Saturday, October 10, 2009

CharacterExploration: Leah & Emily - The Estrogen of La Push

Leah & Emily

Hi, my name is Stretch and I’m a member of Team Jacob (please hold your tomatoes, bricks, and other projectiles until the end).

Believe me, I would not willingly preface an article like this unless it was necessary to understand my motivation for writing about these two characters.

The deeper I delved into the world of Twilight, and the more I began to explore Jake’s character in fan fiction, the more the supporting cast of La Push began to intrigue me. For the same reason people become interested in Esme or Rosalie, Emily and Leah were just screaming to be brought out of the background and into the spotlight. Their inclusion in the books left so many questions unanswered: what was Leah like before her life got shot all to hell? What really happened when Sam imprinted on Emily? As an imprintee, how does Emily feel knowing that she’s the reason her family was torn asunder? Is Leah really unable to have children? And does that mean that she’s doomed to be alone forever?

And since Breaking Dawn concluded without answering any of these questions I did what most of us now do: I set about finding (and occasionally, making) the answers myself in fan fiction. But to understand how Emily and Leah have come to life in the fandom, it’s important to really understand how they got started in canon:

Canon Leah:

The Bitch is Back

My first stop after I agreed to write this article was to the Lexicon to check out those oh-so-talked about “correspondences” with Stephenie Meyer. I’m personally of the belief that if the information doesn’t make it into the books, it’s not canon (or rather, that I shouldn’t have to go hunting down extra stuff on the internet when I’ve already shelled on $17.99 for the published work.) But alas, I discovered that Leah was only mentioned in one interview, and only then as the character whose perspective Meyer would most like to continue writing in. What does this mean for us as readers?

Well, it narrows our perceptions of Leah to what the main characters in the series have told us. Essentially, that she’s a bitch and a harpy who is so unable to let go of her one, true love that she devotes her time to making her pack-mates miserable, and wallowing in her own grief. Not a very pretty picture, is it? However, as with everything, the devil is in the details.

Leah is a teenage girl who, in a period of several months, managed to lose several things very dear to her heart: her long time boyfriend, her cousin/best friend, her humanity, her privacy, and above all else, her father. One of my biggest peeves with New Moon and Eclipse was how all the characters involved underplayed Harry’s death when, in reality, it probably had a huge emotional impact on Leah, Seth, Charlie, Sue, and the others he was close to. However we never get to see it, primarily because the Twilight Saga is about romantic love, so that’s all we’re supposed to be concerned with. That may work for Edward and Bella, but all it serves to do for Leah is make her look shallow, when that’s probably the farthest thing from the truth. When Leah’s circumstances, and her losses, are viewed in their totality it paints a much different picture of who she is as a person.

Additionally, Breaking Dawn really only serves to make things worse for the girl. While everyone else is busy getting their happy endings, no matter the random vampire babies and ex machinas required to achieve them, Leah is busy getting bad news on top of worse. Just when it seems like things might be looking up for her, just as she becomes a member of Jake’s pack, finally free from Sam and the constant reminder he is of what she lost, we learn even more devastating news about Leah: her transformations have apparently rendered her sterile, and since imprinting is designed to facilitate the creation of more little werewolves, this means it’s unlikely there’s an imprint out there for her either.

Sucks to be Leah, huh?

Fandom Leah:

In a poll
I took on the duo of Emily and Leah many participants had an unfavorable opinion of canon Leah, however they also said that she was the more relatable of the two. This is likely because of the unfortunate events that happen to Leah. Let’s face it: no one like Bella exists in reality - girls who are so clumsy they can’t breathe without falling down, who are rescued from their mundane existences by brooding vampires with an over-active fascination with Proust. In reality we’re used to having things go wrong – losing people we love, watching our dreams slip through our fingers, snuffed out by the more pressing matters of practicality. These are all unpleasantly real experiences, which is why a lot of people feel for Leah. It’s also why a lot of people want to save her by undoing all the misery that Meyer heaped onto her at once. Consequently the majority of Leah-centric fics revolve around making some of her dreams come true, and can be divided into a few primary categories.



True love for the bitter harpy? You’d better believe it. Whether she’s the reluctant recipient of someone’s adoration, or the protagonist hell-bent on keeping true love from slipping through her fingers again, Leah’s knee deep in romantic interests. There’s literally an author out there for every Leah ship under the sun. Leah/Rosalie? Got it. Leah/Nahuel? Seen it. Leah/Marcus. Yeah, it exists. But for the purpose of our study I’m going to focus on the big three romantic interests for the wolf-girl.

1. Blackwater: Nessie Who?

Prior to the release of Breaking Dawn, and even more vehemently so afterwards, there was a portion of the fandom that felt Leah and Jake were a match made in heaven, and it’s easy to see why: they’re both reluctant wolves, both left heartbroken and alone by the people they truly loved, and they’re both part of the renegade pack. There’s a twisted, yet poetic justice about the pairing, and it’s handled beautifully by several authors.
writes several Jacob/Leah stories ranging from sweet to smutty, my personal favorite being
You’ve Got Me Tethered and Chained
– an “outtake” from Breaking Dawn in which Leah attempts to make Jake forget Bella by jumping him in the woods outside the Cullen house. It’s a perfect example of the mix of desperate and hopeful that makes this ship what it is.
, another great Blackwater writer, truly captures the twisted and tragic elements of this relationship in her story
Let The Circle Be Unbroken
. In it Leah comes to the realization that she loves Jake, and, consequently, imprinting (and Nessie) is something he must be ‘saved’ from. It’s powerful in a fantastically dark way. but that’s not your thing check out the more upbeat tale A Sight to Behold ( by the same author. And if you’re in the mood for something longer I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention
Endless Daylight
, and its sequel
Red Sky at Morning
Princess Bertha
. Both stories are heartfelt, engaging, and (more often than not) absolutely hilarious. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s all from Leah’s snarky perspective either.

2. Callwater: The Bitch and the Bastard

Turns out writers are serious about giving Leah a happy ending, and they’re not limiting their options to Sam or Jake, either. Leah/Embry (also called Callwater) is another popular alternative for our favorite female shifter. Clearly tragic figures are incredibly appealing in this fandom, and this ship is no exception. The boy who’s only a part of the pack because his father cheated on one of his friends’ mothers is often the brunt of Leah’s harshest criticisms, but there’s something about his soft-spoken nature that makes readers think he’d be the perfect compliment to the often-abrasive Leah. Author
Kobe Grace
, writer of the wonderful Leah-centric tale
Waiting for the Sky to Fall
manages to turn this ship into something epic. When I asked her what drew her to the pairing she graciously told me:

It pretty much began when I was rereading New Moon. In Chapter 7 ("Repetition"), just after Bella freaks out about the Quileute cliff divers…Jacob tells her,

"Embry also heard from Leah Clearwater that they call themselves 'protectors' or something like that."

For some reason, that quote just stuck with me. Maybe I was misinterpreting the passage, but to my understanding, it meant that Leah and Embry were once at least close enough that they could disclose such things to one another. If that were the case, then wasn't this quite the contrast to their relationship during Eclipse, in which she maliciously exploited him because of his shadowy parentage, and in which he told Jacob to just ignore her?

After that, my mind started turning. Maybe, Leah and Embry were really close once. Maybe, they have this really cool history. Maybe, it was one of the most tragic things in her life when Embry had to stop being her friend all of a sudden, just so that he could mysteriously start hanging out with the guy who broke her heart -- and maybe THAT'S why she chose to antagonize especially him when she turned into a wolf?

Not only does she bring that level of development to the relationship in her story, but she also manages to scientifically
undo Leah’s apparent sterility
as well, through nothing more than a little research on wolves. That’s a pretty tall order for a single story. That’s not to say this ship is all sunshine and roses – it’s got plenty of drama too. If heartfail is more your style check out
Love You Harder
– a one shot that packs a powerful punch as it walks Embry and Leah down an inevitable path, and in the end leaves them right where they started. Finally, for something lighter check try
The Glorious First of June
. I’ll admit, the first thing that caught my eye about this story was the odd title (it’s a reference to a naval battle between the French and British where both sides claimed victory) but the writing is what kept me around. It’s only two chapters in, but it’s got a very honest, very real third person perspective that focuses on both the mythical and the mundane in Leah’s life, and could be the start of a great multi-chaptered piece.

3. Leah/OC: Cause There’s Plenty of Fish in the Sea

But Leah’s not just romantically limited to her own pack and the men of Forks. There’s plenty of hot, adorable, and available original characters out there, just ripe for the picking.
The War
not only introduces Leah into the attractive Lucas Westcott, but drags both the Cullens and the wolves into the middle of a war between vampires and werewolves…yes, actual werewolves. And speaking of wolves, the pack gets some new ones in
’s story
No Outlet
and Leah wants nothing to do with them. But Emily’s approaching wedding might not make than much of an option. I’m the first to admit I’m not usually wild about OC stories, but both of these demonstrate that, when handled properly, the result can be incredibly entertaining. It’s also refreshing to watch Leah interact with someone who’s not biased against her for her previous actions, as much of the pack still is. After all, everyone loves a fresh start.


Trust Me, It’s Better Than the Kelly Clarkson Song

But romance isn’t the only area in which Leah got screwed in the series. Lots of readers felt that it wasn’t so much that Sam left her, as it was the fact that once she became a wolf she was bound to both him and La Push, that was most detrimental to Leah. We know that she was a good student with a bright future ahead of her until the loss of her father and midnight patrols decimated her final semester at school. So it’s reasonable to believe that Leah wanted something more from life than a career in retail, which is exactly what
gives her in
The Star Quilt
, the fantastic follow up to
Cowboys and Indians
. There aren’t really enough words to describe the fabulous writing of this woman, so I won’t even try, but I will say that the authenticity she brings to Leah, and the challenges she faces not only as a wolf, but as a Quileute, are powerful and make for very compelling reading. She manages to pull Leah off the page and deposit her in the real world without the reader even having been aware that she’s done it. In
Leah feels she needs to get away for a while, and decides that London is the perfect destination. But just because she’s gone off the reservation (literally) doesn’t mean that Leah can escape her duties as a protector, or the adventures they invariably lead to.
Brave New Girl
is another great one-shot that runs Leah through the emotional wringer before sending her off to California to try and carve out her niche in this world. It’s inherently powerful because of how succinct it is, and yet totally true to Leah’s character in those few words.


No Bark, But Plenty of Bite

Unlike the rest of the pack, Leah’s starting to develop quite a following the in All Human writing circles. She may not be a shape shifter, but that doesn’t make the incarnations of Leah seen in the all human genre any less fierce.
, in the wildly popular
Seducing Edward
, takes all of Leah’s best traits and transposes them into the human world. In this fic Leah and Bella are thrown together as unlikely allies when their parents begin dating. What starts off as an awkward and slightly abrasive relationship turns into a willing friendship the longer their parents are together. Leah becomes one of Bella staunchest allies, telling it like it is and driving Bella to become a stronger, and more empowered, person. If the smutty stuff is more your style than you should check out
Confessions of a Difficult Woman
einfach mich
, in which Edward gives Leah a naughty birthday present, and Leah comes up with possibly the best euphemism for an uncircumcised penis that has ever been written. It’s a delicious bit of all human, non-canon, one-shot goodness.

Canon Emily:

Plot Device or Misused Metaphor

The first time we see Emily is in New Moon, where she’s an example of the perfect love that Bella feels she has lost, and a proverbial “den mother” to the boys of the pack. We know she has a bit of an attitude, makes a killer muffin, and oh yeah, she’s been mauled by the man she loves. However the first time we actually get to know Emily is in Eclipse, when the real reason for her relationship with Sam, as well as her presence in the books, is revealed. Emily and Sam not only act as the pack’s version of the tragic love story, but also serve to illustrate the all encompassing power that imprinting has over the pack. We learn that Emily and Leah are cousins, practically best friends, before Sam transformed. Then, in the blink of an eye, Emily is the subject of the complete adoration of Leah’s boyfriend, and the catalyst for the actions that would rend her family in two. She draws on that quiet strength that we first glimpse in New Moon, trying to resist Sam and his romantic ministrations, if only for the sake of Leah. But in the end, what Jake tells Bella eventually proves to be right: that level of adoration is hard to resist. Emily succumbs to Sam, and pays the ultimate price for it. She now serves as a warning to readers and a metaphor for Bella’s later choices: true love comes at a high cost.

Now that all sounds tragic, romantic, and really appealing, and yet there’s been…really no notable interest in canon Emily. So I set off to find out why. Reader
really hit the nail on the head when she discussed one of the key problems with Emily’s characterization in the books with me:

Emily is just not really interesting. Her and Sam's story just serves the purpose of explaining the power of imprinting and preparing the reader for the epic Nessie-fail. There's no real characterization in the original series apart from her being a victim: she's a victim to Sam's undying love, she has per se no choice but to accept him, she's a victim to Leah's bitterness - however justified Leah is in her anger, she's a victim to Sam's attack.

I think she makes a good point in that Emily really does serve to illustrate the power of imprinting very well, but her development fundamentally stalls after that. We infer her strength and devotion from small moments and intimate glances, but what’s missing is the details about Emily, and the unconventional family she’s protecting. And (thankfully) there’s where the fandom stepped up.

Fanon Emily:

A Home Wrecker With a Heart of Gold

While the majority of
people whom I polled
in preparing for this article felt that both Leah and Emily suffered from clichéd characterization, they agreed that Emily was the greater victim. Therefore it’s not surprising that the most popular theme when it comes to Emily in fic seems to be contributing to her growth as a character. Particularly, expanding on her awareness as a woman caught between a rock and a hard place. Sure, we know she’s in love with Sam, and we know she feels bad for giving in to him and hurting her cousin, but we never see it. We never see the guilt, we never see the imperfections, we never see anything that makes it real. Several authors have taken it upon themselves to give you a peek into Emily’s more emphatic and introspective nature, and they’ve done so in some sweet, heartbreaking, and occasionally twisted ways. In an AU written before we learned the full details of what went down between Emily, Sam, and Leah in Eclipse,
Warui Usagi
imagined how the confrontation between Sam and Emily took place.
Come Back
is the perfect, angsty reimagining of the real story, and in it Emily draws some striking parallels between herself, and Bella. In
Yesterday Is But a Dream
lets Emily tell her story about the dreams she once had, and her struggle as she watched them die for the sake of Sam and the pack. It really calls into the focus how Emily tried to resist Sam’s advances, and what eventually tore down her walls. I got the chance to speak to the author for a bit, and I asked her what it was that drew her to Emily as a character and inspired this story. Her response was:

[T]he idea that Emily's scars physically represent what happened to Leah emotionally. I think it's almost as if Meyer is saying that Emily couldn't get off scot-free for getting Sam so she got 'punished' as it were. In a sense, Sam rips them both up - one emotionally and the other physically. Neither of them come out of it whole. And it's kind of like poetic justice that Emily, who gets the guy, ends up horribly disfigured for the rest of her life, whilst Leah is still beautiful and heals instantly...(physically at any rate).

Hero By Night, Lover By Morning
is a powerful and haunting one-shot that stayed on my mind for days after reading. In only a few hundred words the author manages to turn Emily into a real human, full of love and jealousy and all those tiny emotions in between that we wish we didn’t have to feel, but can’t help nonetheless.

Emily the Leader:

Bringing New Meaning to the Term ‘Head Bitch In Charge’

One of the defining characteristics of actual wolves is the social structure that exists within the pack, and it’s clear that Meyer applied several of these traits to the Quileute werewolves. There’s a clear Alpha and Beta in each pack, and all other members are subordinate to their rule. However Meyer overlooked that fact that in most cases the second ranking member of a pack isn’t the Beta, but the Alpha female – the Alpha male’s mate. That would make Emily pretty high ranking in the grand scheme of tribal life, and several authors have chosen to highlight this aspect of her character, showing her being something of a mentor and leader to the other “wolf-girls”. In
Dreaming in Black and White
Emily expresses her fears about Jacob’s departure and the confrontation with the Cullens in her diary, and explains that she can’t talk about her worries with the other girls. They’re all looking to her for support, and she has to put on a brave face. It’s a very introspective and touching look into the tougher part of Emily’s psyche.
takes this interpretation to the next level in her fic
Smart Girl: The Rachel Black Autobiography
. Emily takes on the role of ambassador to Rachel after Paul imprints on her, welcoming her to the fold. Not only does she help the girls acclimate to their strange relationship status, but she also counsels Rachel on what the signs of uncontrolled phasing are, having obviously learned that for herself the hard way. It’s interesting to see Emily’s maternal role expanded upon, though I must admit, it would be very cool to see her take an aggressive position from time to time (maybe putting the boys in their places.) Still, Emily’s much less of a flat character, and much more of an empathetic figure, when the reasoning and necessity for her maternal presence and leadership is expounded upon.

Emily Fluff:

It’s Ever Better Than That Marshmallow Stuff!

Let’s face it – in the book Sam and Emily are the wolf equivalent of the “true love conquers all” mantra. And sometimes we need to stop the analysis there and just bask in the sugary goodness of it all.
gives us this and more in
Waiting For Absolution
which follows Emily through nine moths of what’s sure to be an unconventional pregnancy. It is chock full of touching moments between Emily, her friends, her family, and, of course, Sam.
The Limit of Stability
Little Black Dresses
does this in a much more somber way, inviting readers to look at the perfect imperfections that make Emily and Sam’s love for one another the epic experience that it is.


Because Twilight’s Nothing Without a Good Love Triangle

Maybe it’s the deranged Jacob/Bella shipper in me, but I’ve always appreciated a good love triangle, and these ladies deliver a few of the best. Some might argue that since Sam imprinted without options, there’s no actual triangle. But it turns out a good number of authors disagree. After all, just because Sam didn’t get a choice, doesn’t mean there can’t be drama! A good portion of these stories take what we know about imprinting, and fill in the blanks about what we don’t, resulting in a series of relationships that get turned on their heads.
Say the Right Word
addresses what would happen if a wolf could resist the pull of his imprint. Though the story centers around an AU Bella and Jake, it’s got a great confrontation between Sam, Leah, and Emily in which Leah wants to know why Sam didn’t have the mental wherewithal to stay with her, and Emily explains just what she had to go through to stay with him. This happens in chapter 45, and though it makes sense outside the context of the story, I highly recommend reading the other 44 chapters to get there.
explores what would happen if those imprint urges disappeared after a wolf stops phasing in
Spinning and Stopping
. Blue manages to make both women into absolute stars as Emily is forced to come to terms with the fact that her relationship with Sam was based on a biological imperative, and Leah gets exactly what she wants, only to turn it away for the good of her family. I asked the author how this story came to be, and I wasn’t a bit surprised when she told me it all got started with imprinting:

[O]ne of my favourite Twilight related hobbies is thinking about all the possible ways around imprinting (because I unequivocally and without exception loathe and despise it), and I just thought it would be a nice irony to explore – [Sam] stops phasing so he can be with Emily and that's what steals their "love" away. Well, actually their genuine *love* remains, but it's a very different thing from what was holding them together before.

And lastly, because this blog is supposed to be about highlighting unknown stories, I want to call your attention to
The End Where I Begin
. So far only the prologue is posted, but in 356 words she manages to capture the pain behind the Emily/Sam/Leah situation beautifully, and the next three parts (told from Leah’s perspective apparently) promise to be just as engaging.


Friends, Sisters, Rivals. It’s easy to lump Emily and Leah into the typical categories, but these two ladies are anything but typical. So rather than try and define them, and come to some lofty conclusion, I’ll leave you with this heartfelt drabble by
, which is appropriately entitled

Before the scars, Leah and Emily could stand opposite one another and mime gestures as if in a mirror. One would raise her hand and the other would follow. One would toss her hair back and the other would do likewise. Then something ripped apart Emily’s face while leaving her soul intact and something ripped apart Leah’s soul while leaving her face intact. And for a brief moment, while Emily still loved her cousin more than…, they both, simultaneously, wished it were the opposite. And when Sam lovingly stands behind Emily, Leah still pretends she’s seeing her in a mirror.

Some Links For Your Viewing Pleasure:

is a retail monkey/law student who uses fan fiction as a way to escape the monotony of case briefs. She’s the writer of a bunch of stories you’ve never heard of including
Dreaming of Butterflies
The First Five Times
, and
Archived Explorations:

Upcoming Characters:
Lauren, Vampward, AHward.


  1. Very nice:-) I like the finished product! Thanks, once again, for the mention:-)

  2. well done! and thanks for the mention. (it's addisonj)

  3. what about a Seth Clearwater exploration? Is that in the works?

  4. Yes, a Seth exploration is in the works too, but there's a few characters in the queue ahead of him :)

  5. I suck because I just got around to reading this. I have a very large soft spot for Leah, and the fact that you mentioned my fic here (No Outlet) made me all fangirly and squirmy in my seat. She's so underutilized, and so one dimensional in the Saga... I sigh.

    Thank you for the mention, and for writing a killer article on one of my faves.


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