Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ahh, research...

Hey, all three of my followers! (How are you, Mom?) My eyes are bloodshot. Visine is my friend. I have been researching like a mad woman, finding helpful Jane Austen fan sites, blogs, a Regency encyclopedia--anything that will assist me with my book. A couple of the sites I found will let anyone upload their own JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) writings. It's actually a lot of fun. Some of the people posting are writing in English as their 2nd language, God bless 'em.

I found a forum where fans were giving their top 5 "musts" for a Jane Austen "What if?" novel. Almost across the board, they insisted that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together. No brainer for me. Others were concerned about "angst" either having too much or too little. I was a little confused, thinking maybe they had a different Jane encoded meaning for angst, because there is no compelling story worth being read without angst. It's a major force that drives a story forward and keeps us turning the page. We worry that Darcy might never be able to get a 2nd chance after his first disastrous proposal. We wring our hands wondering if Lydia's elopement will be just too much for Darcy to handle. The more I read in the forums, the more I understood that some of the novels--not all--which lean toward "romance" which equals lots of sex (they call it "fluff") do not have a lot of major conflicts. My thinking is that would keep the lovers apart, and thus major lack of pillow talk. Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but that is what I was getting.

The JAFF base is wide and varied. From Darcy and Elizabeth possibly touching with ungloved hands to Harlequin style bedroom romps on every third page. So, I'm told... well, so I found out quite by accident. :0) What I found most amusing was a list of acronyms and made up terms used. Some were sight specific and some were across the board, like JAFF. One site had pictures of Colin Firth (CF) in period dress from the mini series (P&P2), and had a pink arrow pointing to his crotch with the term "bunchage" under it. LOL! Poor man.

So, I brushed up on ballroom manners, found out that a lady NEVER calls on a gentleman, and uncovered the fact that women in the early 19th century went al fresco--no underpants until early mid century, around 1820-1830. Must have been breezy. I have also managed to write 42 pages, which kind of despressed me, until I realized that books are not printed in 8.5 by 11. So, I can almost double that, and claim that I have over 80 pages under my belt!

I'll give you a little peek and pick out something fun for below. It's Darcy reliving the dance he had with Elizabeth at Netherfield. If you didn't just catch it--I'm getting into Darcy's head! I'm determined to have it be "man" thoughts and not overly sentimental feminine interpretation of what a man would think. It won't be vulgar, but just normal struggles a man has around a pretty woman. My husband has told me on more than one occasion that all men are pigs, it's just that some are better at hiding their curly tails than others. Darcy is not thinking about how pretty her dress is...


It was a crisp morning, and Darcy had to admit that Hertfordshire was a beautiful place. No great rocks and mountains, but the rolling green hills and the woods pleased. He toured the park around Netherfield, mildly feeling the sting of the loss he tried not to think about. He tried not to think about how her small hand felt in his, how her plump lips tightened into a thin line when she was cross, and he tried not to think about how her eyes changed color with what she wore. Last night they were light green. They matched her gown perfectly. And when he took her hand to dance, those green eyes pierced right through him like she knew every thought he has ever had. He was in awe, he was ashamed, and he was relieved. For if she could read his thoughts, a great slap would have come hard upon his cheek. Oh, but what a pleasure it was to see the fire in those amazing eyes of hers. Darcy smiled slightly, and he couldn’t help but think of how very worth a slap from Miss Elizabeth Bennet might be, if he was a lesser man.


Thanks for keeping up with me. Goodbye for now, and please forgive me Jane.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Purist Converted

There are a host of Austen fans out there who want screen adaptations to stick really close to Jane's books. They want to see the correct carriages from the era, accurate hairstyles and costumes. They don't want to see any garden plants springing up which did not exist in England in 1810, and most importantly, they want everything that happens on the screen to have come from only the brilliant mind of Miss Jane Austen.

To an extent, I was like that--minus the carriages and the plants. I was so fond of her characters, and felt like I knew them so well--they were old friends. So, when I saw a beloved character do something that I deemed "out of character," I literally bristled. If a completely new scene or character was introduced, or a location was changed from the book, I was distracted and felt as if I was pushed off of a most familiar path.

The 2005 version of P&P bugged me. Greatly. For years. I adored the 1995 mini series, and owned it on VHS. I remember plunking down over $80 for it at Costco--never having ever seen it, just knowing how much I loved the book. (I even made back up copies of the tapes--just in case!) Of course, I now have the DVD version, and there is no way to count how many times I have seen it. I have lines memorized and looks from the actors etched in my brain. So, even though I was sooo very excited to see the new adaptation, I was quickly turned off by it almost from the first scene. I was pushed off of my familiar path and landed hard on my hynie.

My head was spinning with everything that was wrong. Wrong! Wrong! It was all wrong! First of all, I couldn't get past the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet actually loved each other. I felt that was such an important drive in Elizabeth NOT to have a marriage like her parents, which made her refusal of Mr. Collins all the more integral to the story line. I felt that they portrayed the Bennets as too poor and shabby. The Bennet girls would have had better frocks. They had spending money, and bonnets and gowns was what most of them obsessed over day and night--aside from officers. And I don't think that their house would have been such a disaster. There is NO WAY that Mrs. Bennet would have allowed a pig in her house, no matter how well endowed he was!! They changed the location of the most important scene in the book--Darcy's first proposal. How dare they?! Lady Catherine De Bourgh would never have visited the Bennets in the middle of the night, and what was Lizzy doing running around the countryside in her nightgown? And lastly, (and the more I think about it, most importantly,) I just couldn't "get" Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy. He wasn't "pretty" like Colin Firth, and he seemed more awkward than sure of himself. It made me sort of mad. I was truly disappointed. I pouted. I bought the DVD unseen with high expectations. I tucked it away in my library after one viewing and it stayed there until last spring.

Masterpiece Theater (now called Masterpiece Classics) ran a new mini series last year called "Little Dorret," and I fell in love with Matthew MacFadyen's character. He was so sweet, so vulnerable and so tortured at the same time, that I couldn't help but pull out P&P again. I was curious to watch again after four years with new eyes. I'm not sure what it was--maybe I decided to let go of the '95 adaptation and all my preconceived ideas, maybe I needed to be more attracted to the actor playing Mr. Darcy, maybe a combination of the two, but I fell head over heels for the 2005 adaptation.

I watched it over and over again. Keira Knightly was amazing (but that was never a question in my mind, even before). She was the right age (let's all face it, Jennifer Ehle looked closer to 30 than to 20, and Colin firth looked about 35 and not 25--because he was!) and I appreciated the fact that her hair wasn't perfect and her gowns weren't ironed professionally. She was Elizabeth Bennet. Young yet intelligent, spunky yet reserved, restrained yet passionate, observant yet clueless to her own feelings.

The more I watched it, the more I appreciated the "changes" made (except the pig). I appreciated them for what they were--artistic interpretations. We were not promised a recreation, we were promised a film "based" on the book, and that we were served. Matthew MacFadyen surprised me. He could smolder just as hotly as Colin Firth did, but just differently. What he did with his hand after he touched Elizabeth for the first time made my heart skip a beat. So much was said without one little word. What surprised me the most, was how much I loved the proposal under the grecian thingy in the rain. It was so dramatic, so unexpected for Elizabeth--and when they were arguing just inches from each other drenched in rain, and Darcy leaned in for a split second... heavy sigh! Mr. MacFadyen may not be pretty, but he was rugged, tortured and down right sexy there. He was in love, he was speared through, he was angry, he was vulnerable, he was mortified. He was Mr. Darcy.

OMG! I had lived out my own P&P moment! First impressions and all. All my preconceived notions--the way things "should be" versus just enjoying the movie for what it was, clouded my judgment. I will always feel like a little version of Elizabeth or Darcy, turning up my nose at something because I was so prejudiced. Heh heh... I love irony.

So, all that to say, in taking on a "What if?" using Pride and Prejudice, how closely do I stick to Miss Austen's voice, vision and characters? Everyone has their own opinions, as do I. The very nature of a "What if?" book excludes the true purists right away--they spit in our general direction and wish with every fiber of their being that we would leave poor Miss Austen and her works alone. But plenty more cannot get enough of her books and characters, and that is why I'm here today. Should I write as closely as I can to Miss Austen's vernacular and style? Should my own "voice" be heard at all? Can I write this, still stay true to the spirit of P&P, yet let myself come through?

Doing research, I have read four fan fiction books now. Three were modern adaptations and one "What if?" Holy moly! I wasn't prepared for the first one--the "What if?" Regency era one. I was at about page twenty when Darcy and Elizabeth started taking their clothes off! Talk about out of character! I literally gasped in unbelief, closed the book and instinctively looked around. I was alone, but I think my dog knew. She has kept my secret ever since, but requires a lot more treats.

Obviously, I can do anything I please, but I want to strike a nice balance. I won't have Lizzy making out with Mr. Wickham on a dare from Charlotte--I'm determined to stay true to the characters, but I don't necessarily want to copy Jane Austen's style completely. I want some of me to show through, so there will be a little different flavor, my flavor. I've already made up a completely new character who cracks me up. She's a French maid of the Gardiner's who gets Lizzy ready for the London balls she attends during her stay. Oh, crap! It just occurred to me that maybe I got that from "Little Women." I might have to remedy the whole French thing now. England was at war with them, anyway. Oh well...

"I will use Miss Austen's vision and characters as my springboard, but I will let myself be heard without distracting the reader."

How do you like that? :0) At least that's my goal. How I will carry it out--I have no idea. Maybe I should turn my attention to that now. I will go now and de-French a maid.

Goodbye for now, and please rest peacefully, Miss Austen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best Come Back Ever

“That was very ungenerous of you, Miss Eliza, to lie to Mr. Darcy’s face like that. Quite distasteful. I have to say that I will think twice before I believe anything else you say,” Caroline jabbed. She and Louisa shared a glance of victory before the former fixed her steely gaze back on Elizabeth.

“You look very lovely today, Miss Bingley,” Elizabeth simply replied with a sweet smile. Almost every occupant in the room, including Georgiana and the cufflink absorbed Mr. Hurst, stifled a smile.


That one really got me laughing. Of course, it was 1:00 a.m., and there was no one awake to share it with, but I cracked up none the less. It was like I was sitting in the corner taking notes while everyone interacted, and I was so proud of Elizabeth standing up to snotty Caroline like that. I'm not as clever or as bold as Elizabeth, but I sure would like to be her when I grow up.

Worked a little on Chapter 3 today. Elizabeth runs into Col. Fitzwilliam at a ball in London and sparks fly. In P&P he is quite charming and Elizabeth develops a crush on him, but it was never explored in any screen adaptation that I have seen, so I thought he might have to be Darcy's rival for at least a little while, but I don't think I'm through with Wickham yet either.

I'm going to take a break and read a P&P modern adaptation that just came from Amazon today. Research, you know... the fun kind. I will let you know if I like it, but won't name names if I don't, since I don't want to offend any fellow Austen writers.

Good night for now, and please forgive me Jane...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Struggling with inner monologue

Okay, so I was completely distracted today by a call from a dear friend who thinks that she met Mr. Right. He even kissed her before she boarded her train...heavy sigh.

So, I'm struggling whether or not I should let the readers into Darcy's head, and hence his feelings for Elizabeth. Miss Austen pretty much kept the readers twisting in the wind along with Elizabeth. I know that made things all the more potent and surprising when he proposed, but I also felt that Darcy was never truly fleshed out in the book and only regurgitated through Elizabeth's eyes. Maybe I can wait about halfway through and then let him loose, but would that be inconsistent?? Arrgh.

Well, here's a fun little scene from Chapter 2 of the still unnamed "What if?" novel. Darcy was involved in a riding accident the morning after the Netherfield ball and the sudden move to London to Keep Bingley and Jane apart did not happen.


“Darcy is grumpier than usual,” Mr. Bingley declared as they had tea one day. Bingley glanced over at Elizabeth and back at his tea before he continued. “He is an active man, and only being able to get as far as the garden is taking its toll on the poor fellow. He must have been a bear when you happened upon him, Miss Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth looked up from her tea. All eyes were on her. Not much had been said to her family on the subject of Elizabeth’s assistance, except to Jane. Elizabeth felt that a detailed description of her involvement would only bring unneeded speculation and gossip. If Mr. Darcy had not been so injured, it could have been a very compromising situation. So, she only spoke of her finding him and running for help.

“If you say ‘bear’ meaning unconscious and bleeding profusely—then by all means, Mr. Bingley, he was a great bear.” She smiled innocently and took another sip.

“Good heavens, Lizzy! How shocking! He was bleeding profusely? You didn’t relate that to us,” complained Mrs. Bennet, as she considered that the two who preceded the Good Samaritan most likely had excellent and sound reasons to pass on the opposite side of the road.

“You didn’t ask me anything about it, Mama,” Elizabeth noted calmly.

Lydia snorted. “No, she was too busy with our cousin, Mr. Collins, who was violently in love at the time.” Kitty and Lydia both held back laughter while Aunt Gardiner shot them looks to behave.

“I do have it in my power to tell you how upset I was when I found out you had left on foot in the rain to return to Longbourn, instead of taking shelter in my home, Miss Elizabeth,” Bingley said with sincerity, and Elizabeth felt it fully.

“Please forgive me, Mr. Bingley. You needed only to worry about Mr. Darcy, and I didn’t mind the walk one bit. I did not catch cold, I assure you.” She hesitated. “Please also convey that to Mr. Darcy for me, as I know I broke a promise to him."

“Well, you will have to convey that information yourself, Miss Elizabeth.” She looked up at him in surprise, as did the rest of the room as if he would produce the gentleman out of his trouser pocket that very moment. “I am to extend an invitation to the two eldest Miss Bennets to lunch at Netherfield tomorrow. Miss Darcy is staying with us and longs for more diverse company. May I tell her that you will attend?”


So, that's all. If real romance would stop happening around here, maybe I could get some work done...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Getting Started...

Indulging a not so secret passion, I've decided to try my hand at a "What if?" novel based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which has been one of my favorite books for over a decade. Don't get me started on the different adaptations, I will save that for another post...

Novels are new to me, as I'm mainly a script writer. I freelanced for a children's radio program and had one of my episodes turned into an animated DVD. I have since turned my attention to TV and feature film writing, but couldn't resist the siren call of this particular venue of fan fiction. The freedom of being able to describe a character's thoughts and feelings without the use of a narrator or an inner monologue is so refreshing! I'm still having to remind myself to let loose describing locations, people, sights and smells. (Oh, and writing in past tense is taking some getting used to...)

So, I started the still unnamed "What if?" last night and have two very thin first chapters. My "what if" starts the day after the Netherfield Ball, and just after the "universally charmed" Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. In summary: What if Mr. Darcy breaks his ankle getting thrown from a horse, is aided by Elizabeth, and the occupants of Netherfield never leave for London as planned to keep Bingley away from Jane? What if Miss Darcy comes to Netherfield to be with her brother during his recovery and she and Lizzy become fast friends? What if a huge misunderstanding between Darcy and Elizabeth causes Lizzy to flee to London with the Gardiners? What if Darcy follows her there?

And then, I'm out. Stay tuned... and please forgive me, Jane. :0)