Sunday, May 29, 2011

So What IS in Character?

I love this picture. For any of you who were fortunate enough to watch Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" on HBO, it is from an extremely short clip they showed of these two messing around behind the scenes. It looked like he was sort of over-dramatically checking to see if she'd hurt her hand or something. Perhaps rehearsing the scene after she gets blasted. Too cute. But anyway....

In the comments of the last post we started discussing some things about what we considered in character and what we considered out of character. So I thought I might expand on that subject. I think at times I may come off as thinking there is only one right way to write them and everything else is wrong. Well, no, I don't actually believe that's true. Based on the movies we can infer how we think they would react in certain situations, but there are a whole bunch of things that never really come up and we are left to our own devices to figure out based on what we know of them how we think they'd react when something new comes up.

I think I've said before that in my head I have my own, personal ideas on how I think things went down behind the scenes and what I see happening after the movies. Yes, I have a broader outline leaving out a lot of the details, but it is my preferable interpretation of how things played out. That said, I've read lots of different stories with very different ideas from my own but I still find them to be "in character" because the author has done a good job of making me believe that Han and/or Leia would say and do these things that I might not have necessarily believed to be true. I can buy them though because they are written well and it still "feels" like them in the situation.

Of course there are also those stories that have different ideas than my own but at the same time the characters just don't sound like the ones I know from the movies. An easy example of this I think is if sometime before The Empire Strikes Back Leia just takes it upon herself to jump Han's bones at the first available opportunity. The Leia we see at the beginning of the movie does not give us any indication that she would throw herself at him, so to me, it doesn't make sense. That said, there are always exceptions to this. Cindy Olsen has a story on Corellian Embassy called "Just Friends" in which Han and Leia decide to have sex just as friends, almost as though he's doing her a favor. If you haven't read it, then the premise doesn't really sound quite like it would work. And in the wrong hands it probably wouldn't have. But it is done in such a way that she makes me believe that it could've happened that way.

So yes, deciding what is in character and what isn't definitely isn't always black and white. That's what makes it so much more challenging sometimes to get them right. I mean, depending on the story you're telling it's entirely possible that you could write them acting in a few entirely different ways in the same situation and any one of them seems plausible.

I know as a beta reader for a few people there have been a few times, not often, that I might point out I don't see one of them saying or doing something. I am often reluctant to point something like that out because I recognize that some of it can be only a matter of opinion rather than what I'd consider to be absolute "fact". Let's take the trip to Bespin, for example. I realize there is almost nobody left who is with me on this one, but I don't think they had sex there. One of the main reasons being if you watch the movie it just doesn't look like the trip takes very long! I also, personally feel as though Leia wouldn't want to have sex with him without knowing there was going to be some sort of commitment or having told him she loves him and hearing it back. Again, this is all merely my personal interpretation.

Of course I've read many stories that completely differ from my opinion here. Does it mean that I can't enjoy them or find them out of character? No. Some people will say that maybe Leia doesn't care about any of that and wants to just once live for the moment and have something to remember him by. And yes, perhaps I can see that, too. Maybe they've already professed their love for one another during the trip because it takes weeks. As long as the author presents it in a plausible way, I am not going to see it as out of character. Merely as a different interpretation of the same events. Although the specifics to the scenario have been changed.

That said, you could probably take the trip to Bespin scenario and write it in a totally implausible way in which they have sex. Example being maybe the very first night Leia decides she's bored and goes to Han and just says, let's do it, or something to that effect. I don't really care how good a writer you are, that particular scenario I definitely do not see happening. In Han or Leia's fantasy world, maybe, but to me that does seem out of character.

Does any of this make any sense to anyone? I'm starting to wonder if I'm making myself clear. The point is that while there are many different interpretations of how we can perceive these characters, you must be careful that they still sound and act like the Han and Leia (and whoever else) we see in the movies. To whomever might be writing them, this might mean slightly different things.

So like Push said in a comment earlier, it would be pretty boring if every story was the same and the characters were always interpreted exactly the same way. So if you're writing something and maybe it doesn't read like my Han and Leia or Push's Han and Leia or anyone else's Han and Leia, maybe that's okay. If that is how you've interpreted the characters, then go with it. I think this line can become especially difficult to find if you're writing a serious AU story. Sometimes the characters really only have the same names and obviously look like the ones in the movies, but really you might as well have written an original story with original characters.

Anyway, the point is, there is some room to play with here. You don't have to write them exactly like everyone else does but you should at least be prepared to back it up with a plausible scenario and set of actions. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I know that I played with writing them a bit differently than my normal stance in my "Forgotten Needs" story. Honestly, I don't really like it. It was my attempt at writing things as less than perfect but it was so far off my own ideas of how things turn out that the whole thing felt contrived and at times a bit out of character. I don't really think that Leia would be that clueless and later almost heartless and I don't think Han is the type to sit around feeling sorry for himself. But, well, I tried. So don't try to interpret them differently just for the sake of it because sometimes that doesn't work out so well either!

Anyway, write, explore, do some different stuff. Just make sure you go to the effort to make us believe that the Han and Leia you're writing about are the same ones we've seen in the movies.


  1. "Sometimes the characters really only have the same names and obviously look like the ones in the movies, but really you might as well have written an original story with original characters."

    I think that statement says it all. I mean, we have three movies to observe Han and Leia and, I think, we can get a pretty good sense of who they are. It's not a total characterization of course, but it's 6 hours worth of a good idea. So, if someone can dream up a wild scenario that plug THOSE characters into it and the words and reactions coming from them are believable and true to the characters we see in the movies, then I can enjoy the story. But if it's just a wild story with characters that have the same names but are nothing like those in the movie, I just feel like author has cheated us. Why even use those two characters if you don't even like who they were in the movies?

  2. I am with you...I don't think they had sex on the way to Bespin. It just didn't seem like their relationship was at that point until "I love you"/"I know." (And they obviously didn't have time in the carbon freezing chamber) BUT that doesn't stop me from enjoying someone else's take on it. I never thought the trip took that long either, until I started reading fanfic. But it DID seem like Luke was on Dagobah for a couple of weeks, at least, and if those two storylines are supposed to occupy the same amount of makes sense to me as a matter of days or a matter of weeks. Or maybe Jedi training just doesn't take very long? ;)

    Dialogue is my big pet peeve as a reader... if I can't HEAR the original actors saying the lines mentally, it really pulls me out of the story. Of course, I doubt anyone ever intends to write a character who doesn't sound like him/herself, so that may be a difference of opinion as well.

    Personally, I find Leia one of the hardest characters to write. Han pretty much speaks his mind, so it's not too hard to get inside his head. But my beta tells me that my Leia comes across as a bitch (but then Push left me a really nice review for the same chapter so...difference of opinion, again?). I don't think she's a bitch, but she doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve.

    Thanks for recommending "Just Friends," by the way...I hadn't read it before, but it was amazing.

  3. See, "Just Friends" is an exception, not the rule. The same scenario in someone else's hands could've easily seemed contrived and implausible. I mean I'm sure I couldn't have pulled it off, either. Admittedly though I may have a very narrow viewpoint on their characters. See, I just want them to live happily ever after. You know, with a few complications caused by outside forces that they have to get themselves out of. So that sort of prevents me from at least writing stories that would suggest otherwise, though not from enjoying them.

    For Bespin, I'm totally on the timing thing. If you watch the movie, the second they decide to GO to Bespin, the next thing we see is Luke having a vision of them being tortured and deciding to leave. So basically he leaves right when they start heading that way. How long do you suppose he was on that X-wing? And then, boom, they arrive on Bespin. This doesn't mean that I can't totally enjoy reading "Forty Days to Bespin" or "Into the Fire" it just means that my own thoughts are that there just wasn't much time in there! Regardless of the laws of time and space. Remember, this is a FANTASY.

    I know once or twice I've fallen into the trap of making Leia sound like a bitch, too. I'm wondering if this has been ingrained in us from how she acts in some of the EU books. She was SUCH a bitch in COPL! I wanted to be like, Han, just forget about her if she's going to drop you like that! So yes, sometimes the dialogue can be tricky in different situations. I LOVE writing banter between them, no matter when it occurs in their relationship. I don't think they'd ever stop. But yes, when reading something I need to be able to "hear" them saying it. If you have Han spouting off some romantic lines or Leia calling Han "my heart" I'm probably going to think one of them has been possessed.

    You're welcome on the story. There is also a sequel, I believe it's called "Friends and Lovers."

  4. Leia is difficult to write. I even find myself shying away from writing her POV. I thought it was only because I understood/identified with Han more, but apparently I'm not alone.

    Before I discovered fanfic I didn't even dream that the trip to Bespin took longer than a day trip. And if you really watch the movie, as Zyra said, Luke leaves Dagobah almost immediately after Han/Leia decide on Bespin. Oh, I guess we could argue Bespin forever, that should be our next post topic, I think.

    And, interestingly enough, I'm reading the profic "Millennium Falcon" right now and last night I ran across this:

    'But the Falcon had saved her finest act for later in the game, breaking down shortly before the forced evacuation of Hoth and seeing to it that he and Leia were thrown together for the slow trip to Bespin. True, he had been falling in love with Leia since their first encounter in a Death star cell block, but their private time in sublight cinched it for him.'

    I guess the question is, just how slow is slow?

  5. Well, just because they moved slow doesn't necessarily mean that it took weeks. It just means they moved slowly. Basically, we are never going to get a definitive answer, and I think that's probably a good thing. Leaves us more room to play.

    So you "shy away" from writing Leia's POV? Hmmm... I'd say you pretty much down right avoid it completely! ;)

  6. First off I would like to comment that the way it appeared in the film it didn't seem to take Han and Leia all that long to get to Bespin. But what strikes me even more is Luke's time on Dagobah. Did he really only train with Yoda for days? Did days prepare him to fight the most powerful Jedi in the history of their galaxy? If you remember in ROTJ Yoda said "no training do you require." That is the part that makes me think maybe Han and Leia were on the Falcon for a while. Other than that I could probably take it either way. It makes more sense that they wouldn't have sex but hell I probably couldn't hold out for very long while stuck in the middle of no where with Han Solo. Could you?

    Anyways, I can and do read all Han and Leia fan fiction; the good, the bad, AND the ugly. But in reality I only get excited about the ones that are really well written. I agree, if the dialogue isn't spot on and if I cant actually hear them saying that or even see them in that situation then I am taken out of the story. But I also enjoy stories with action. As much as I would like for Han and Leia to live happily ever after, this is Star Wars, its known for its action and adventure. I want to see more close calls, more fights, and more drama. If everyone lived happily ever after we probably still wouldn't be satisfied. But I do want some normal times mixed in there too. A healthy dose of each makes for a great story to me.

    I love that there are different perceptions of Han and Leia, though, because sometimes mine isn't always right. There have been times, Z, where you have said to me "I dont think Han or Leia would say that," and even if I dont agree I still evaluate the line of dialogue or thought and I usually come up with something I like more. So I would say never be discouraged about letting someone know what you think. I know I have read tons of fanfics that I loved but there were parts that didn't sit well with me. I guess that's just how it goes though. Digs and I were talking about Fortunes Fool and although its probably one of my favorite fics she did point out some things and I had to say "Yea, your right. Even though I like this part that part is kinda out of place."

    As far as writing Leia, I am not really sure where I stand. I guess its kind of hit and miss for me. I am still exploring who I am as a fanfic writer so sometimes I feel like I can nail it and other times no. The only thing I know to do is to sit on it for a while and keep coming back to it until you feel its right. I guess that's why it takes me forever to write and why I haven't posted yet.

  7. Yeah, weird dialogue is usually what ruins the experience for me, and that's probably why I'm always afraid to write it. Not that there aren't other things that can make me question a story. I've been chipping away at something for over a month now with the most blabbing I've ever attempted and I keep going back and changing lines to make sure it really sounds like them.

    Did Han and Leia totally bang? I go back and forth with that, but I probably lean more on the side that they didn't. They definitely got closer, but that doesn't mean they had sex.

    Like Jarik said, the one thing that makes me think it took a while to get to Bespin was Luke's training. It does seem like a short time, but the pace of all the movies is very fast. I don't know, personally I don't take everything in Star Wars so 'literally', if you know what I mean.

  8. I've always said COPL was so out of character they might as well have just named the characters something else. I mean, why bother calling them Han and Leia if they're not going to ACT like Han and Leia. it's just a rather oddly plotted romance novel where the characters HAPPEN to be called Han and Leia.

  9. After "Just Friends" the Kiss Scene on Falcon makes no sense. :P

    I'd buy both sex and no sex on the way to Bespin, but Luke's training must have taken longer than a couple of days? Even though I think he's the best Jedi ever, the Chosen One if you ask me. :)