Category Archives: Writing

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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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Colonel Brandon

*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 all deal with grief and heartbreak in different ways. Some of us grieve and then move on with our lives. Others go about our business and try to not let the past get in the way of our present.  When the reader/audience meets Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. He is all manners and amiability, holding his metaphorical cards to the chest.  Marianne Dashwood, Mrs. Dashwood’s 17-year-old daughter sees nothing but an old man who is boring and has resigned from life.

But Colonel Brandon is a different man from the readers initially meet. The younger son of wealthy landowner, in his youth, he was in love with Eliza, his father’s ward. She was equally in love with him and ready to run away with him, but they were discovered and stopped. Sent away by his father, Colonel Brandon learns that Eliza, who is an heiress was forced to marry his older brother. It was not a love match, to say the least.

A few years later, Colonel Brandon discovers that Eliza is now divorced from his older brother and is dying in a poorhouse. Forced to earn her bread by selling her body, Eliza has a young daughter. Though he cannot save Eliza, Colonel Brandon takes in Eliza’s daughter, raising her as his ward.

Though it is not immediately obvious to the reader (nor to Marianne, who only realizes who her heart belongs to at the end of the book), Colonel Brandon, though appearing to be outwardly boring, is very much the ideal life partner. He is loving, loyal, generous, considerate and the knight in shining armor that Marianne thinks she has in John Willoughby (who will be discussed in two weeks).

To sum it up: In creating Colonel Brandon, Jane Austen created a character who surprised the audience/reader. When a writer can surprise the audience and totally change the way the character or the narrative is looked at, then they have done their job. It is just a question of how to weave the surprise into the existing narrative and character arc.

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Happy Birthday Anne Bronte

Sometimes, when we make the decision to walk the path that is not walked by everyone else, we make history, even if we don’t know it at the time.

Anne Bronte was born on this day in 1820. The youngest of Patrick and Maria Bronte’s six children, she died at the young age of 29. In her lifetime, she completed two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall.

While she is often not given the respect and name recognition that goes to her elder sisters, Charlotte and Emily, her writing is on par with her sisters. Writing about every day life in Victorian England, her writing stands out because she spoke of the truth of what it was to be a woman in the period. In Agnes Grey, she wrote about a woman whose respectable career choices were severely limited and must work as a governess to support herself and her family. Agnes’s charges are spoiled and their parents are apathetic to their children’s behavior. In Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, a woman arrives in a small rural town, presenting herself as a widow with a young son. The truth about her identity made a small, but important dent in the worldwide women’s movement that is still being felt today.

As a writer and a proto-feminist, Anne Bronte, along with her sisters, helped to pave the way for women and women writers that continues to be felt a century and a half after her untimely passing.

Wherever you are, Anne Bronte, happy birthday.

 

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Even This I Get to Experience Book Review

Norman Lear is one of the godfathers of modern television. One of the geniuses behind All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, etc, his shows forever altered the way the television landscape.

In 2014, Lear published his autobiography, Even This I Get to Experience.  The narrative is the standard womb to tomb autobiography. Starting with his parents, the reader learns about his early life and then goes through to his adulthood, his marriages and his children and his iconic career as a comedy writer and a show runner.

 

Yes, the narrative for the book is pretty standard for an autobiography. While some parts of the book are a little slow, overall, it’s a good read. As both a fan and a writer, it’s always fascinating to learn how one’s experiences and the people they meet along the way can either consciously or subconsciously be found in the writer’s work.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Just Write

The amount of writing advice one could look up on the internet is endless. Regardless of their level of success, every writer has at least once piece of writing advice to share with their fellow writers.

But without a doubt, the most important piece of advice is just to write.

Is the first draft going to absolutely perfect? Perhaps in a fantasy world, but not in the real world. In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, (which I highly recommend), Anne Lamott has a chapter called Shitty First Drafts for a reason.  It’s easier to make edits to a shitty first draft than to a page with no text at all.

Over this past holiday season, I made myself a goal. By the time clock struck midnight on December 31st, I would have a word count of 20,000 words for my novel. It wasn’t easy, especially with the distractions that can take one away from writing, but I did it.

My point that writers have to write.We have to turn on the metaphorical faucet and do the work. It’s not easy, but there are few satisfactions that can compare to knowing that you have achieved a piece of writing that your proud of (even if it is in shitty first draft form).

 

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Top Ten Book Reviews Of 2017

2017 was a good year for the publishing industry, at least from my perspective. Below are top ten books for 2017.

  1. The Genius Of Jane AustenJane Austen was a genius, this book explains why.
  2. Growing Up Fisher: Joely Fisher’s unconventional autobiography is a look into her very unique Hollywood family.
  3. What HappenedHillary Clinton’s brutally honest reminiscence of the 2016 Presidential Election is one for the ages.
  4. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman: This must read book examines how female celebrities are questioning what is acceptable for a woman.
  5. The Making Of Jane AustenJane Austen was not born a writer, she made herself into one.
  6. Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Leia, Princess of AlderaanThe book tells the story of Princess Leia two years before the events of A New Hope.
  7. Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening: Saudi Arabia is known the world over for its oppressive laws against its women. Manal Al-Sharif is fighting to change that.
  8. Mr. Rochester: Written from the point of view of Edward Rochester, Charlotte Bronte’s most famous hero, the book is an eye-opening story on the man readers thought they knew.
  9. You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody): Alec Baldwin co wrote this hilarious book from the mind of you know who. Ridiculously funny.
  10. The Great Gasbag: An A-to-Z Study Guide to Surviving Trump World: Written by The View co-host Joy Behar, this novel is for anyone who needs a laugh, especially considering what has come out of D.C. this year.

Honorable Mentions

 

This will be my last blog post for 2017. Wherever you are, have a safe and happy new year. See you in 2018.

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Carrie Fisher-Gone A Year Today

 

A year ago today, Carrie Fisher passed away.

Writer, actress, mental health activist, mother, daughter, sister, feminist, Fisher was an icon to many for many reasons. Playing Leia Organa in the Star Wars film franchise, Fisher helped to change the way women are portrayed in film, especially in science fiction and fantasy films. Leia was not just the heart and the brains of the rebellion, she was whip smart and in charge.

Leia grabbing the blaster from Luke’s hands and shooting at the storm troopers was a small moment in A New Hope, but a big moment in the history of women on-screen.

After Star Wars and in between her other roles, Fisher became one hell of a writer, publishing her own work in addition to gaining the envious title of one of the most in demand script doctors in Hollywood.  She was not afraid to speak openly about her addiction and mental illness issues when others were still in the closet about their addiction and mental illness issues.

The thing that will always stand out for me, is that she was herself, warts and all. Unapologetic, unafraid and upfront. We should all be so brave to be ourselves and not give a sh*t what someone else thinks of us.

For that, she will always be my hero.

RIP Carrie. A year still seems like yesterday.

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Reading Jane Austen Book Review

Jane Austen and her novels continues to be read and discussed for good reason.

Jenny Davidson’s new non fiction book, Reading Jane Austen, basically explains not only why her novels are timeless, but why we are still reading them 200 years later. While talking about the formal structure of the novels and how Austen created new techniques to develop her narrative and her characters, Ms. Davidson also talks about themes such as the rules of society and how women were seen treated.

This book is well written and enjoyable to read. I will however warn that it meanders towards academic writing at several points and new Janeites may not understand the writing as well as Janeites who are well versed in Jane’s novels.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Emma, Feminism, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Writing

Thoughts On Jane Austen’s Birthday

Tomorrow is Jane Austen‘s birthday.

She was a pioneer in so many arenas. She unknowingly developed the modern novel as we know it to be today. She was a feminist without overtly wearing the label of feminism. Unlike other women who quietly followed the rules of the period without question, Jane asked the questions, both in her fiction and in her own life.

For my birthday a few weeks ago, I received a magnet that states “nasty women make history”. Jane Austen was a nasty woman.  She had a sharp tongue, a quick mind, loved to laugh, loved to have a good time and most of all, never went along with the crowd just because everyone else was doing it.  It would have been easy for her to follow the path in life that according to her society was pre-ordained (i.e. marriage and children), but she didn’t.  Jane Austen knew that marriage for marriage’s sake was not what she wanted. Marriage, in her eyes, was for love, not to fulfill an obligation that she was told to fulfill.

Instead, she chose to remain single. While her ring finger was never covered in gold, she had children: her books. Referring to them as her own darling children, Austen published six of the greatest books in English literature: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Jane Austen will always be one of my heroes. As a writer and a woman, she paved the way for future generations of women to not only break from the expected roles of wife and mother, but she also paved the way for women to be themselves without having to put on a mask to be liked.

Happy Birthday Jane.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

A Christmas Carol is the progenitor of every Christmas story has been published since 1843.  The Charles Dickens novel has not only become synonymous with the holiday, but also with the idea of being kind to our fellow mortals.

The new film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, stars Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens. With the recent success of Oliver Twist,  Dickens is under pressure to write his next novel. But with the creative well running dry and his bank account running equally as dry, he has to do something. Soon the idea for his next novel will start flowing, but so will the tension with his wife, Kate  (Morfydd Clark) and his father, John (Jonathan Price). He must also contend with the characters that are talking to him, including the man who will soon be known to the world as Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and face his own past.

 

As a writer, it is always fascinating to see how other writers go on their creative journey to create their work. As an audience member, for me at least, it is fascinating to watch how a screenwriter can expand not just upon the myth, but on the everyday human struggles of their characters, especially ones that are as well known as Charles Dickens.

I recommend it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is presently in theaters. 

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