Thursday, October 22, 2009

CharacterExploration: AHward - A Rose By Another Name Wouldn't Smell As Sweet


Doucheward. Tattward. Geekward. Shyward. Dickward. Fuckward. Frennyward. Bikeward. Scotchward. Bardward. Skittleward. Gayward. Pedoward. Cuffward. Marineward. BATward. Vladward. HIPSward. Priestward. Catholicward. Domward. Balticward. Whoreward. Beautiful Bastard. The Sugar Queen. Curseward. Chefward. Reboundward. Thrustward. Trustward. Logicward. Rich Kid. Resistward. SWCIFD. Youngward. Poetward. Flannelward. Authorward. Debussy_88. Eddie. Betaward. Humpward. Blindward. Deafward. Teddyward. Pinkieward. Stutterward. Sweaterward. Daddyward. Fallingward. Hoboward. And so on, and so on, and so on.

It’s enough to give a girl (and the occasional guy) a headache.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most of us fell a lot in love with Edward Cullen while reading The Twilight Saga. In fact he’s probably the reason that most of us started reading fanfiction in the first place. I’m no different. I felt unjustly robbed by the lack of sparkle peen in that meadow at the end of Eclipse, and I wanted some more Edward in my life, preferably sans pants. For the first few weeks, I guzzled down smutty vamp one-shots like it was my job.

But somewhere along the lines, things changed. I read Passion Fish, the now defunct all-human fic where Edward and Bella meet during a blindfolded kiss. I was a little confused because Edward wasn’t 107 and he wasn’t a virgin, but I read it nonetheless. And then I read
Meyer University
. And then
Boycotts and Barflies
A rite of passage
Only Human
, and that was all it took. I was hooked on green-eyed, flushed-cheeked Edward.

I’m here today to sheepishly attempt to figure out the phenomenon that is all-human Edward. What makes us love him so much? Why do we choose to read/write about him, and what makes him so appealing?

Who says Edward can’t be a Swedish body-builder?

Plus he doesn't creep on you while you're sleeping.
"All human" is kind of a strange concept if you think about it. For some reason, we love making some popcorn and reading along happily as authors take our sweet, stubborn, virginal vampire and turn him into all kinds of depraved teenagers/young adults/men. AHward is at once a sexual deviant, a renaissance man, the quiet boy in the back of the classroom, and the troubled teen who just needs the love of a young Bella to set him straight.

That really is the appeal of writing all-human Edward: he can really be whoever you want him to be.

Vampward is great, but he has a lot of restrictions. If you’re using SMeyer’s canon (for powers and the like), then you have to make sure that everything fits together. Even if you’re going for straight AU, it’s a lot harder to come up with a plausible, original story line while still appealing to your readers. Maybe it’s just me, but having written Vampward and AHward, I find Vampward much more difficult to write.

The only thing that's really consistent with AHward is his physical appearance: bronze hair, green eyes, tall, and generally lean and in good shape. Everything else is up to you. He might play piano, but he doesn't have to. He might hate 60's music (one of the most ridiculous traits of canon Edward, in my opinion), but he might love it. He can be Tupac's number one fan if you want him to be.

All human gives us the gift of variety. It also gives us the chance to write what we know. Do you work at a law firm and find yourself inspired by the cute new intern who is probably too young for you? You can channel that into a Lawyerward, like the one in
I Hate You, Kiss Me
by stacybumblebee. Did you really love Sixteen Candles and can't get that last scene out of your head? Write a JakeRyanward like in
Seventeen Cakes
by vanessarae.

There is also a certain amount of originality that can come into play with AHward. All human allows the writer to flex his/her original fiction muscles without having to actually write original fiction. You can take the parameters set by SMeyer and then let your imagination run wild. I've written a horny teenager, a loner suffering from mental illness, a bitter ex-piano player, a father fighting for a doll for his daughter, and a few others; and my Edwards are just a glimpse into what is out there as far as all human fics.

As a reader, AHward has the same appeal that he does for writers. Everyone gets tired of vampires eventually, even if only slightly, and the human genre lets us keep loving on Edward while reading something a little different.

A rose by any other name does not smell as sweet.

"My name's Edward. Are you ready to do me now?"
I’m going to be blunt for a second and make a potentially controversial statement: almost all human Edward’s are not "Edward" as we know him. They’re just not. I can probably list the truly “in character” human Edwards I’ve read on one-hand. Most AHwards are so out of character and so far removed from canon, that we’re left with someone who might be devastatingly appealing, but is really “Edward” in name only.

Ah… but that’s the thing, isn’t it?

His name is Edward, and therefore we jump right on board.

This provides a lot of freedom for the all-human author. We can write a male character pretty much any way we want. Stick some bronze hair atop his head and give him green eyes, and we as a fandom are loving on him. Give him russet skin and a few more inches, and we are shaking our fists and cursing the author for making a Jacob who is only there to stand in the way of true love.

Now of course it’s not as simple as this. But us Edward enthusiasts are often a stubborn breed. I know it frustrates people when they try to recommend a non-canon fic to me, and I shoot it down simply because Bella is paired with someone else. I can’t help it. My devotion to Edward does not allow me to truly enjoy when his lady-love is loving on someone else. But take Jasper and give him the right hair color and name? Then I probably won’t have a problem with it.

In summary, when I asked people on twitter what makes a fic too out of character for them to read, one lovely reader answered, “There is no such thing as too out of character, as long as they have the right names.”

Keep that little tidbit in mind as I lamely segue into my next section.

How far is too far out of character?

The mullet does not approve of your shenanigans.
This is where things get tricky for the AHward. Because there is so much available variety in the all human world, there are going to be stories that some people say take it too far. Everyone has different tastes, and therefore everyone is going to have a different tolerance for depravity and extreme-out-of-character behavior. It's really a matter of personal opinion.

Because of this sort of "personalization" of our own ideal fics, I couldn't come up with these on my own. So I asked some readers and authors what they thought made a story/character too out there for them to enjoy. I got back a ton of different answers, so I thought I'd just list a few of more common things here. A huge thank you to my friends on twitter for helping me out with this.

  • when Edward's behavior is not consistent with the canon
  • excessively violent Edward
  • when Edward and Bella aren't drawn to each other immediately
  • a "shockingly stupid or mean" Edward
  • Edward paired with someone he is related to by blood/family in canon
  • poor (as in not wealthy) Edward
  • slash
  • Edward not paired with Bella
  • possessive/psychotic Edward
  • cheating Edward
  • abusive Edward
  • Edward on hard drugs
  • unexplained out-of-character behavior
Some of these qualities are probably universally disliked. Not many of us want to read a fic where Edward is a cruel and sadistic sexual predator. But others are entirely a matter of opinion.

For example, I won't read stories where Edward and Bella are with other people unless it's really really well written slash (oh, and Bella cannot be in the story at all in order for me to enjoy it). I've enjoyed stories where Edward is a drug addict, and I think the poor Edward in
by autumndreamer is entirely endearing.

This is one of the best things about AHward. If you don't like one genre, there are tons of others out there for you to choose from.

Everybody knows that the ‘ward is the word.

As you can probably see from the very beginning of this tl;dr (too long;don't read [AG takes pity on the acronym impaired.]) article, there are way too many kinds of ‘ward for me to go into all of them here. So I picked three of the ‘wards that I think have made the biggest impact… or maybe just the first three that jumped to mind.

"Bitch thinks she's hot enough to tap this?"

He is that guy you hated in high school. The one who laughed with his friends when you drunkenly admitted he was cute at a party. The one in college who looked at you like you were the only girl in existence, then stopped talking to you once he got in your pants.

In fic he tends to fully claim his devastating good looks and uses them to play every girl in the tri-county area. Though frequently drunk, he magically evades STDs and teen pregnancy while sticking it to whoever will let him. And yet there is something about the Doucheward that makes us want to read about him again and again. Maybe it’s the joy of his redemption, maybe it’s the vicarious pleasure we feel watching Bella bring this tool to his knees, but he’s been one of the most popular ‘wards since the AH genre really took off.

There's not much more I can say, so I'll let a primo Doucheward explain it for me.

QUOTE from
I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked
by marve and wish_girl:
FuckinmotherfuckinMonday. I rolled over in my bed, accidentally knocking what's-her-face to the floor. She squealed her indignation at me and I shrugged. Occupational Hazard of sleeping with an Adonis.

And by Adonis, I mean me.

Damn it feels good to be a gangstah.

Some Douchewards for your consideration:

by Marve
The Caged Bird
by Kristen Nicole
Faking It
by spanglemaker9

"I wish I were your derivative, so I could lie tangent to your curves."

This Edward is the anti-doucheward. He makes your heart hurt, because he’s just so sweet and doesn’t think he stands a chance. He’s often shy and nerdy, and may be really close with his parents. Sometimes he’s just geeky enough to give him a hard time picking up girls, but other times he is a complete loner without any friends or sense of purpose. Either way, we can’t help but find him completely endearing.

The object of his affection might be a Bella that is beautiful and well-liked, or she might be just as much of a loner as he is. We watch in heartfelt awe as the unlikely couple grows closer, and the Geekward slowly but surely gets his happily ever after. It’s every high school fantasy come to life.

Some Geekwards/Outcastwards for your consideration:

Bright Like the Sun
by Dryler
Real Relationship: A Geeky Love Story
by booksforme
Boy in the Red Sweater
by starrynytex
Bad Boys and Book Nerds
by MPants

"So many guys, so little time..."

This is actually one of the few ‘wards that I have trouble getting on board with, mostly because I don’t really read non-canon pairings. But there’s definitely something about the idea of a PYT like Edward cozying up with an equally handsome dude. His partner is usually Jasper in fic, though he may also be Carlisle or some other person. The two (and sometimes three) meet and sparks fly, whether Edward and boy know they are gay or not. They can’t resist the chemistry and before they know it, the two (or three!) are making beautiful boy/boy music together.

Plus, there’s usually buttsecks. Some people are really into reading that.

Some Gaywards for your consideration (as recced by my friends):

Show Me a Garden That’s Bursting Into Life
by atypical-swan
What I Failed to Realize
by Beautiful Figment
Begin Again
by C-Me-Smile
After all the time, I can say without a doubt that Edward is my favorite character in the saga. Whether vamp or human, I can't help but have a soft spot for that pale sort-of-redhead. I think I'll probably be reading and writing different AHwards until I finally say goodbye to fanfiction at some point in the future.

If I had to pick one kind of AHward as my favorite, I would probably say Geekward/Outcastward, because I'm a sucker for good fluff and awkward boys. Plus that kind of angst just tears at my heart in the best way.

So I ask you, wonderful people who managed to get through this longass character exploration:

What's yours?
is the author of such AHwards as
, and
. Her stubborn refusal to read non-canon pairings has caused her friends to dub her "Queen Vanilla", but she is unapologetic. Don't mention Deadward to her unless you are looking for a fight.
Archived Explorations:

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


  1. Lol thanks for the character exploration. I'd never really thought about reasons why we can happily read Edward with such a differing personality usually love him completely in most stories anyway. I struggle (& this is me personally) with Domward.
    I love Him when He's cheeky OOO & tattward. Heck I like him as alot of things, lol
    So thanks for this & some of the rec's

  2. "I wish I were your derivative, so I could lie tangent to your curves."

    Oh, Rach. You slay me.

  3. You don't like gayward? *gasp* My boys are pouting in your general direction ... or something.

    This was a great character exploration. I never really thought about why I like AHward (writing him, anyway) so much aside from the fact that AU scares the fuck outta me.

    My favorite 'ward, though, would probably be ... Tattward (in general as I've always been a sucker for tattooed men) and least favorite would be any incarnation that has him abusive/violent/pedophilic/incestuous.

    So, thanks for giving me more to ponder.

  4. This is really interesting Rachel, because I find the prospect of writing AH to be far more difficult than AU. I think I'd stress so hard about making a human Edward more or less in character, that I'd never finish it. Of course, no one says you have to stay in the lines.

    I do think some of the 'Wards go too far. As you said, often times the only thing they have in common is the name and hair color. I can't help but think that there has to be *some* aspect of the original character in AH versions. While Canon-Edward in Twilight came off as cocksure and suave, we know he was a scared, kinda dorky guy trying to get the girl from Midnight geekward's work. Edward the womanizer doesn't particularly jive, but the cool guy persona does in a sense, because everyone DOES love him. Mostly I love the sweetly innocent Edwards who just love their Bella's with their whole damn hearts. Once you start adding domination, tattoo/piercing obsessions, etc, I don't see any of EDward in them, and it's far harder for me to read it as Twi-fic.

    Great article though hon! The popularity of AH in this fandom that derived from Vamps is an interesting phenomenon that I'm glad has been addressed!

    - Katie (JeesieChreesie)

  5. Good character exploration. Though I have to say that I barely (or don't) read non-canon pairings as well. It's just weird in my opinion. And if I do than Bella can't exist if Edward's the main character in the fic (and vice versa, though I prefer to read fics with Edward in them).

    Anyway, the only AHward that I like are the ones that have at least some canon traits (for example: self-assured, smart, funny, ironic, hates himself for whatever reason, very passionate about his loved ones, jealous, possesive, sweet, loving etc. etc.). I don't care if he has tattoo's, is a Dom, a complete douche or whatever, as long as he has some canon traits and he looks the same and has the same name, I can accept him. You know what I do find annoying with all the AH fics that were written after the movie came out? Almost everyone keeps describing Robert Pattison as Edward. Seriously, I do not see Edward as Robert. I just don't, even though I saw the movie first. Thankfully there are authors out there that probably have the same mindset as I do and who don't describe Edward as Rob, but still. I usually just overlook it, but it is still a little annoying. Don't know if I'm the only one that's a bit annoyed by it, but whatever, just thought I'd mention it :P

    But I loved the article and I think you did a good job.

  6. 'As rec'd by my friends'

    Come out from the closet, Rach....we'll still love you :)

    Great article - I enjoyed the humor, the silliness, and especially the long haired biker with the shotgun. Meow ;)

  7. Good article. I struggle with slashward, well slash in general but did like Angst's Great Vextations, so maybe I'm ok with experimental-ward?

    Anyway - I saw you don't like dead-ward but what about Sleepers Awake?? I never really get behind Bella in any story but loved her FYB's tale. And there's very little Edward but yikes! It's great.

    "You Get Me Closer to God" was probably one of the first 10 fanfics I read that really dragged me into my whole obsession. So I'll always have a soft spot for AHward.

  8. Awesome article, Rachel :) I do have to say that I will always read your 'wards, even if I abandon all others :)

  9. Great article - loved it.
    I tend to ship Jella, but I have a hard time doing it if E or A is in the picture. I tend to kill alice a lot. And if E is in the story, I can't help but root for him, even if it is a Jella fic.

    Thanks again for the great article!

  10. Loved the article, one of my fav character explorations so far. I have to say I have a soft spot for The Beautiful Bastard, Curseward and Tattward. They always get me going. Of course a good slashward is awesome as well.

  11. Personally, "when Edward and Bella aren't drawn to each other immediately" makes me happy. It gives insight to what the author can write as far as dialogue. With excessive history and drama I think it's best to start a fic with the characters having a history, that way you can make things up as you go along.

    And "poor (as in not wealthy) Edward" is just unrealistic. Especially with the economy I'm sure he won't get paid big bucks for being a doctor to pay for that swanky bachelor pad that he uses to woo Bella.

    Wonderful work on this article and so many truths within it. :)

  12. Okay *cracks knuckles* here we go-

    BOUNCY72: see? That's part of the magic. I'm not really a fan of Domward either. I think that's partly because I don't read much straight smut anymore (and also because the more hardcore stuff makes me blush), but we can just close the window and move onto something else :)

    SAM: I was a science dork in high school. I have a whole bunch of 'em... like "Too bad you're not DNA helicase cause I'd let you unzip my genes." I actually have that one on a t-shirt haha. And lol on the acronym adjustment.

    STOLENXSANITY: Haha it's not so much the gayward as he's-not-doing-Bellaward. I have written and read mild slash, and when written well it can be rather sweet.

    KATIE: I think the reason I find Vampward harder is that I feel more inclined to keep him in character. I have very little leniency for OOCness (particularly when it's set in the canon world). And yeah... I'm not a huge fan of super OOC AHwards. My favorite ones are ones that are slightly withdrawn, maybe a little abrasive because he wants to keep people at a distance. And thanks :)

    VALERIE220: "I don't care if he has tattoo's, is a Dom, a complete douche or whatever, as long as he has some canon traits and he looks the same and has the same name, I can accept him." This is pretty much how I feel. I NEED some canon Edward in there for me to enjoy it. I loved him. Why would I want him to go away completely? And I completely agree with you as well on the Robward conundrum. I can see Edward as a hipster-type, given his interests, but I don't picture Rob as Edward. In fact I only did once, right after the New Moon angsty striptease pictures came out when I was betaing a chapter of The Office.

    H: Oh, you. I do like some slash, but generally only the fluffier stuff or the stories that focus on someone's thoughts as they're figuring out that they're gay. I do revert to silliness. I can't even help it. And doesn't that biker just
    *scream* Edward? Yummy ;)

    e: Thanks :) I can't read Sleepers Awake because I struggle reading fics that are too angsty (which I know is ironic because I often write depressing stuff). Though it does have the Donnie Darko edge, so maybe I'd like it. One of my friends ALWAYS tries to get me to read Afterlife. Edward dies in it. I'm pretty sure I'd have to go brb Volterra after reading that.

    Elle: This was my plan all along. I roped you in as my beta so that you'd be stuck reading Edward even when you abandoned him for that emo emotions guy ;)

    Chicklet: Haha you should talk to ElleCC about the Jasper/Bella stuff. Sigh. That is one thing I can just never get on board with.

    rachelcullen77: First of all, if your name really is Rachel then you have an awesome name. Second, thanks so much. I don't read The Blessing and the Curse yet, but I think I will once it's done. I always think it's interesting to see which 'wards people seem to latch onto.

    Rose: I like when they aren't initially drawn to each other too. Well I guess to clarify, I like when there is sexual tension but they find the other reprehensible. It's nice every so often :)

  13. I love this. I think my favorite part was that Doucheward always somehow evades STDs and teen pregnancy. I think there's always a moment where authors hate me for a second cause I can't help but point it out. I always wait for his thing to fall off...::cringe::

    But yea, this was awesome. I was wondering how one would do this, and you did it perfectly.

  14. "His name is Edward, and therefore we jump right on board." So true.

    "I wish I were your derivative, so I could lie tangent to your curves." That's absolutely hilarious. I think it's now my favorite joke ever.

    This was my fav character exploration so far. It was hilarious and awesome, but I loved it most because it was about AH ward! He's my favorite :) I love all AHwards. I know I'm really limiting the fics I read, but if the summary doesn't include the words "Edward" and AH, chances are that I'm not gonna read it.

  15. CRIMSONCROW: Hahah seriously. The clap would happen at one point or another, let's be serious.

    LA SERENADE: Oh I have so been there. There was a time that I would only read AH Edward fics... actually I still mostly read only that, but I'll read Vampward fics now too haha.

  16. I automatically want to love Edward whatever his personality but when he is so doucheward and OOC he doesn't have even one redeemable characteristic ... I have to stop reading.

    My favourite types of Edward are usually the more socially awkward geeky virgin types because I just see more of canon Edward in them. But i like the whorewards and douchewards as much as the next girl. It just means that its up to the writer to sell me on them and make me see those core canon traits we all loved beneath all the shit he pulls. The most important thing for me that stops it being too OOC is to show the reason why he acts like he does, because maybe Edward would be a whore in certain situations.

    The only wards I can't read are abuseward, not-with-bellaward (atleast at the end, i don't mind so much if it start with noncanon pairings)and, like you, deadward. I LOVE angst but i just can't take that much when we don't get the HEA.

    I loved the exploration, i thought it was funny and insightful. Defintely one of my favourites.

  17. ISMYHEROIN: haha yep, your hard limits on OOC Edward are about the same as mine. And you're totally right about OOC stuff always needing legitimate justification. If there is a good reason for why he's being a whore, I don't have as much of a problem with it.

  18. Great post Rach!

    I've thought many hours about the conundrum of human Edward. For me, it's always been the humane qualities he had as a vampire that authors pull into their stories. Especially in the first book when he sucks the vemon out of her, letting her live. Its that enthralling, deep, devoted love that (realistically or not) withstood not just the obstacles of their obvious differences, but his own instinct.

    A lot of us want to keep re-living that love story in our own creative way, and maybe to also give our dear Edward more carefree happiness. Something Dark/Vampward missed out on a lot in the books.

    I'm really glad you explored the different AHwards. It got me thinking about my favorite ones, but its always hard to choose :)


  19. I'm totally late to the party, but AHelm just nudged me in the direction of this post and I had to say a hearty thanks for rec'ing Bad Boys and Book Nerds as a standard of Geekward-ness. I was shocked and floored and then when I got back up and into my chair I was flattered.

    Thank you! And great article. Gotta love the 'ward.



  20. I just saw this, thanks to a reviewer of mine. Just wanted to say thanks for the shout for 17 Cakes (this is vanessarae) explained why I had an influx of readers over the weekend.

    There's no way I could write AU fic. The vamp stuff, can't do.

    As far as OOC, well, I think that as long as the general canon things are followed, I'll probably read it.

    Great article!!

  21. I've noticed that doucheward's nearly always the same as Holden Caulfield-- which is cool, but I've read his story before.

  22. Great article, it is something that I've briefly thought "Huh, odd" but never really sat down to consider.

    I've read a variety of 'Wards, but have never been able to get into any kind of slash. Or anything where he's outrageously violent/abusive/pedo/incestuous. It's just not for me.

    I've found I love writing AHward, though, just because there's a leniency with his history. You can take him any way you want.

    Like in The Blessing and the Curse (which is really good) the author gives us this Edward I wasn't certain I liked at first - he sort of admittedly frightened me in a way - but he grew on me and now I just love him.
    Or Resident Geek - I seriously love Geekward. He always makes me smile and giggle. So cute, you're right.
    I've read Meyer University (one of my first AH reads), My Brand of Heroin, The Path We Chose, Healing, Clipped Wings and Inked Armor, Stop, Drop, Roll, Emancipation Proclamation.... So many by now. And each of those Edward's are different.
    I don't think I always love him for the name - but it makes me pay attention first. ;)

    I can't say what my fave 'Ward is. But I can say that each kind does have an appeal to him.

    Again, great post! I loved reading it!


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