Saturday, September 12, 2009

CharacterExploration: Alice - Not Your Average Crack Addled Pixie

Alice Cullen

About a year ago, I read The Twilight Saga, and it resembled something like crack (I’ll spare you the cheesy ‘brand of heroin reference.’ Oh, wait…). I read it…and then read it again…and then again. From the get go, I loved certain characters and others had to grow on me a bit, but as a whole, the Cullens took over a spot in my heart and mind. Say what you want about Steph’s writing or the choices she made with the plot of these four novels: the characters own a little bit of each of us. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be writing fanfic, or reading it, for that matter.

When I initially found fanfiction, I was blown away at the sheer volume of stories, but not surprised in the least to see that Bella was the focus of a huge percentage of them. Rose and Esme were rarely used, which I almost expected, but my then second favorite Cullen was not featured often either…and I was severely, severely disappointed. And when she was utilized…well…I’ll use some of my beloved HMonster04’s words, from her write up on Emmett:

[He] is one of the most maligned characters in fan fic, second only to Alice the chirpy shopping obsessed pixie.

Oh, fic Alice, what have we done to you?

I won’t even ask how many of you want to gouge your eyeballs out at the sight of the word “pixie” now. Believe me; I get it, although my all-time favorite descriptor for fic Alice is most definitely ”the caffeinated crack fairy shopaholic,” which I picked up from the lovely stolenxsanity.

Put simply, I am chagrined.

How on Earth have we taken a beloved character like Alice with so many admirable qualities and discounted her so? She’s gone
Copyright Nami86
from the girl everyone wants to be friends with to an annoying, hyper spaz whose goal in life is to shop until she drops.

Despite the terrible injustices done to Alice, there are some fantastic characterizations out there, but let’s start with the one that initially pulled us in, shall we?

Canon Alice, Best Friend Extraordinaire:

(Who Just Happens to Care About What You’re Wearing and Live on the Blood of Animals)

Sigh. I can’t lie. I probably have a bit of a girl-crush on Canon Alice. She’s smart, witty, and affectionate. She’s there when you need her and always upbeat. Alice can tell you your future if you’ll only just make up your mind regarding what your next step will be. She’s honest and strong when you can’t be, and well…she’s got Jasper, and frankly, that’s some shit to be jealous of, right there. In short, she’s fabulous, and on top of all of that, she makes sure you don’t look like a bag lady when you go out in public. Oh yeah, and when she lets it out, she’s one ‘frightening little monster’ (Jasper Hale, Eclipse, page 396). Anyone remember that scene in Em’s Jeep in Twilight? Thought so.

For me, Alice always provided a sense of joy, of hope, in the Saga (which is why it killed me that she and Jazz were gone in Breaking Dawn), despite the fact that she remembers nothing of her human life. From the first time we hear tell of her and Jasper’s story, of how she met the Cullens, of how excited she was to foresee a future in which Bella was a vampire, one message emanates from her: love and patience. She waits for Jasper, knowing he would be her beloved. How many years did she sit through visions of Carlisle before she made her way home, finally? She waits in excited anticipation for the day that Bella can join her in immortality. Why? Because she loves her family and friends with fervor and knows that time passes, and if the end result is something wonderful, if waiting is a necessity, then so be it. This is a far cry from the lunatic versions of her we see so often in fic.

I asked the fabulous reader and reviewer Legna to provide her thoughts on canon Alice, and she provided the following (all of which I agree with, by the way):
She couldn't remember who she was, where she'd come from, anything about her family or her past...I think this is in part why she is so eager to befriend Bella. She has visions of Bella as one of them, but in the meantime, Bella is human. It's an opportunity for Alice to live a human life--or a part of one, anyway--through Bella. That's why the dressing up and the parties and all of that. Not because Alice is some kind of vapid fashionista social butterfly, but because she is desperate to experience something human, even vicariously. Does it make her manipulative? Sometimes. But it also makes her more sympathetic, IMO.

, author of “
You’ve Kept Me Waiting
”, a pre-Twilight story that most have heard of (and is fabulously done), put it this way:
Canon Alice is strong, devoted to Jasper and her family but
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independent in her own right; graceful, kind, helpful, yet still stubborn, tricky, and driven to worrying. Fanfic Alice can be all those things without being a manic high school fashion designer.

Although “Crack Fairy Alice” is the unfortunate norm these days, there are some memorable (and fantastic) Alice Characterizations out there. Here are a few:

Alice, the Catalyst

Many times Alice’s gift at premonition from canon manifests itself in fic in a more simple way. She is intuitive and just somehow knows what is right for another character, and because of that knowledge, she provides the push the character (often Bella or Edward) needs to make a change.

An excellent example of this, I think, is the Alice that so many of us have come to love in “
Tropic of Virgo
” by
. She’s energetic and fun but, for me, one of the most important bits of her characterization is that Bella is, seemingly unknowingly, pulled into performing by her. Sure, Bella sings for a short period with Rosalie in her room. Bella knows that the band wants her to sing with them and that they think she’s incredible, yet she is nervous to perform in front of a large crowd. Alice is the member of the band who
gets her to sing and really perform, leading her around the stage and showing her off. In this performance, in my opinion, Alice’s effort makes all the difference because it seems that for the first time, Bella can see that the audience loves her and that she is indeed talented. Throughout the story, Alice pokes and prods her just enough to get her moving. Additionally, she indirectly spurns Edward into making some kind of move, and well…we all thank her for that.

Another example of a Catalyst Alice could be found in
’s “
Deconstructing Dracula
.” There, Alice’s words make more of an impact later, but still, her effects are visible in the end.

Alice, the Voice of Reason

There are a number of fics in which Alice’s voice and words are the only things that get our often star-crossed lovers to see things as they really are. She sees the conflict, waits for the opportune moment, and then sits her friend – whoever it is - down to have a little chat. The result is generally always something akin to a quiet realization, and when it’s done well, it’s fabulous.

Whether it is Alice telling a slightly chauvinistic Jasper how it is in “
Left Holding the Bag
” (yes, that’s my collaboration. Sue me.), Alice quietly stilling Jasper’s fears about his best friend dating her brother in “
Just One of the Guys
,” or even breaking things down for Bella and Edward out of self-preservation in “
Mutually Assured Destruction
,” Alice can often be counted on to tell it like it is.

Alice, Queen of Slash

There could be a whole slew of stereotypical reasons that Alice is used as often as she is in slash. Maybe the short hair makes her appear to be less feminine that Rosalie (I snort). Maybe she’s less intimidating to write than the blonde-haired beauty. It hardly matters. The point is that there are some killer fics out there that feature Miss Mary Alice as a lesbian and characterize her beautifully.

In “
Skin Deep
” by
, we witness an Alice who falls madly in love with a very OOC Bella, only to find herself neck-deep in a toxic relationship. But unlike so many other women - not only in fic but fiction in general - Alice is strong, stands her ground, and leaves, knowing that both she and Bella deserve better, despite the difficulty of the situation. Even after this shift in their relationship, when she finds Bella in need, Alice steps up and saves the day. Of course this story is (way) out of canon. But this, in and of itself, is incredibly reminiscent of Canon Alice – strong, able, and unafraid – which is why I chose to mention the story here. The characterization is real, relates indirectly to canon, has depth and has you rooting not only for Alice but for her well-being from the very start.

I asked Isabel0329 what made her write the character this way and here’s what she had to say:
I always got the sense that [canon Alice] would never run from anything, even if it scared the shit out of her. She willingly took it upon herself to take care of Bella in Phoenix. I don't think she'd ever willingly abandon any task put in front of her. She was so sure that Bella would join the family that she never wavered on that belief. Even when [the Cullens] left, she was the one who came back and wanted to fix things. She took this almost
impossible task of helping Bella save Edward in Italy. She ran towards danger instead of away from it. I see canon Alice as very stubborn and sure of herself. So I guess I integrated that into "Skin Deep." I wanted to write a character very different than we've seen her. In a way the roles are rather reversed in my story. Alice is the 'every girl' while Bella is the mysterious figure.

Again, I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s words.

FicDiving for Alice

Though they seem to be few and far between, there are good Alice TwiFic stories, and I wanted to recommend a few relatively unknown ones. I tweeted, IMd, and emailed people for recommendations. Many of those recs were well-known stories, so I resorted to ficdiving as well, which garnered me a few great finds:

,” by
, chronicles Alice’s story. Yes, there are a zillion Alice, Pre-Twilight fics out there, but this one is complete and well-written and caught my eye. It begins when she is thirteen, at which point her parents have her committed to the asylum in their town. The POV’s switch around a bit at the beginning, but it is canon and wonderfully done. Openhome’s writing makes you feel everything from Alice’s fear and loneliness in the face of her father’s disapproval to the longing she feels for an unnamed blond man who continues to appear in her mind’s eye.
I thought back to the moment I had awoken. My quick mind knew I had only been awake sixty-nine and a half seconds, but already I was beginning to see the world around me more clearly. I stopped looking to try to remember what had happened before I woke up. Then, without warning, my vast mind was filled with a single image of a man’s face. The image took over all my senses and wrapped my being around it. The face was slightly out of focus, but I could see his blond hair and sad eyes clearly. Whoever this was, he was more important than anything that existed in this place that I had woken up to. I needed this man more than I needed anything else, I knew it with all my being. This knowledge left me with an aching hole in my heart, a rip that could only be mended by him. My whole chest hurt, and I knew I would be scarred until I found him to mend me.

My ficdive also uncovered an intriguing Alice/Jasper fic by
Feisty Y. Beden
called “
In the Days of Auld Lang Syne: Fix You.
” I dug a bit deeper and found that “In the Days of Auld Lang Syne” is a set of stories by a group of authors that all involve the same characters in different points of view but don’t necessarily have to be read in tandem.

In ”
Fix You
,” told from Alice’s perspective, Alice has a dark past and meets Jasper at a New Year’s Eve Party. After her last minute costume change, they are conveniently dressed as Alice in Wonderland and The Mad Hatter. Aside from an introduction between the two of them that is 100% win, the voice that Feisty has given Alice is, at once, self-preserving, snarky, and entertaining. She is hiding something from everyone, and Jasper immediately seems different. His voice is confident and sweet, sexy and, as ever, the epitome of a Southern gentleman.

However, on top of a really enticing Jasper, from the get-go, this Alice flies in the face of the majority of the characterizations of her in fanfiction:
Well, one thing was abundantly clear: there was no way I could go to the big party tonight as Rapunzel. Fuck. Now what was I going to do?

Fucking Rosalie. No, that wasn’t fair—I’d been excited about tonight’s fairy tale masquerade theme too. I loved dressing up; I loved pretending I was someone else and slipping into a different skin. I mean, didn’t I do that every day anyway? The party was an opportunity to put on a different face than the one I wore every day: happy, bubbly, perky, skippy, multitude-of -adjectives-ending-in-a-cutesy-diminutive-Y fucking Alice. Maybe I’d show them the real me, I’d thought. No one here knew that girl. Maybe it would be fun to imagine what my life would have been like, before… it would be safe to let her out because everyone would think she was just a character. I could be vulnerable and sad, and they’d all say, “That’s so Alice to be all fucking Stanislavski with her costume.” And no one would know.

Go read them! I know the authors would appreciate it.

In conclusion

Alice Cullen is an amazing character. She just is. And honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of how awesomely bad and annoying fic has made her, but I did consider this:

We all have close friends. We talk to them every day, know everything about them, can probably predict how they’ll react to certain things. We know them, intrinsically. And though we love them dearly, it seems that when they fuck up…they fuck up big time. It’s all we can pay attention to, probably out of sheer disappointment.

Perhaps this is what’s going on with Alice. Perhaps we are so comfortable with her that we are magnifying flaws. Or perhaps the entire fandom is as upset as I was when she and Mr. Hale jumped ship in Breaking Dawn and, as a result, we’ve made her into the thing she has become. Whatever the reason, let’s backtrack, shall we?

Inundate Twilight Fic with kick ass Alice stories. I know you can. And I’ll beg if I have to.
has written seventeen Twilight fics during her seniority in fandom, some of those including
Tahoe Tanglings
Afternoon Delight
The Butterfly Effect
No Outlet
, and the all new slash,
Ink Street
. She's worked with characters varying from E/B, J/B, J/E, to Leah. She also adores nineties music, acoustics, hot grungy dudes, and her equally awesome fic wife.
Archived Explorations:

Upcoming Characters:
Charlie, Jacob, Angela, Rosalie.


  1. Thanks for the great exploration on Alice and for the recommendations. I'm particularly interested in the ItDoALS series which is an intriguing premise. Thanks again!!!

  2. Great job with the Alice exploration! I've always hated how she turns into an annoying caricature of herself in fanfic so often. You've hit on a lot of her better qualities, and I really appreciate that :)

  3. this was a fabulous article, my love. beautifully written and so very AHelm. :) great job, bb!

  4. This was fantastic, Ang. Really well thought out and researched, with fantastic examples. And you mention one of my favorite fic Alices; ToV Alice is definitely win.

    Great job!

  5. Ah, I love in-depth looks at Alice. She's a tough persona to dive into because so many people characterize her similarly. Personally, she's one of my favourite characters.

    Great article, AHelm.

  6. Great job bb! I love Alice just as long as she stays away from Jasper ;)

    And thanks for the recs - some of them look really interesting!

  7. Thanks, everyone! I'm glad some of you are interested in the recs. Your kind words make my day.

  8. Just thought I'd mention one of my favorite fics: The Screamers by KiyaRaven. IMHO she has one of the funniest, foul mouthed, honest AH Alice's around. I absolutely adore her Alice.


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