Friday, November 6, 2009

CharacterExploration: Billy + Sam

A Simple Kind of Man:
A Character Exploration of
Billy Black and Sam Uley


I don’t think this exploration was supposed to be quite as hard to do as it turned out to be, after all Billy and Sam are wolf pack staples. Both are patriarchal, mostly two dimensional characters who serve the purpose of leading the wolves and preserving the legends. And the wolves have just one mission in life: protect the Rez.


Too simple. So simple as to not inspire much in the way of starring roles in their own fic or even scene stealing ones in someone else’s. attributes this to their roles in the saga.

They are the elders, the leaders, the wise old dudes (who may not be so wise and may be outmoded in their thinking) who are farther back from the action and not directly in the story.

As such, these are not characters to whom Stephenie Meyer gives much depth or development. Having so little to go on from canon might give writers plenty to play with, but that can be intimidating in itself. The fan fic author is left by themselves to create a personality and have it ring true in the minds of people who may have their own version of those same undefined characters.

Still, I was determined to come up with something - a fic to recommend at least. So, I dug around. I searched through several multi chapter fics, but mostly found myself in the land of one shots and drabbles. I begged and pleaded with friends for help. I even PM’d perfect strangers. I owe a huge thanks to those who offered me insight, opinion, or story recs. There was a lot less out there than I originally imagined.

Going in, you must know that I am quite sure I missed that one big fic, the be-all-end-all of Billy or Sam stories, and for that I sincerely apologize. But what I found, in the end, was that Billy and Sam seem to be best explored through short, one chapter stories that quickly get inside their heads and give us a window into who they are or who they could be. Simple.

Billy Black - Father Knows Best

1. Wise Old Man

This is the go-to Billy. He is the patriarch of his family, a member of the Council, and the transferer of the most important genetic bloodline in Quileute history. Though very stereotypical and transparent, this Billy is actually portrayed in two completely different ways.

Major Dad

The harder side of this Billy is often protective, strict, and disapproving. This is more Grumpy (wise) Old Man.

fate.of.gabriel describes Billy as the sort of bad cop to Charlie’s good.

SM uses Billy as the symbol of the tribe relying on the importance of oral tradition, and giving us a glimpse of the beliefs of the ancestral Quileutes, which Billy staunchly upholds. Because SM doesn’t allow Charlie to know about the supernatural world his daughter willingly immerses herself in, Billy’s role in the books can also be construed as the disapproving parent. Though he is not Bella’s parent, he is the parent who takes proactive actions to try and keep Bella away from danger, specifically the Cullens, i.e. paying Jacob off to crash Bella’s prom, and later Jake, repeatedly telling Bella over the phone not to visit.

Well, who wants to spend a lot of time writing about the strict parent? The volume of angsty AU or AH twific out there is decidedly pro-rebellion and focused on the fun kids, not the worried pater familias.

Krum Cake figures there must be more to Billy than meets the eye.

He’s there to stand in Jacob’s way or Bella’s way, he thinks only of the pack, and he’s stuck in a constant state of grumpiness. And while these are possibly accurate portrayals of him, there are a multitude of reasons WHY he acts this way, and that is what we rarely see explored.

Indeed, in the Twilight Saga, we only get small glimpses into Billy as anything other than what he is in present time - wheelchair-bound storyteller bent on insuring the preservation of his heritage and the future of the tribe. We are never told when Billy is diagnosed with diabetes, and other than not being able to walk, we don’t see how it impacts his daily life or how he deals with it, emotionally or physically. Additionally, we are left to assume that the death of his wife Sarah must have devastated him, but the family never speaks of her, and if Billy is suffering any lingering effects, we are given no hint of it because he is singular minded about the tribe. He is one of Stephenie Meyer’s characters who not only doesn’t get another chance at love, he doesn’t even seem to be up for consideration.

Moreover, all around him, people are becoming the stuff of legends. He carries the weight of Ephraim Black’s fame and legacy but is not able to come anywhere close to filling those shoes. Instead, he must live vicariously through his son and watch from the side lines as Jacob returns the Black family to its former glory. While he may not completely begrudge his own son this difficult yet important role in life, you can’t help but feel that there must be some bitterness underneath the stoicism.

The Sensitive Sensei

The gentler side of Wise Old Billy is more that of benevolent dictator. He might be delivering bad news (surprise, you’re a shape shifter), but you can’t help but love him and see the good intentions behind the stern warnings. Starshinedown likens him to famous SciFi characters.

I’ve thought of Billy in the same light I’ve thought of Gandalf and Obi-Wan, strangely enough. Stephenie didn’t really utilize him in that way, but his opinion as a parent, as an elder in the tribe, and as a holder of knowledge that the protagonist really should have cast him in that light in my head. And, for me, casting Gil Birmingham as Billy reinforced that idea. He has a wise sage presence.

Addisonj refers to Billy as Yoda. In her Jacob/OC fic Mystery Box, he's instrumental in two key scenes: getting the original character (OC), Molly, to work at La Push and get to know the tribe and Jake, and, after the imprint, to help Molly understand what's happening.

I see Billy as the Yoda, without the funny accent. He observes what is happening, comments on it, and points the kids in a direction.

Billy’s a safe harbor sort of guy.

In an early scene in Mystery Box, addison’s OC Molly plays kill-fuck-marry with her roommates shortly after meeting the Blacks and after a run-in with her main competition for a key position on a project she’s working on.

Kill … Blaine, fuck Jacob and marry… Billy.” She smiled. Molly had already told Karen all about the meeting the day before and how something about Billy just appealed to her.

Still, Karen nearly choked on her food. “Billy? The father in the wheelchair? Do you have a father complex or something?” Molly laughed.

“He’s so sweet. He reminds me of Yoda. I had the feeling he genuinely liked me and wanted me to look good in front of Dr. Wilson. Oh, Karen! It started so horribly, with Dr. Wilson thinking I flaked and missed the meeting, and then having to take Blaine down a notch in front of everyone! I had no idea I had the balls to do it! Then, seeing Jacob the sex god and getting flustered over him!

“I want to prove I’m worthy of this project and I’m ready to jump this guy’s bones! But Billy comes in and makes everything calm. He then hands me this opportunity to redeem myself. I really like him. He’s marriage material.”

2. OOC Billy

Surpisingly enough, there are a few different versions of this Billy out there. Usually, the focus is on the bromance between Charlie and Billy, but even this theme crops up more in Charlie-centric stories.

The Wonder Years

Little Green Race Car by subtlynice is a sweet look at how that bromance got started. It describes how Charlie and Billy met as little kids on a beach one summer and bonded over Charlie’s new toy and an adoration each boy had for his grandfather. Charlie is a few years younger than Billy, so even though we see them in their childhood, Billy still manages to assume, somewhat, the role of older and wiser. Still, even this Billy unknowingly foreshadows his own, somewhat unfulfilled future.

“I don’t care what your grandpa says,” the tall boy interrupted rudely. “My grandpa can turn into a wolf, he told me so at bedtime. And he says I’m going to follow in his footsteps because it’s in my blood. And I want to be a wolf, because they’re hairy and scary and they have big teeth, so there.”

But later, Billy confesses that he can only realize his dream to be a wolf if..

“someone cold comes to the beach.” Sadly, we know now that didn’t happen until it was too late for Billy.

The "shitmydadsays" Billy

Another seldom seen Billy is one that gives him a great sense of humor and a far less serious outlook on life. In How Billy Spent One Tuesday Morning in September by aardarshinah, Billy actually prefers to defer to Old Quil on deeper issues like love and sex. He sees himself as more valuable on a practical level.

“And you’ve come looking for fatherly advice?” Jake nodded. “Then why the hell you come here? Old Quil’s better at this sort of talk.” He was. It’d been Old Quil who’d given “The Talk” to Jake and his friends. Hell, it’d been Old Quil that had given Joshua, Harry, Young Quil and I it back in our day.”

This fic also allows Billy a chance to express an opinion that isn’t one hundred percent pro-wolf pack through his hatred of Paul.

“Dad?” Jake asked, walking through the door scarcely five minutes after Rachel had left to meet up with her trashy excuse for a boyfriend, Paul. If the boy had merely been dating my daughter, not imprinted upon her, I’d have used him for bait.”

And finally, subtlynice gives us a chance to see Billy’s fond memories of the day he met Sarah and how he knew she was the love of his life without the benefit of an imprint.

“That’s not what I mean, Dad. I mean… how did you know Mom was the one, out of everybody else out there? How her?” When I saw the way her eyes lit up when she smiled. I knew I’d never done anything to deserve someone like her. With her I wasn’t just living: I was alive.

One last avenue to explore, apparently for some, was pure crackfic. I didn’t get too far down this road before turning back at a dead run. I’ll just tell you this - if Billy slashfic is where your head is at, there’s something out there even for you. But you’ll have to find that one on your own.

Sam - The Not So Cool Older Brother

1. The Quintessential Alpha

This, of course, is canon Sam. He is rather old school, despite his age: stoic, proud, a ruler with an iron fist. He may not have inherited the true alpha bloodline, but he was definitely born for this role. Even before he knows what is happening to him and what he is, Sam suffers in relative silence, trying to protect those he loves. A real stiff-upper-lip kind of guy.

Canon Sam has one rule of law: the cold ones are the enemy. And he expects complete and immediate compliance from his pack. His world, at least in this regard, is completely black and white.

His role in the fanfic world is also pretty black and white. When you can find him. Fannon Sam is usually nothing more than a walk-on in most fics. We’re simply too busy paying attention to the vamps. And those in the fandom who play for the wolf pack are pretty focused on Jacob, Leah, Blackwater, or Seth. So, Sam is usually seen through someone else’s eyes, if at all.

Princess Bertha’s Endless Daylight, a Blackwater fic, definitely reinforces the Sam-as-ultimate-Alpha persona, at least in the eyes of his pack.

“Sam is the Great Leader, the guy who everyone thinks is the best thing to happen to our Tribe in a long time. They all want to be Sam.”

But, where Jacob and his breakaway pack (and most of the fandom) are concerned, Sam is more the overbearing town safety patrol.

But is our opinion of Sam justified? Is he really “that guy” or were we led to believe he is? Fate.of.Gabriel thinks a great injustice has been done to Sam by none other than our heroine, Bella.

“From the first moment Jacob brings Sam and his gang of mindless followers into Bella’s perspective, we are biased. According to Bella, Sam is arrogant and proud, self-assured to a dislikable degree. However, Bella, as we all know, is an unreliable narrator. I find it highly unlikely that Sam is dealing as coolly as we are led to believe. Sam obviously has a wide spectrum of emotion, and yet for the most part in canon all we see is the stoic leader.”

Starshinedown sees a lot of potential for character development with Sam.

“As a character, exploring what is was like for him to the first Protector in however many generations, to have to give up his dream of college (which, given that he’s a rez kid, was a HUGE deal, I think), to have to step into the role of Alpha not because it’s a known birthright but because the kid whose right it is doesn’t want it/can’t deal with the responsibility.”

2. Still Waters Run Deep

So, if we actually stop to think about Sam, it becomes obvious that he’s far from simple. What motivates him, what ultimately makes him so unlikable, could be both a martyr-like tendency to work for his tribe’s version of the greater good and a staggering sense of guilt without remorse over who he’s hurt to achieve those ends.

Sam as a Victim of Fate?

You might think that absolutely nothing good could come from looking at Sam via Leah POV. What empathy could the bitter harpy manage to evoke in us for the one who done her wrong? And there are plenty of fics out there giving Leah her revenge against Sam, or possibly against the fate Meyer ultimately handed her.

But even the ass who dumped her seems to have a soul.

KitschMiro’s Braids is mostly a vehicle for Leah, but it throws a lifeline out to Sam. In this drabble, we feel Leah’s pain and hatred, but there is one very telling line, though it may be in Leah’s periphery, that belies the man behind the emotionless mask.

“No one asks why Sam refuses to braid his daughter’s hair, or why for days after each of Leah’s haircuts, his fingers tremble slightly whenever Emily’s soft tresses brush against him.”

Secondhandsmile’s Pyre gives Sam an altruistic justification for spurning Leah, and quite frankly, one I hadn’t ever thought of before. He loves her enough to know there’s more in store for Leah than a life stuck on the Rez. He loves her enough to set her free.

“Leah will stop loving him someday. And then she will leave. She’ll blaze through other towns, other cities, other countries, the whole damn world. He will rot in La Push. But it’s alright, Emily doesn’t mind.”

To Sam, Leah deserves much, much better. (If only Stephenie Meyer had also thought that was true.)

Sam still loves Leah, despite imprinting on Emily. Kirstennn’s drabble Of Course shows us a Sam who, in the quiet hours of the morning, wallows in the pain of knowing that fate intervened, forcing him from the person he would choose - if he could - even over his imprint.

“If any of this were up to him, it would be Leah’s body that he held close to his own, it would be her hand that he held, it would be her eyes that he gazed into and her lips that he kissed. But it’s not his choice. None of it is, was, or ever will be.”

And though we are able to discover the pain he has buried deep within his heart, it unfortunately leads us back to stoic Sam, who will put the good of the tribe above himself and above all others. But at least we know he, too, has a broken heart.

Imprint? What Imprint?

Okay, so stoic Sam with the secret bleeding heart still won’t cut it for some. They are the ones among us who simply need to rewrite Wolf Pack history. What better way to do that than to get rid of the imprint?

In Mending a Broken Heart by Alice Whitlock III, Leah is who Sam turns to after Emily unexpectedly dies.

“It feels like,” Sam paused. “Like my heart’s broken.”

“Then I’ll mend it,” I placed my hand on his heart. Underneath all that pain and grief, it beat steadily. It was broken, but it was determined to survive. “I’ll sew the pieces back together. It won’t be the same, but it’ll be better.”

I’m not sure, ultimately, if this turn of events would actually lead Leah to her HEA. She may still be left feeling second best, and Sam could be viewed, at least by Jacob and by Leah’s family, as just as much of the bad guy as before.

Well, the imprint could always be reversed, right? Sam’s ability to choose could be restored. Hope Shallott gives it a try in Home.

“He clung on for a while. Spent every second staring in his fiancee’s eyes, willing himself to love her again… to want her but he couldn’t.

There was somewhere else he had to be.

“I can’t promise never to leave you, Lee Lee… but I can promise that I will always come back.”

In this scenario, Leah seems to win, it is Emily’s world that is shattered, but Sam just continues to leave broken hearts in his wake.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking to want to redeem Sam by changing his mind. Maybe he is ultimately bound to this life as a callous, unwavering alpha male. The tribe comes first, and maybe if he, unlike Jacob, were to deny that, the result would be more harm than good.

So, then, he may have undiscovered complexities buried deep in his soul, but the life he leads must be simple. For himself, for Emily, for Leah, and for the Quileute tribe.



The Little Green Car by subtlynice

How Billy Spent One Tuesday Morning in September by aardarshinah

Mystery Box by Addisonj


Mending A Broken Heart by Alice Whitlock III

Braids by KitschMiro

Of Course by Kirstennn

Home by Hope Shallot

Endless Daylight by Princess Bertha

hotandcold is fundamentally Team Edward, while maintaining a rabid enthusiasm and affinity for the Wolf Pack. She is the author of the Jacob/OC fic Love and Gravity and the Blackwater one shot Three Strange Days.

Upcoming Characters:
Fic Bella, Jessica, The Volturi, James/Victoria, Rosalie, Seth, Lauren.


  1. bhahhahahaaa "team edward"

    i'm calling you out.

  2. That was good :) Billy is especially glossed over in the books. I also liked the "Sam as a Victim of Fate?" section.

    Character explorations haven't been posted in a while, I'm glad their back. But why isn't AG doing them?

  3. hmmmm? we have been posting them fairly regularly? And different people do each one...I think she only did the Jasper one.

  4. The Billy one was, I think, my favourite of the character explorations so far. Because I've just gone from seeing Billy as a minor annoyance to a complex character I suddenly like.

    Nice one.

    ... Still not a fan of Sam though. XD

  5. Well done! Thanks for the rec.

    Team Edward? I thought you were with me eating chocolates in Switzerland!

  6. "Character explorations haven't been posted in a while, I'm glad their back. But why isn't AG doing them?"

    I think you were talking about the posting, right? Instead of the writing? Because yeah, the C.E. look prettier when AG does them... AG has had RL fail, but she's sorta back on the blog train as of yesterday.

    I wipe the sweat off my brow.

  7. You should have included IamKate's story "First Imprint: Sam's Story" in the Sam section (located on It's a Sam/Emily love story, but it also shows Sam's perspective throughout the books. You see Sam as the Alpha leader, and you also see Sam as a guy in love with his imprint. What's really cool is that the story show's Sam's journey from the first time he phased to the end of Breaking Dawn. It's very in canon.


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