard to keep in character. :P You're obviously sticking to the book. If you are concerned about the way he speaks or moves, no one can really help without seeing an example. The only way to learn to write anyone well is just to write them a lot so I would say just go for it and come to terms with the idea that someone might not like or agree with what you've written. The first thing you send out there on a certain topic is usually not a gem but it's still a precious baby for all the learning that goes into the process of creating it and often in its own right too. As a general advice - love your nonsense or at least look kindly on them.

Now, what you have so far sounds like it _might_ be a gem on the first try anyway but that's not really the point. I feel like there are two possibilities here - either you are very critical of yourself or you are a bit worried you might not get a positive reaction from the more critical part of the fandom. If it's the first, try to imagine your inner writer is a child and don't scold her too much - fanfiction net is the playground, not the headmaster's office and she came here to play. Let your Grantaire go out there and see what he does. Don't pile so many worries and restrictions on him before he is even born.

If it's the second - and I'm not saying it is but just in case at some point you feel doubtful about your writing - never write to please or impress anyone else. Ever. I mean, you can try, it's not morally wrong. It just won't work. If you were inspired by something that's lovely but don't start writing thinking that the person you were inspired by should like it, be it Hugo, Balzac or a fanfiction author. It's your damn story and if you lose sight of that, you're in trouble. Of course, I'm not saying not to accept criticism but don't go OMGIMADEAMISTAKE! It's very likely that it's _not_ a mistake, someone is just offering another take on things that they would personally find more appealing. You can look at the suggestion and decide if you like it and if they have a point but it doesn't render what you have done so far worthless. To be honest, I don't think you're in much danger. The background of your story will pretty much ensure no one has anything to say against it. But just for the record, there were a few sad cases here on ff net with a few authors posting something that really wasn't that bad, getting a devastating review and promptly removing the stuff, maybe never to brave this fandom again. And that's a bit ridiculous. I have to say I respect and admire GavrocheLesAmis even with all the rampant OOCness and crazy plot ideas because of the sheer enthusiasm and productivity. That counts too.

All right, enough of that.

I like Sythar's ideas on how to solve the 'why am I alive' problem. I would suggest something along the same lines. Also, it is possible that your Grantaire is just not suicidal in that sense. I can see him go both ways but standing by Enjolras at the end of the brick is for the purpose of showing a still alive Enjolras something. It doesn't necessarily mean he would kill himself when that won't achieve anything. It kind of depends on what happens to him afterwards and what's the main purpose of your story because there would be qualities you might want to show from the beginning. One of my Grantaires - namely Nicolas - is actually a survivalist. He doesn't want to die and he likes himself well enough. He whines and dramatizes and rants but when it comes down to it, there is a certain amount of drive to him. Granted, he is not my most IC Grantaire but I don't think these are among the qualities that make him a bit OOC. Now, if your Grantaire is going to go crazy and meet a miserable end by the end of the story, it should be only circumstances that keep him alive. But if he is going to achieve something, you can try introducing some of the qualities that will help him do it, as long as he is not aware of displaying them. If that is the case, I would go with him acting in such a way that the reader sees in him things he doesn't see in himself.

And that's about as much as I can add for now but I'm fairly excited for your story :)

5/9/2012 #6
Mam'zelleCombeferre

First off, thank you both for your complete honesty. It is really refreshing to ask something, and get a good solid, honest response in return.

Secondly, I have been thinking about where these concerns come from the last few days, and I've come to the conclusion, that most of my concerns were stemming from what others would think about it, and less of what I would think about it. I've seen what some of the more critical authors will write in reviews of stories they don't find worthy of the fandom, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially myself. But I do think you are right. I shouldn't be writing to please others in the first place. I tend to stress myself out over the smallest things, and I shouldn't be worrying about this. I started writing a lot later on than many of the people on this site, and I still get very self-conscious about my writing, even when I shouldn't be. Thank you both for your advice on this, and for putting up with my insecurities.

Thirdly, I love the idea of him being an artist, because I feel like he is already a very observant person, and as an artist, he is allowed to sit and stare at people, taking them in in their entirety. I tend to look at Grantaire more as a mediocre painter, but a brilliant sketch artist. Sort of like Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Lastly, that makes a lot of sense that Grantaire doe not want to defile the barricade, with a, as he would view it, meaningless suicide. Right now it seems like he just doesn't have the nerve to do it. He holds the bayonet up to his chest, but then throws it down, disgusted by his inability to follow the Amis to their fate, even when none of them were there to watch. Although, you make a good point in that the only reason he stands up to die with Enjolras in the book is to show him that he is capable something while he is still living. I finally settled on him hearing the sound of approaching guards and running away, less out of a sense of preservation, and more out of sense of disgust for what he sees at the barricades. Thanks again for trying to help me out with this! I really do appreciate it greatly!

5/13/2012 . Edited 5/14/2012 #7
storytellers

Oh, I love that explanation about why he's an artist and why he's better at sketching, I hadn't gotten that deep! That makes perfect sense, put that in!

5/14/2012 #8
Mam'zelleCombeferre

Thanks! :) I've always had this image of Grantaire sitting at his table in the back corner of the back room of the Musain, absentmindedly sketching his friends, as he stares at Enjolras, and drinks what is probably his third or fourth bottle of wine.

5/14/2012 #9
storytellers

Well, maybe not the fourth XDDD He'll probably be drawing them double on the fourth, even if it's cheap wine.

More ranting ahead, I'm wasting time before I start working on Honours report again so feel free to ignore me :)

I wanted to address some of your fears - as far as I am competent to say anything on the matter.

It hardly matters you got into writing later. If anything, it gives you an advantage because you already know the fandom and the trends. Of course, on the other hand, the fandom itself can sometimes skew your perception of things which potentially take a little off the freshness and enthusiasm because you are automatically comparing yourself and putting restrictions there from the first try. If you start writing without knowing or caring what the fandom is like, if you just read/saw LM for the first time and got onto ff.net the same night with an idea for a fic and only read one or two things, you know then that what you're writing is really directly inspired by what the source did to your own imagination and not what the fan club has established as correct. This doesn't always mean that the first thing you write would be a good thing - in fact it often isn't. But it's a very good idea to have it for reference because it takes you back to your original emotion, which helps. Being influenced by the fandom is not a bad thing - it's good because the fandom does a lot to develop characters and situations further so what you end up is a more complex and interesting setting. However, one has to be able to retain a sense of their own opinion, where they are coming from and how they got there.

On criticism - one of the hardest things for a writer is trying to establish how valid or important a comment on their work is. First of all, of course every comment is valuable because someone sat down and wrote it and wasted some of their time to pay attention to you. However, that doesn't mean that every comment is pure truth, be it positive or negative.

Let's look at positive comments first.

"I love your work, you're a fantastic writer!!"

Thank you.

That in itself means one thing - your writing gave someone a good time. That's good, even if in reality you wrote the biggest piece of crap. I mean, okay, it's not _good_ to write crap but if you wrote crap which at least entertains people, that's better than boring crap. Does this comment immediately mean your writing is fantastic? Well, no. A lot of bad writing gives people a good time, it's a fact. And it doesn't really matter how many people write a comment like that because if they put nothing else there, you don't really know _what_ they appreciate about your story and if it's worth appreciating so enthusiastically. Am I grateful for these comments? Absolutely - much more than if people said nothing. Do they help though? Nnnn... Not much.

Then the other type of positive comment would include specific things the reviewer liked. Then it's a bit easier for you. If they quote a phrase back at you you get hints for how to improve your style so most of what you write is the quality of that phrase, if they point out that a character's choice seems logical, you know you've done a good job on characterization and so on.

All right, brilliant.

Now, negative comments. Do you know what? People don't get them often. Usually, if someone took the time to leave a review, it's positive. If it's negative, there are three possibilities:

1. The person just enjoys putting people down and they have nothing better to do. These comments are awfully easy to recognize, they are unnecessarily rude and often indicate that the reviewer didn't read very carefully. Even so, read the comment carefully, tuning out the rude language. Regardless of how stupid it may be, there might be something there that you could use, like a mention about a plot hole that rings true to you or something of the sort. _Never_ allow yourself to be hurt but someone acting like an ass though - it's a laughing matter, nothing more. They might even be a decent person who just had a really bad day. Either way it's not your fault - you don't have enough of an impact on their lives for them to be justifiably so upset so shrug it off and move on.

2. The person is competent but they are mainly writing a comment from the point of view of a slightly demanding reader. This includes:

- Comments which are obviously well written and show knowledge of the work but the issues the person has are not completely relevant. E.g. when a character in your fic is killed/gets sick for reasons which are connected to the plot and the reviewer just doesn't like where the plot it going. Unless the issue they have is along the lines of 'this doesn't make sense in your plot', these opinions are interesting but they should not have any effect on the story itself.

- Comments which look like they are written in order for the reviewer to look important and knowledgeable more than for anyone else's benefit. These are rare but they do happen.

3. The third type of criticism is where the reviewer is clearly on your side even if they have something negative to point out. These reviews are phrased respectfully and the person is obviously into the story and genuinely wants to help you make it better. In this case they would not just be stating what's wrong but explain how their concern relates to the story and make suggestions about how it may work better. These comments are very valuable, even if you disagree with them. And that's one thing to remember - it is your right to disagree with them, however well-meant they are. Possibly the best outcome of something like this is to start a discussion which is both fun and beneficial.

It's rather hard sometimes but staying true to yourself and only making decisions based on your own sentiments always pays off. I have seen proof of this throughout my life and I'm a much happier person for it. Even if the whole world is telling you you're wrong, try and be objective. Doubt is a wonderful thing but only in moderation. There is a fan fic I'm reading, not in this fandom, which I started reading with a friend in order for us to laugh at it. It has hilariously bad grammar, crazy characterization and more plot holes than a fishing net after a few chapters both my friend and I got completely hooked on it. It still has awful grammar and absolutely crazy plot but it is also terribly entertaining and sometimes really very inventive, has a few terribly lovable new characters and I reeeeallly want to know what happens next. We're on chapter god-knows-what by now and I can say I do respect these authors. I will be awfully sorry when the fic is over and I'll miss it terribly. I shudder to think what would have happened if this was in a fandom such as LM and someone had come to bash the kids from the beginning. The world would be a much worse place without this story in which a girl marries six of her high-school friends one after the other, has a kid from each and then they mysteriously die when the kid turns one but what is actually happening is that they are being kidnapped by the evil parents of the _other_ guys who want their sons to marry that same girl for completely unclear reasons. It's absolutely insane and OOC. It's also wonderful. :)

5/15/2012 #10
storytellers

Oh, and one more thing - I think anyone who uses the phrase 'worthy/unworthy of the fandom' seriously should get a pie in the face and be told to lighten up :P Honestly, doesn't it sound _stupid_?

5/15/2012 #11
TWSythar

You're most welcome, and I agree with what storytellers is saying here. Sometimes it's really easy to get intimidated by the idea of what people may think of what you've done - or to be frightened of a bad reaction. In the end we're all fans of Les Miserables and this is fanfiction, there actually aren't any rules except that it be fiction - written by a fan - about Les Miserables. Not that this should be an excuse not to try! No! But often people who come on here and write the most improbable or over-the-top fictions are... well, they're learning. They're exploring and having fun and I don't believe it's really conducive to their learning to squash them.

Believe me, I wrote the most ridiculous sues when I was starting writing. I never published them online, but I wrote them prolifically. And then I grew out of them, realised they were not the best writing and learned from it.

I get intimidated too. Very intimidated. I have a low opinion of my own writing capabilities sometimes, and it's very easy to listen to my doubts and wonder if I should write or not write and am I good enough and am I just deluding myself into thinking I'm good, etc. etc. etc. But most of us have that inner voice and we're a lot happier when we listen to it only in moderation and when completely necessary (when it is doing the fandango dressed in an orange safety vest and blowing a whistle is a good time to pay attention to your doubts and reconsider your epic Edward Cullen is a reincarnated Ami who realises Jacob is really secretly the descendant of Courfeyrac and they go to France and recreate the original Republic... even though it's a Republic because who cares! ((...which could actually be really funny and I almost want to write that now, dammit!)).

In short - moral of the story is that life's a lot easier when you learn when to follow your gut. And sometimes just write something for the fun of it. It may not be the next Henry V but this is where we're allowed to play. So play.

Love the artist idea, it's awesome. Go for it! Let me see some when you're ready!

5/15/2012 #12
AuroraExecution

I know this was a question posed to these two lovely ladies -- but I adore writing (and reading, really) Grantaire and just love this discussion. I'm not sure how useful anything I say will be, but Sythar assures me my Grantaire isn't too OOC, so here it is:

Honestly, I think Grantaire is, like all Les Amis, both well-defined and open to the world. Hugo gave very specific instructions for what each person is, but only those instructions. You must never forget what is laid down, but you should also keep in mind that anything that other fans, or even professional literature analysts, say is still just an interpretation. The way I write Grantaire is to always think of him as what he is--which is, a lazy, ineffective person with no motivation and who does not believe in anyone but Enjolras, and drowns his cynicism and unhappiness in drink. This is a very very important thing to keep in mind, because when you break too far from that mold, and Grantaire suddenly is motivated to do all sorts of things for no good reason except sparkly Twilight-ific love or Mary Sue or whatever, he becomes...not quite as Grantaire. It is common to make Grantaire sympathetic, but that often leads to the temptation to also make him into a normal person with the motivation to help people or quit drinking or whatever just because he wants to. But the point of Grantaire is that he can't pull himself from the darkness he's stuck himself in, even though occasionally he wants to (see: Barriere du Maine). And I'm not saying you can't make him better himself at all in a fic, but that if he does, I'd expect a decent amount of struggle and complex strong reasons.

The other thing I notice about a lot of Grantaires (generally in fic not focused on him) is that he is taken as only the above--a lazy unmotivated drunk who really likes Enjolras. It's easy to slip into the "oh, yeah, he's just over there being drunk like always" sort of characterization, that forgets a few things. First, Grantaire is incredibly talented, as Hugo lists off a set of things at which Grantaire excels, and fairly intelligent, judging by the comments he makes about going to the Barriere du Maine. This, to me, says he has a layer of complexity in that he's actually rather accomplished and /could/ do something with himself if he wanted, but he just doesn't want to. Secondly, one of the most interesting things about Grantaire (at least to me) is the utter duality of his complete lack of belief in anything but his blinding belief in Enjolras. And finally, while he may have no motivation to help anyone except Enjolras because he's a cynic, this may or may not mean he doesn't care. Based on what Hugo says about how much Grantaire wants friendship, I think he does care, but if someone were to need help he may not give it simply because he doesn't believe it's worth trying.

This, of course, leads to questions. /Why/ is Grantaire the way he is? If he has all these talents, why couldn't he try to be a normal person, instead of drinking his life away and doubting that anything is going to ever turn out right? How does he mentally reconcile his refusal to believe in anything with his desire for friendship (which Hugo points out is rather oxy-moronic) and his love for Enjolras?

And here is where we run into the wide open world. Why /is/ Grantaire the way he is? That's entirely up to you to create and mold and decide.

I agree with Sythar--don't let fandom cow you out of writing what you want to write. I'll be the first to admit I can be a fic snob, especially around pairings I dislike and/or marysues, but I also understand people will write what they want. I won't read a fic I know I'll hate just to flame it, because it's their prerogative to post whatever they want within the rules of the site.

Specifically for Grantaire, though, I've seen a lot of criticism on how Grantaire is portrayed throughout fandom, and I've noticed there are a handful of trends where people all sort of parrot the same complaints. ("Mine! Mine! Mine!" Please tell me someone gets the Finding Nemo reference?) Firstly, the one where people complain that Grantaire is portrayed too often as a visionary and/or as thinking the revolution is going to fail. Okay, I could understand not agreeing with Grantaire where he knows everything that will happen just because he's that awesome, but specifically thinking the revolution is going to fail? He's a cynic. He also, in the novel, actually says to Enjolras "Let me sleep here until I die here", which I think leads to a pretty good assumption that, at least by the time the barricades are built, he's thinking they're all going to die. Secondly, I see a LOT of complaints about Grantaire challenging Enjolras. Which, to be fair, if that's all your Grantaire does, it may be a bit much, but during the discussion about the Barriere du Maine, Grantaire calls Enjolras an ingrate. So, at least, we know he's capable of not cowering before Enjolras entirely. The last thing I see all the effing time is complaints that people write Grantaire because they identify with him, and turn him into themselves. This is a double-edged sword. It is easy to write a character entirely as yourself, and this always leads to some degree of OOC just because you just aren't that character (unless this is like one of those movie roles where they make the character for the actor). In Grantaire's case, I'd say he IS the Ami most people would identify with the most. I don't know many people who are sacrificing themselves to rebel against the government in the world of fanfic (because people who are sacrificing themselves to rebel against the government are, y'know, doing that instead of writing fanfic), but I do know plenty of people, myself included, who have a lot of bad habits, are sometimes prone to depression (which they possibly drink to alleviate), want to get things done but don't always succeed, and have certain things very dear to them that they try for. If you take all of those qualities, make them 10 times more extreme, and stick that result into 19th century France, I'd say you have a pretty good facsimile of Grantaire. In addition, any character you write will most likely have a little bit of you.

The point of that last, long-winded paragraph, is that I often disagree with what a lot of fandom apparently thinks about characterization. And I don't believe you or anyone else should be constrained by that, because what they see is their interpretation. If they want to interpret Grantaire as thinking the revolution is going to succeed but inexplicably still won't follow it, then that's their prerogative, and it's mine to make my Grantaire as cynical and doubtful as I want. And it's yours, too, to make your Grantaire the sort of person you see in him.

(As a side note, people who get extremely fussy about Hugo amuse me. From what I understand of Victor Hugo, he probably would care less than the fussy people.)

5/29/2012 #13
storytellers

Hey there, lovely to have you! I think the question was only posed to me and Sythar directly because we were the only ones here at the time.

I like the point you're making about Grantaire not really cowering before Enjolras. Actually if you look into the book he is very likely to defy him, however much he adores him. He is acting a lot like a stubborn child around Enjolras - he'll shut up when you chastice him but he'll mutter about how unfair the world is. I've written this type of Grantaire and then I've written a type who is _a little_ more prone to dissolving into a puddle in front of Enjolras but that's only my latest one who has gone through some additional things so he is also more pessimistic and more sentimental than what he may have been at the time of the barricade. So yes, I would say Grantaire is actually likely to contradict Enjolras a lot but mostly when it comes to his own person. If Enjolras says something that stings, he is, I think, likely to defend himself exactly like a child does, even if he believes Enjolras to be right. Grantaire likes to imitate confidence, which is why he brags about women and about being able to talk to the people at the Barriere and he doesn't _really_ consider himself unworthy all the time because he is damn pissed and sulky when Enjolras doesn't send for him before the barricades. Sure, he has self-doubt, sure he probably has moments when he believes himself the dirt beneath Enjolras' feet but definitely not all the time. He swings between that and bursts of energy and desire to prove himself that just don't last long. I think the Barriere and the ending are just some of those moments.

I don't know how many people actually really identify with Grantaire to be honest, I know there _are_ a few but I don't know if it's really the majority. It would be curious to find out. I myself identify more with Enjolras, even though I adore Grantaire as a character but I realize I have less in common with him than Enjolras. I don't think that necessarily involves taking on the government and getting shot because, you know, Grantaire got shot too. But you are right about the fact that everyone does identify with certain aspects of Grantaire simply because everyone has flaws and we are not exactly shown many of Enjolras' flaws and we are shown many of Grantaire's.

I will now risk getting crucified but Hugo uses many of his characters as tools, which takes away some of their humanity. And, don't get me wrong - Hugo is great and I don't think Enjolras was actually evil or stupid or anything completely unlike his description. But what we get in the book is very stylized versions of human beings, both because there isn't enough time for more and because they are there to serve a purpose. So yes, Enjolras was this strong, opinionated, brave young man and Grantaire was an intelligent but apathetic drunk who struggled to find a purpose in his life. That _is_ primarily what they were. But there are a million nuances and exceptions when we are looking at a human being. Hell, let's try to describe ourselves with one sentence like that and then think for a moment. I'm sure we'll find out we have broken each and ever primary trait we have, at least a little bit, at least once or twice. That doesn't mean we are not still those people we described, there are just exceptions. If every real person we know has exhibited an Enjolraic or Grantairian trait at some point in their lives, it's reasonable to believe that both of them may have displayed each other's characteristics as well, however briefly.

My whole point is, it's complicated and I don't think anyone has the right to say they know the rules and the rules are set in stone. I would rather look at things like style and how well a character develops once he/she is put on the page.

I also have an issue with how often people ignore this one thing - it's _not_ all about Enjolras. It simply is _not_. Yes, Enjolras was special, yes Grantaire focused on him a lot. But Enjolras was not the only person Grantaire adored. Hugo is very clear about Grantaire being extremely fond of _all_ of the Amis so how about exploring that a bit, fandom? It's not that I _mind_ fics focusing on his relationship with Enjolras. I just think it would be nice to have more of the other type.

Rant over.

5/30/2012 #14
ColonelDespard

Joining in this discussion, because the way Grantaire is frequently written is one of my bugbears about the fandom. I agree that we have to allow a wide latitude of interpretation, and I'm very fond of some quite divergent visions of him. There's a pretty broad range of possibilities facilitated by Hugo's blazon of characteristics and a lot to play with there. The problem I see is with fanonical traits that have developed a life of their own and are repeated ad infinitum in the fandom, and the completely divergent fan interpretations that run against what information we are given about him. I wouldn't mind the latter so much if they weren't often coupled with a commensurate mauling of other characters, warping them around the author's newly envisioned Grantaire (which is where we get Enjolrases that couldn't lead their way out a paper bag with a flashlight and a GPS and a Grantaire who is the wisest, most discerning, most politically astute, most intelligent member of the Amis). Authors should obviously be free to write fanfic as they choose, but it reaches a point where often I no longer feel I'm reading about the characters in Hugo that I fell in love with, and instead am reading the author's original creation. Even if well written, at that point, I lose interest.

Cassandra!Grantaire is one in particular I loathe - the idea of Grantaire not merely believing the revolution will fail, but frequently and with specific criticism detailing why because he is so much more insightful and astute than his friends. It undermines all Hugo's intent for this character, his idea of laying out the soul-rotting cynicism that has laid hold of him: "Scepticism, that curse of the intellect, had not left him one whole idea in his mind." Grantaire in fanfic often offers explicit criticism of the students and harps on Enjolras in particular, continually confronting him with variations on "you're all doomed to fail and I'm telling you this because I love you", and yet we see nothing like that in the text. Indeed, he's evidently been so silent on the matter that, as late as early 1832, he's able to convince Enjolras (or at least is able to use it as an argument) that he was once a Hébertist…in other words, not merely a Republican, but a radical Republican. The word "ingrate" is an unfortunate translation as is verges on having insulting connotations, and I cannot imagine Grantaire deliberately insulting the man he "venerates" – a better translation would be "ungrateful", which fits in with the imploring attitude he often adopts (someone once amusingly and accurately observed that the terms in which Grantaire addresses Enjolras are often those with which one would implore a reluctant mistress, puppy eyes included). Even as Joly and Bossuet are discussing the Revolution on the morning of Lamarques funeral, he offers absolutely no coherent criticism – just the equivalent of shrugging his shoulders and declaring that he doesn't really have any issues with the monarchy. This fits in with a man who does not have any insightful or incisive criticism to offer – only "His soft, yielding, dislocated, sickly, and shapeless ideas". That is a key element of his character – he is drawn to Enjolras' firmness and precise ideology not because he adopts those ideas, but because they are such a contrast to his own half-baked, unformed general cynicism.

Not only does re-writing this re-cast Grantaire, it also warps those around him and plays into that annoying trope of the Amis being naïve dreamers without experience or foresight (most irritatingly expressed in the line in the musical "they were schoolboys/never held a gun"), which is frustrating given both what Hugo shows and tells us about their preparations and also the fact that they've been active in the movement since c.1827 and have been through the crucible of 1830.

I agree that Grantaire should be considered outside his relationship with Enjolras, although he can never fully be understood outside the obsession that has so come to dominate him if we're to consider the man he is in the final years of his life. There's so much room for interpreting where that fits into his life and emotional state. There's a lot of interesting (and all probably equally valid) interpretations as to why he developed a problem with alcohol and whether there is a specific trigger for his cynicism. Personally I lean towards depression and possible bipolarism. He veers very easily from soaring high spirits to crashing lows. People have come up with a great many scenarios from this angle, including possible triggers i.e. a traumatic personal event, repressed homosexuality in an era of intolerance…with no textual evidence to guide us, it's pretty open. I do find it interesting that he refers to his father's disappointment over his lack of mathematical skills…is it suggestive of tensions there that a boy who wasn't good at maths goes on to study under Gros? Did he face paternal disapproval for his career choice? I like your Rossetti comparison, Mam'zelle Combeferre (particularly as Rossetti is my favourite artist), and have often toyed with a storyline for him along the lines of Branwell Bronte and his failed art career. Gros, too, is a fascinating figure…one can see Grantaire, with all his love of classical history and mythology, drawn to Gros' subject matter of great public men in grand poses…and then we get the intriguing tension of how his background with Gros fits into the artistic zeitgeist of Paris c.1830. Given his circle of friends pretty much personify French Romanticism at the time, one can assume they're drawn to the works of artists like Delacroix and Gericault…it was this shift in style that caused Gros to fall out of favour and lead to his eventual suicide. Where does Grantaire fit in? There are so many ideas there to play with – I personally see him as profoundly enjoying and developing a style like that of Gros, but being rather conflicted and drawn to the new second-wave Romanticism he sees all around him…yet another Grantarian contradiction.

5/30/2012 . Edited 5/30/2012 #15
storytellers

Hello and welcome, Despard, wonderful to have you! :).

Oh, Cassandra!/Grantaire... I have to laugh - I have kind of used this trope in terms of Grantaire preaching to Enjolras about what's wrong with his plans. Is it a horrible trope? Meh, it can be pretty silly, especially when taken to the extreme. Sometimes it's a very elementary interpretation of what Grantaire could do if the author wants him to be useful. People will use it when they feel kind of lazy about that aspect of the story. Other times it boils down to: "He told them but they didn't listen and then they died and it's tragic, now cry" which I really don't enjoy too much. I'm more inclined to agree with you than anything but just in order not to leave the impression that we condemn any kid who may want to just have a smart/useful Grantaire in their story, I'd like to say a bit more on the matter. Not so much for your benefit, Despard, because I know you already know this but just to be clear to someone else who may be reading.

Perhaps it sometimes goes like this:

Ultimately, Enjolras did miscalculate. As a result of that, people who may have lived and, in a wild universe of possibilities, may have been useful in the creation of a republic, died. I can imagine that sometimes authors are looking for a way to avoid that and Grantaire strikes them as the only person around who may have any sort of different angle on the whole thing. Thus, he can be used as a simple device to express a different opinion. Also, people are trying to derive something from his character that would be of use to Enjolras. I don't think it always necessarily has to do with him being smarter or more capable than any of them, I think it simply has to do with him being in a slightly different position and watching more from the sidelines. Enjolras can be the smartest human being in the world and his head would still not - and evidently did not - turn 360 degrees in all directions so maybe he could have benefited from one extra bit of input from someone. Of course, he did receive a lot of input, he didn't have a blindfold and he did listen to different opinions. But the logic behind Cassandra!/Grantaire, if we assume it's used in a fic which does have logic, is that '32 was a bad decision that, arguably, could have been foreseen. So, in the book, Enjolras did not happen to encounter a factor that would have tipped him off that the people were not ready. I'd say in an AU it's not completely impossible for Grantaire to have realized something that Enjolras hasn't. HOWEVER. This is where the fic usually gets difficult to write truthfully. If Grantaire has something to say, chances are that he will say it. And if Grantaire says something reasonable, chances are that Enjolras would listen. And then it's no longer Cassandra.

The only way to still make it Cassandra is if you give Enjolras too many flaws which is what, I'm betting, pisses you off most about the whole thing. Bad/stupid Enjolras is certainly not a _good_ idea but as a cultural phenomenon in the fandom, I'd say it has its roots. My guess is it's Hugo's fault. From the point of view of a contemporary reader, Hugo has the potential to cause quite a bit of dissatisfaction in his fans with how preachy he is. And he is really rather preachy for all of his talent. Throughout the story it is extremely clear what his opinion is and whom we are meant to root for. That, I admit, can be a bit grating. It's most probably the reason why many people tend to hate Cosette and stick up for the "underdogs" like Javert and Grantaire - because they are rebelling against the author telling them a little too clearly that these people are utterly wrong and certain other people are a little too right. There is a certain dissonance between the depths Hugo sometimes goes into when developing a character through words and actions and the oversimplified conclusions he seems to present in his narration. Javert is the more glaring example of the two towards the end because I actually find that - and anyone is free to disagree - _Hugo himself_ starts writing his character OOC only to make his point. But Grantaire also gets sympathy points for the fact that we are _told_ what his negatives are, rather than shown and I can get how some people just desperately want to contradict the original just out of a sense of rebellion. Of course, making Enjolras dumb doesn't make Grantaire smarter or worthier so it is indeed better to not fly off the handle with that.

About the cases when fanfiction pretty much turns into original fiction:

In all honestly, to let the cat out of the bag, we are discussing Scaramouche and the likes, aren't we?

Despard, I agree your issue is valid in terms of fan fiction but there is simply not a specific place on the internet for this type of work. I take such fics in the same way I take Gregory McGuire's books. 'Wicked' turns 'Wizard of Oz' on its head. It is completely contradictory to characterization in the original work. Of course, Wicked is not termed fan fiction. So I agree that this type of thing is essentially more original fiction than fan fiction but first of all, in this particular case, if you want anyone and especially your target audience to read it, you have to post it here. And then, arguably, it still has enough of the original to _be_ fan fiction. Sometimes I too will get bored if the characters are not my favourite characters. But sometimes I would just like these new characters and keep reading, accepting it as a separate entity, like in the incredibly insane other-fandom-fic I mentioned earlier. Same with the musical - it has similar characterization issues. Javert the religious fanatic? That's why that silly line about them never holding a gun - which is admittedly silly even out of the context of the book, come on - doesn't bother me _that_ much. It is just completely different characters for me.

So I think this is more of a classification issue than anything. Maybe we should petition ff.net to add a special genre which involves reimagining of the characters and whoever doesn't want to read that would filter it out.

And yes, Grantaire is difficult to consider without Enjolras playing some sort of part. But I would still like to see more demonstrations of his affection towards the rest because a lot of the times in fics it appears as if he is only there for the sake of Enjolras and he cares little to none about the other members. At the same time, Hugo very explicitly states that these people are his close and very beloved friends and that he is not only in the Musain to stare at Enjolras' ass/hair. I would, for example want to know what happens at that ball they went to. Does he dance? Do girls accept when he invites them - my guess would be they probably do, actually. Does he actually ever go on dates with girls as he claims? What kind of girls? Or boys if you like? What kind of boys? He does know people outside of the Amis, Gros being one example. This is one of the reasons why I love Abelarda's 'Lucien' so much - it's different. It's Grantaire without the Amis and there are other people and we get to see more of his relationship with women. Don't get me wrong, I love the Amis as much as the next fangirl. But the fandom truly, honestly needs more diversity and originality. Along with the good old fan service we all like to read there has to be fresh ideas and exploration of new things. Here's my unpopular opinion - I think Grantaire likes girls. I think Grantaire likes girls damn much, whether or not he also likes boys. Of _course_ this is only head-canon but I would like to see more of that because we really haven't seen much of it. I'm a fan of E/R but considering Enjolras' personality it's not more plausible than E/any other damn person or R/any other damn person.

A little side-rant:

I also don't think Enjolras is necessarily not heterosexual. It slightly bugs me when people quote Hugo to me to try and prove to me he's gay. Where with Grantaire you could easily read that between the lines, Hugo hints absolutely nothing of the sort about Enjolras and saying that 'he's not interested in women' means 'he's gay' is such a willful interpretation. Enjolras in this moment of his life is simply not interested in _sex_ and that is simply because there is something that interests him far more. Hell, I can relate! I've had many such periods. It hasn't made me any less heterosexual. We know very well that Hugo wasn't likely to write "Evadne's bare bossom would not excite him and Achilles' naked ass would do nothing for him either because he was focusing on the revolution in case you missed that". Again, this doesn't mean he's _not_ gay but the point is that we don't know and I wish people would put curiosity and the benefit of exploration above personal head-canon. Same with any other of the Amis, Grantaire included. I'm not saying I prefer heterosexual fics to slash but one is over-represented and the other is underrepresented. Do you know what? I'll open another topic on the question of women because this is getting too irrelevant.

Painter Grantaire is also somewhat underrepresented so yes, let's have more of that. Do you know what you should do, Despard? I would do it if I didn't suck as an artist. You should draw a portrait of Enjolras as you think Grantaire would draw it. I would love to see that.

I would love to see a fic where his drawing plays more of a part rather than just being mentioned. I think it might be interesting. I don't know if that could possibly have any place in Mam'zelle Combeferre's story.

5/31/2012 #16
ColonelDespard

To be fair, I suspect a lot of the Cassandra!Grantaire readings come from newer writers who aren't familiar with the historical context of 1832 that Hugo's readers had. He doesn't go into 1830 when he talks about how "youth was on the march", so they may not be aware of how the Republicans and fellow travellers had won only two years before, only to have their victory manouvered away from them. Enjolras doesn't so much miscalculate as take the calculated gamble that many Revolutionary leaders must take – an old adage has it that a revolution is nothing but kicking down a rotten door. Enjolras has his finger on the pulse the whole time – his head isn't in the clouds, he is the one who very quickly ascertains that the people won't rise, and conveys that message immediately to the men, telling them they have no hope and precisely what the situation is on the streets. It is the men who decide emphatically to stay (and even then, Enjolras has a contingency plan and tries to send as many of them away as possible). Look at how he sets up the barricade – he fully anticipates the possibility that it will fall, and has paving stones and bottles of acid set aside for that eventuality. He is not an unrealistic dreamer who has exaggerated ideas of the probability of their success, nor is he responsible for forcing this path on his followers. He is utterly realistic throughout. This is a part of the duality of his nature which isn't always recognised – he is both a priest of the movement, and a soldier. Writers sometimes emphasize the former and characterise him as a dreamer who has lost touch with the real situation, ignoring the second part of his nature which is indicated in how very thoroughly he is aware of the mood of the people and what is going on around them. He keeps his lines of communcation open and seeks data. Enjolras, of all the characters we see, is the one with the most situational awareness, and yet in order to enhance Grantaire's role this is eliminated.

I get what you're saying about the appeal of subversive readings of characters (I'm a fan of "Wide Sargasso Sea", which I'm sure some Rochester fans utterly loathe). Personally, though, I find substantial rewrites of the characters along these lines creates figures I just don't recognise and which really don't appeal to me. That's a personal thing, I know. It's just frustrating to see these non-textually based interpretations so prevalent. I'm not so much talking about Scaramouche here (I hesitated over commenting at all on how I feel about interpretations of Grantaire as I do have strong ideas but don't want to be seen to look like I'm laying down the law or dictating to others because of those strong feelings, let alone attacking other writers I have a high personal and literary regard for)...TW and Syther know how I feel about that fiction and the characterisations and why it's just not for me, but there you're looking at two very talented writers who have made conscious and deliberate decisions to depart from canon. They know they've re-characterised the figures Hugo wrote about, and it was a conscious and thought out decision. It's more people who fall into lazy styles of writing I find so problematic, who perpetuate fanonical tropes without much apparent thought and the fact that this particular interpretation of their relationship is so dominant. It is incredibly wearying to see fic after fic of Grantaire confronting Enjolras and telling him that he's dooming all their friends to death and Enjolras characterised as oblivious, blind and out of touch. It's just so glib and facile, and sits so ill at ease with, say, Grantaire in 1832 – after five years at least – telling Enjolras he knows about Republican ideals and can hold forth on them and Enjolras giving him a chance. It sits so wrong with the man who on the morning of the funeral effectively shrugs with indifference when his friends talk about the revolution because he doesn't care, and the man who is so finely attuned to the sentiments of the people that he even sense the brief stirrings on June 6 after he's already announced they have nothing to hope for. Grantaire, meanwhile, is so unrealistic he's actually upset that Enjolras has sent word to Bossuet and not to him, in spite of him not having given Enjolras the slightest reason to trust him (although that would make an interesting fic and is a theme I'm trying to work into SoR...why does Enjolras give Grantaire a chance in 1832 when he asks for it? He has no real reason to believe R can pull it off, but he lets him try...yet another example of the Enjolras we're shown being not as rigid as the one we're told about). I won't go into what sets me off about the Enjolras interpretations – that's a very involved subject, and one which I have to admit to a great deal of personal investment in as I think he's one of the most maligned and poorly written characters in fandom.

Within reasonable canonical boundaries I think it is possible to write this intelligent, problematic man interacting with his friends. I agree about his antics with Courfeyrac and the lads (that line about it being the place in Paris where all the lost women can be found is one of my favourites). I also like the idea of exploring places he can connect with Enjolras – as a batonnist, for example, given Enjolras evidently also has a similar knowledge of the sport from the way in which he devastatingly deploys the Rose Couverte move at the barricades.

I think the artist angle is starting to catch on in fandom...I've had a few discussions with Abelarda when we were both plotting out fics dealing with this aspect of his life...I was worried my idea might overlap with hers, but they're quite distinct. Her Grantaire is a much edgier, less benign interpretation than we often see, and thus very original. My idea for a Grantaire art fic plays more with very 19th century ideas of inspiration and the sources of genius. Briefly, I see a family member claiming his body from the morgue and then having to go through his personal effects. Grantaire in my headcanon supplements his income by doing tourist "daubs" – the scenes of Notre Dame (so recently popularised by Hugo's work in the time frame of the novel), the Pantheon, that sort of thing. He also has Branwell Bronte's habit of illustrating his letters to his friends (something I always do with my notes and letters, with scribbles in the margins). Some are quite macabre, others show drinking scenes with friends.

I don't know if I could do justice to how Grantaire would see Enjolras, as it's an integral part of the story. I can see it in my head, but I just don't have the skills to execute it.

Good idea to start another topic on writing sexuality as it's a fascinating subject...I have a number of reasons why I think there is an stronger weighting towards writing Enjolras as homosexual or asexual/homoromantic, and I know there's a number of reasons why he is interpreted that way, but I think it is a perfectly valid reading to also state that you see him as strictly asexual or as a heterosexual individual who has sublimated his sexual impulses into his cause. My only problem is with someone who insists that he MUST be heterosexual or who writes him as glibly relegating his cause to second place because he has fallen in love.

5/31/2012 . Edited 5/31/2012 #17
storytellers

Oh, I don't think Enjolras miscalculated in the sense that they shouldn't have had a revolution or that it had no chance of succeeding in general, nor do I think he's an unrealistic dreamer. But I do think he miscalculated the timing. I say this with all the empathy in the world because an extremely similar thing happened in Bulgarian history in 1876. There was an uprising and it just came earlier than it should have. It had some sort of impact but, arguably, it may have been a lot better if it hadn't happened like that. Bulgaria was liberated in 1878 but under circumstances which influenced our subsequent history not necessarily in a positive way.

On a similar note, our biggest national hero is real life Enjolras incarnate and I am not kidding at all. He even looks vaguely like him and he was following the example of the French revolution. He had pretty much the same occupation and he had an extremely similar manner too. I don't know if the info on him in English is enough or even accurate in order for the striking similarities to be noticed but I know and I'm telling you, Enjolras died in '32 and was born again in '37 to free a little country called Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. He just had a much bigger impact there than he had on French history. And look at this portrait (remove spaces): http : / / levski.magde.info / images/ levski1. jpg

On the other matter - no, I don't think you sound like you're attacking anyone, nor would I like anyone here to be afraid to express an opinion because it may be _taken_ as an attack even if it isn't meant as one. I'd like to cultivate the idea that we're not so sensitive as to see enemies where we have friends. A simple discussion and clarification would quickly solve any such problem and it's all in good fun. Naturally, not everything in the fandom is everyone's cup of tea nor does it have to be.

So you are actually talking more about just plain bad/lazy writing. Well, yes. Yeeees, we see the same thing over and over and yes, it gets tiring, I completely agree. And I'm guilty of it too, to an extent. Some of the very tired tropes are just the easiest place to start but there is a difference between using an overused idea and using an overused idea _and_ writing it badly, it just becomes too much. That's okay though, I attribute most of that to just new people in the fandom or people without much experience writing. There will always be more of those than people sticking around for long enough to progress to more complicated things. It is, in a way, necessary and I am more inclined to laugh as I comment than get irritated. The first thing I ever wrote was a My Little Pony fan fiction. It was nauseatingly horrible and had nearly every bad self-insert cliche in the world. Can't say I wish I hadn't written it, it needed to be written and I have very fond memories of laughing my head off when I looked at it later. So I think it should be more funny than upsetting.

And once again, there is the question of how much the author is aware of what they are writing. I have written complete rubbish knowing that it's complete rubbish and just not caring but if the author thinks they've written the new and better version of Les Miserables then it's probably a good idea to gently point out why that may not be the case - without being intentionally insulting as I have seen people be.

Also - seriously I have to write down the next paragraph because personal experience in RL and on the internet:

Not saying anything is - well, not as bad as saying something offensive but still not good on the whole. I don't see why we have to restrict ourselves to exclusively positive communication or no communication at all when we can all benefit from sharing opinions even if we may have to sometimes clarify or clear misunderstandings. I'm a little tired of the eggshells scattered around this fandom. It's starting to look like high-school cliques or parents versus teenagers. So that's the whole point of this forum - to discuss what we want to discuss politely but without worrying that our momentary slip of diplomacy may cause the neighboring country to drop the nuclear bomb. On this note... I'm saying this now and I hope people will understand: I sometimes talk nonsense. In fact, all of us sometimes talk nonsense, for various reasons. I may not agree with you all on which part of what I said may be nonsense but that still doesn't matter too much. I will be grateful if anyone who is reading would try to not give my words any more gravity than they rightfully deserve. I would not like to have to feel guilty for someone on the other side of the world getting overly upset because I said something silly or they misinterpreted me. The emotion and intent behind the words matter to me infinitely more than words themselves so if you are not sure about the emotion, everyone, please ask. Let's just all relax and share the playground and if you think anyone is being a brat, stick your tongue at them, appeal to your sense of humour and let's move on.

Please, forgive that detour.

I agree that Enjolras is very often badly written but I think that's more the result of him being written a lot to begin with. You don't get so much horribly characterized Bossuet because he is not exactly the focus of the most fangirling. So it's only natural.

I do think Enjolras being homosexual is very plausible if you infer things from the book. I don't however think Hugo was trying to hint at it but even if he was, I was specifically being irritated by people using that one quote about him and women. I just think that's putting words into the author's mouth. I wouldn't mind a _good_ argument in support of the theory.

I'll go and start that topic on sexuality now.

5/31/2012 #18
ColonelDespard

I get nervous about leaving even concrit, particularly when it's based on a source-derived textual criticism, as I don't like seeming to be dictating to others how they should write. I usually only comment on a fic if I can see something positive in it and want to encourage the writer, even if I'm pointing out what I perceive as a problematical element...I can't bring myself to be insincere and say something positive if I don't see anything there to be positive about, which is why I'll shy away from the really irredeemably awful fics. Rather than not have anything positive at all to say, I'll say nothing. I'm not at all secure in my own writing, and although I know that it's unlikely to be read that way by serious fic writers, there's a lurking suspicion in the back of my head that people might think I have inflated ideas about the quality of my own work if I presume to criticise their's. It's highly irrational and stems from my own insecurity, but it's difficult to shake which is why my criticisms on specific works tend to be tentative (unless I'm in one of my bouts with severe clinical depression and I've been on a Grantairesque bender...then I need to stay away from the computer and fanfic, or the results are ugly and pretty inexusable. Do not critique under the influence!).

I like the sound of your Enjolraic national hero! I'm fascinated by the mechanics of revolution...this is probably more a discussion for a thread on Enjolras or general 19th century French Republicanism, but it's interesting how the dynamics of our cultural experiences filters our perception of revolution. I know several people of Russian extraction who are hostile to the Republicans because of their own national experiences since the Bolshevik revolution and the horrors of Stalinism. It's rather ironic that Marx would probably have dismissed the students as Utopian Socialists who couldn't grasp the real mechanics he felt underpinned the Revolutionary dynamic and the need for a Worker's Proletariat etc, and yet for 20th - 21st century audiences, due to our experiences with communist dictatorships, there are negative associations between Revolution, red flags and totalitarianism. I come from a different perspective myself - the 700 year struggle for Irish freedom, which informs a lot of my textual readings even down to the treatment of Javert as a spy. I'm still trying to shed the English bias in my approach to the French Revolution - had to do some intense delving into sources, as I had Carlyle's Pyramid of Heads very firmly in my own head when I first approached the text.

Am sorry - veering away there from Grantaire...

I wonder how much the musical has contributed to the glibber, less nuanced, imitiative depictions of his character? His stage persona fits very much into a 1970s musical convention of providing an antagonist to present a counterpoint to the "hero" and interrogate and challenge him/her with the audience's criticisms and questions. Jesus Christ has Judas, Evita has Che. And while Enjolras isn't as significant in the musical as either of those central figures, Grantaire has been re-shaped from the text into a figure who is in a position to challenge the ideas of the Revolution and to personally confront Enjolras (and I think it's fascinating to see the range of interpretations their Drink With Me moment has been given on stage). It has to be intimitate and it has to be personal. I find some of that problematic, but it presents an easily identifiable dynamic...Grantaire can become the proxy for the viewer with those nagging doubts and grief about the loss of these young idealists, and he can question them. Unfortunately, I think that stage dynamic has now been imposed back on a reading of the book (for those that have actually read it and didn't just find their way into the wrong section of FFnet..."I see Enjolras as Ramin Karimloo and Grantaire as Hadley Fraser" is a giveaway that they're posting in the wrong section). Grantaire has been shoe-horned into the role of personal conscience of the Amis, and it's pretty ill-fitting. There is someone who challenges Enjolras, who completes him, and it's not Grantaire: it's Combeferre. It's Combeferre who has the ability to modify and soften his rigid ideology - he is always more likely to respond to Combeferre's humanity and reasoned arguments than Grantaire's blanket, undirected cynicism.

But yes...in short, there's a lot to play around with in Grantaire. I've had fun sketching and painting him as a fencer and in canne du combat, as there's the whole physical side you can explore - dancing, for example. I've always said I'd like to see "Grantaire's Guide To Paris", given he is supposed to know the good life to be had in it so well.

5/31/2012 #19
ancslove

Hi! I'm nervously poking my head in here, hope you don't mind. I'm fairly new to the fandom and to posting on fanfiction.net.

This has been an extremely interesting and illuminating read! Personally, I can't really approach writing fanfic by prioritizing my story over established characterization. There have been times that I've found myself struggling with making a character respond or act a certain way, and that's usually my cue to stop, rethink, and retool my idea. When writing fanfic, my main focus is exploring the canon characters, and I want them to be recognizable and in character, no matter what situation I put them in.

I have to come clean and confess that I am really not fond of Cassandra!Grantaire. He ranks up there with Pacifist!Combeferre and PettyMartinet!Enjolras in my list of fanon dislikes. And when a fic combines all three together, it makes me a bit edgy. I know that not all fics that have Grantaire lift himself up and contribute something of use, or disagree with Enjolras, are guilty of Cassandra!Grantaire. I enjoyed Worth of a Man, where Grantaire realized why Enjolras dismissed him and made the choice to change himself, and the successful revolution was a group effort where Grantaire fully joined Les Amis. And I also enjoy fics that explore the other facets of Grantaire's character. But, I also think that generally, if an author wants to lead into an AU of a successful 1832, Combeferre is the character who has the differing viewpoint/methodology, the commitment to the Cause, and the relationship of mutual respect and care with Enjolras to be a more in character and believable plot device.

As for the original question of giving a broken, post-barricade Grantaire a reason to live: what about having him try to live up to Enjolras' own ideology? Not necessarily becoming an active Republican, but in the sense of not giving up all hope. Enjolras' faith is one of his defining values, and his hope would prevent him from taking his own life, in the same situation. Let Grantaire remember that, and vow that just living can be his way of honoring his idol. Just a thought!

6/2/2012 #20
storytellers

Hi, Ancslove and welcome, glad you're interested. :)

Oh, I agree with you that, when you sit down to write, if a character seems to be resisting an action that's definitely a cue to change direction. Very good rule of thumb, actually. I don't go against a character's will either. But what you describe is a feeling that comes from within you when you write and not something from outside.

Actually, you know what, guys, I'll stop cluttering this thread and finally make one about criticism and characterization and such things, which I've been meaning to do anyway. Please hop on there so we can discuss that stuff and keep this one focused on Grantaire :)

6/2/2012 #21
TWSythar

Hi ancslove! Just popping in to say welcome to the discussion. _

6/3/2012 #22
Mam'zelleCombeferre

Off topic, but I wanted to wish everyone a very happy Bastille Day!

7/14/2012 #23
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