Category Archives: Jane Austen

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues Book Review

For every hero, there is a villain. For every romantic leading man who ends up with the romantic leading lady, there is a rogue who fails to keep them apart.

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, edited by Christina Boyd, is a series of short stories by a group of authors who delve into the lives and emotions of some of Austen’s male characters who are not typically given the spotlight. The includes Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice, Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion and Mr. Willoughby from Sense And Sensibility.

I really enjoyed this book. As both a writer and a reader, it’s always interesting to look at secondary characters who normally do not receive the same attention as the leading characters. Like any writer, Austen spent most of her time focusing on her main characters, opening the door for other writers to focus on characters normally do not receive the same attention.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen

The Story Question AKA Why Should Someone Else Care About Your Story

Of all of the basic elements that make up a successful narrative, the most important one to my mind is the story question.

Today I started reading a book and by the beginning of the second chapter, I felt like I couldn’t go on. The writer had yet to ask the story question.

In a nutshell, the story question grinds down the narrative down to a sentence or two.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: Can a small band of rebels destroy an evil empire?
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet must marry because she has a small inheritance and no brother to inherit directly from her father. But she will give into the pressure to marry or will she marry for love?
  • Jane Eyre: Can an orphaned young woman remain true to herself and not change to please others?

But, even with a great story question, the key is to ask the story very question early in the story.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: The opening scene is that of the Empire’s warship closing on a ship they believe belongs to the rebellion.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters in a family that is without a direct male heir. Her mother is crowing about their new neighbor, a young man who is single and reputed to be wealthy.
  • Jane Eyre: Jane Eyre is an orphan, living with relations who abuse her. She is reading a book and trying to hide from her cousins who frequently mock and bully her.

In creating my own fiction and critiquing fiction by other writers, I have learned that the story question is the most important question that is not only asked by the writer, but by the reader. In my experience, if the question is not asked properly and early on, it is likely to be lost in the narrative. If it is lost in the narrative, the reader or audience may never find it and walk away.

That is the last thing any writer wants.

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Filed under Books, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Throwback Thursday- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

The Cold War is often used as the backdrop for some of fiction’s greatest spy stories.

In the 2011 film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, (based upon the novel of the same name by John le Carré), George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a former spy who thinks that his working days are behind him. Then a Soviet spy is found within MI6 and George is called back to work to discover the identity of the spy.

I’ve never read the original novel nor had I seen the 1979 adaptation starring Alec Guinness. The only reason I went to see the film was the cast, most of whom are British and have starred in adaptations of Jane Austen novels. As I recall, I didn’t quite get the intricacies of the narrative and by the end of the film, I remember being confused.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

 

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Filed under Books, History, Jane Austen, Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday

5 Reasons To Attend The 2018 JASNA AGM

Every year, for one weekend, Janeites across the country gather together at the JASNA AGM to celebrate all things Austen. This year, the AGM will be held in Kansas City at the end of September.  The subject is Persuasion and with a little luck, Amanda Root, who played Anne Elliot in the 1995 Persuasion will be in attendance.

Below, are the five reasons to attend the 2018 JASNA AGM:

  1. The chance to travel to cities that you otherwise might not have visited. Last year’s AGM was held in Huntington Beach, California. I can say now that I’ve been to California, which I couldn’t say before last fall.
  2. You get to meet Janeites from across the country and across the world.
  3. The speakers are amazing. The variety of subjects that relate to Jane Austen and novels are nothing short of dizzying.
  4. The Emporium is heaven. T-shirts, books, tea, etc. Every year, I have to remind myself that there is only so much room in my suitcase.
  5. Last, but not certainly least is the ball. Not everyone dresses up or dances, but it is certainty the highlight of every AGM, for me at least.

 

This is one trip I am looking forward to. Perhaps I will see one of you there.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Lucy Steele

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that conflict is one of the key components of any story, regardless of genre to or specific narrative. When written well, conflict is what keeps the reader/audience engaged. In the romance genre, conflict usually comes by way of something or someone who is keeping the would be lovers apart.

In Sense And Sensibility, that someone is Lucy Steele. The would be lovers she is keeping apart is Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood. Lucy is introduced to Elinor and the audience about a third of the way into the story. Lucy is one of two sisters, who is related to the distant cousin who is leasing the Dashwoods a cottage on his property after the death of their father and husband.

Lucy has a secret and Elinor is the one she chooses to share her secret with. Lucy is secretly engaged. Her future husband is Edward Ferrars, a former pupil of her uncle. The engagement is a secret because of the status of Edward’s family. While Lucy tells Elinor of her secret engagement, only Elinor and the reader/audience is aware of the spark between Elinor and Edward.

To sum it up: In using Lucy to create a wedge between Edward and Elinor, Austen is upping the ante on the reader/audience. She is keeping them on the edge of the seat and not (at least yet anyway), answering the will they or won’t they question when it comes to Elinor and Edward. A good writer knows when and where to introduce conflict and if written properly, the conflict will keep the reader/audience going to the very end.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Uncategorized

Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Mrs. Jennings

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Every author, regardless of genre, relies on a stable of character tropes when creating the characters that inhabit the world of their stories. One of the familiar character tropes that readers of Jane Austen will recognize is the character that induces eye rolling and internal groaning. This character for the most part, is female, older and though she has good intentions, sometimes runs her mouth off without thinking.

In Sense And Sensibility, this character is Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. Jennings is a wealthy widow who is distantly related via marriage to the novel’s heroines, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. With both of her daughters married, Mrs. Jennings is more than happy to play matchmaker for Elinor and Marianne. The problem is that her advice/attention is unwanted by the girls. Mrs. Jennings also lacks the self awareness that she sometimes has, well, foot in mouth disease.

To sum it up: While Mrs. Jennings is peripheral character, she in her own way, contributes to the narrative. As writers, we have to remember that every character plays a role in the narrative, whether they are central to the plot or they come and go as needed. The peripheral characters may not be front and center, but they still as important as the main characters. We cannot forget them or marginalize them, for if we do that, the story loses some it’s humanity and it’s color. That humanity and color is vital to the narrative, otherwise it will be just another story with another set of characters.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John And Fanny Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

We need money to survive, that is a fact of life. Money buys us a roof over our heads, fresh food and clean clothing. But money also has a corrupting influence. It can blind us to the suffering of others and can make us forget that the person next to us is a human being.

If nothing can be said about Jane Austen, one can say that she used her characters to make statements about the world she lived in (as every writer does). John and Fanny Dashwood are the half-brother and sister-in-law to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the heroines of Sense And Sensibility. John has the luck of the draw, he is the first-born son and automatically inherits Norland, the Dashwood family estate upon the death of his father. That means that his stepmother and half sisters will have to find another place to call home.

Fanny is a corrupting influence on her husband. While John is more than ready to give his sisters and stepmother the income promised to them in his father’s will, Fanny convinces him to reduce the amount drastically. She is also an out-and-out snob, making it clear to Mrs. Dashwood early in the novel that the budding romance between Elinor and her brother Edward will have to be squashed. If Sense And Sensibility has a villain, these two are it.

To sum it up: When a writer wishes to make a statement, they have one of two choices. They can hit the reader over the head, which might be effective, but it also might not be. Or, the writer could find a way to weave their statement into the narrative and characters,  making the statement not only more effective and memorable in the minds of the readers.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John Willoughby

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For romantic love to last what will hopefully be a lifetime, it requires three key ingredients: commitment, compromise and the willingness to stand by your significant other through good times and bad. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling or unable to do what is stated above to make love last. John Willoughby is one of these people.

The reader is introduced to Mr. Willoughby in the most romantic way possible: he rescues one of the novel’s heroines, Marianne Dashwood. Marianne falls and twists her ankle during a rainstorm. He sweeps her off her feet, both literally and figuratively. The heir to a local estate, he is handsome, charming and outgoing. It look like Mr. Willoughby and Marianne are headed for wedded bliss, if only he would propose. Then he disappears without much of an explanation and it all goes south from there.

Like all of Austen’s male baddies, Mr. Willoughby is all charm with nothing beneath the charm. His smooth manners and easy conversations conceal a man whose motives are cold and selfish. He only cares for his own desires and does not care for the feelings of someone else.

To sum it up: Willoughby is a jerk, to say the least. However, the reader/audience member does not know that initially. That is the fun of reading and where the writer’s work truly begins. It’s like a magic act where the magician is telling the audience to look at their left hand, but the real trick is in their right hand.

A complete 180 switch for a character is never easy, especially when the audience/reader thinks that they have an idea of who this person is. The writer must create such a convincing character, that when this 180 switch occurs, it creates a ripple effect that completely changes the rest of the narrative and how this character is viewed. Without that complete convincing of knowing who this character is, the reveal will lose its power and the reader will not be compelled to continue with the story.

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Thoughts On The Anniversary Of The Publishing Of Pride and Prejudice

*Warning: this post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations.

There are some books that continue to speak to us on a broad cultural level, regardless of the era when they were published.

Pride and Prejudice is one of these books. Written by Jane Austen and published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice continues to be one of the most popular and relevant books in our culture.

While on the surface, Pride and Prejudice is the story of the rocky courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzilliam Darcy, it is much more than that. Austen was an astute observer of her era, using her novels to subversively point out the human foibles of her characters and the social misfires that are as relevant today as they were in 1813. Whether it was the disenfranchising of women (the Bennet girls automatically disqualified from inheriting the family home because they are women), the snobbery of the upper classes (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) or the foolishness of marriage for marriage’s sake (the not so happy marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet), Austen was not afraid to use her writing to reveal some hard truths about her world.

In addition to Pride and Prejudice, Austen published five other novels in her lifetime. She died at the age of 41, not knowing that her popularity would last centuries after her death.

I am going to end this post with Thug Notes edition of Pride and Prejudice because, I can’t think of a better way to honor Pride and Prejudice.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Edward Ferrars

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

One of the more common narratives that has been used since the beginning of storytelling is the needs and wants of the individual versus the needs and wants of those around the individual. This is the struggle of the character of Edward Ferrars.

Edward is the oldest son from a wealthy family. He is to inherit quite a tidy sum from his mother upon her passing. Both his mother and sister (who is sister in law to Elinor Dashwood) have grand plans for Edward, but Edward wants a quieter life.

The reader meets Edward after Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood when he is invited to Norland, the ancestral estate of the Dashwoods, which has come into John Dashwood’s possession after the death of his father.  Mr. Dashwood’s stepmother and younger half sisters will soon be displaced from Norland and will have to find a new home. But that doesn’t stop a spark from lighting between Elinor and Edward.

The problem with this spark is that it stands in the way of Edward marrying a woman whom they would deem to be a more appropriate wife. After Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters leave Norland, Edward visits them in their new home at Barton cottage, but something about him seems elusive, as if he is hiding something.  Quiet, noble and honorable, Edward has a secret that may forever sever his ties with Elinor and force him to marry a woman for the sake of marriage and not for love.

To sum it up: While some Jane Austen fans have griped about Edward Ferrars, I happen to think that he is one of her most underrated male leads. While he starts off quietly acquiescing to his mother and sister, fate will force him to make a choice between love and duty, between his needs and the needs of those around him.

When a writer chooses this narrative of love vs. duty, their main goal is to create tension and to force the character to ask difficult questions. Without that tension and those difficult questions, it will be hard for the reader to get involved with the narrative and want to stay with the character throughout the story. The key is both the tension and the questions and if done right, the reader will stay glued to the edge of their seat until the final page.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Writing