Serendipitous Details

I met Summer Hanford in an online writing class, where the teacher had a master’s degree in creative writing. The teacher described writing a novel as driving with headlights. You could see enough to drive but not much more. Presumably, you knew your goal. Because students could only turn in a limited amount of material, the class encouraged writing roughly a chapter at a time.

There is another philosophy of writing. The writer creates an outline and then follows it. I am a driving-with-headlights writer. Summer is an outline writer. In essence, I give her a detailed outline, which I have achieved without an outline. A twenty thousand word “outline” for a sixty-thousand-word novel is sufficiently detailed, isn’t it? 😊

One of the results of the way I write is that I frequently go back and change things. I decide I want something to happen, so I go back to foreshadow it. Alternatively, I could be originally thinking of going a certain direction, decide not to, but must go back and take out the foreshadowing.

But sometimes things work in another direction. I will put something in and find I can use it. In one case, a character was given a surname of Green. I put something in about green referring to inexperienced or young. I’m sure readers would assume I named the character for that reason, but it happened the other way around.

Yesterday I was working on a novel that is a Pride and Prejudice variation. There is an extremely minor character in Pride and Prejudice named Mrs. Annesley who was Georgiana Darcy’s companion. I didn’t want her in a scene, mainly because a character who is in a scene and contributes nothing makes the scene more complicated to write. Yes, sometimes I’m lazy.

Using the excuse that the carriage taking four people was full, I unkindly left her behind. But Miss Bingley returned early and ended up having a conversation with Mrs. Annesley. I needed that conversation to make Miss Bingley approach something sensibly. Suddenly, I realized here was a character I could use.

I still don’t know how I’m going to use her, but I’m leaning toward pairing her with Colonel Fitzwilliam. But by staying in the background, she achieved a role of a character having at least two scenes. As a fan of Jane Austen, I appreciate the irony.

A Friendly Warning about A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice

Two years ago, almost everyone I knew was computer literate. Now that I’ve moved into a retirement community, many people I know aren’t. Summer and I wish to have our stories available to all readers, and that includes people who cannot or will not read an eBook. Many people love the feel of a book. I can hardly blame them. For me, physical books are associated with many pleasant hours of reading.

Cost, the ability to enlarge the type, and lack of storage space has turned me into a fan of eBooks, but others haven’t made the shift. Perhaps they have better eyesight, more space or more money to allocate to books. Whatever their reason for enjoying print books over eBooks, we’ve taken this opportunity to make four of our short works, previously available only as eBooks because they’re simply not long enough to turn into print books, and put them in a single paper book. There is nothing in the paper books that isn’t in the four, previously published eBooks. We’ve also turned the collection into an eBook because it is very easy to do.

Although we love for people to buy our books, the one thing we don’t want to happen is for people to buy A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice thinking it is something new. Consequently, Summer made the cover of A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice with the original covers from the stories contained within.

Three of the books can be read using Kindle Unlimited. Those are:

Epiphany with Tea: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Miss Bingley’s Christmas: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

 Their Secret Love: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novelette

The fourth book, From Ashes to Heiresses: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, can be read for free by going to

– Renata McMann

Pride and Prejudice, Humor and Cynicism

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Pride and Prejudice’s famous opening sentence sets the tone. Jane Austen contradicts the opening sentence in the first chapter by having Mr. Bennet question it. It is certainly not a “truth universally acknowledged.” It isn’t even a truth, much less accepted.

Jane Austen’s cynical tone is shown by many of her characters. Mr. Bennet utters what might have been her motto: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

But Mr. Bennet also displays cynicism in other ways. When Elizabeth refuses to marry Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet wants her husband to force her to do so, he says, “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Later, Elizabeth wonders how much money it took to persuade Wickham to marry Lydia. Mr. Bennet says, “Wickham’s a fool if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship.” He would be sorry to have his son-in-law be a fool. That is reasonable. What is not reasonable is that to show he isn’t foolish, his son-in-law must squeeze the maximum amount of money out of his bride’s relatives. Surely, Mr. Bennet isn’t sorry about that.

Mr. Darcy isn’t above a certain cynicism: “What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished society.” “Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” True, but even though Jane Austen wrote it over two hundred years ago, many still think dancing is refined.

But Jane Austen certainly was cynical when she described people’s actions. Miss Bingley isn’t as comical as some of the other characters, but she certainly had her moments. “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! …” No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement.

Mrs. Bennet contradicts herself so often that one wonders if she had any idea of consistency. Consider part of her speech to Elizabeth when she refused Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage: “…I have done with you from this very day. I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. … Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

Another instance of Mrs. Bennet’s lack of logic about how she cares for her eldest daughter is shown here: “Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will be sorry for what he has done.” But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such expectation, she made no answer.

Lady Catherine is not as stupid as some of the characters in Pride and Prejudice, but Jane Austen does have such gems as this: The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow.

Mr. Collins has many funny moments, but one that stands out is this: “You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.”

If anyone does not think Jane Austen was a great comedic writer, one approach is to use the same approach Elinor used in Sense and Sensibility: Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.

Happily Ever After for Pride and Prejudice Villains

We have already published three stories that give villains a happy ending: Mrs. Bennet’s Triumph (a bonus short story found on this site as well as at the end of The Second Mrs. Darcy), Caroline and the Footman, and Mr. Collins’ Deception. We are currently working on Mary Younge (pun intended) and have plans for Lady Catherine’s Regrets. The story about Mrs. Bennet is a Pride & Prejudice variation. The others try to be largely consistent with the original but have a separate story within them.

Jane Austen wrote villains who were only slightly villainous. We’ve discussed Caroline Bingley and Mr. Wickham on this website. They are actually the most villainous of the Pride and Prejudice villains because they actively advanced their own interests at the expense of others. The other ‘villains’ are perhaps stupid and self-centered, but think they mean well.

We don’t know anything about Mrs. Younge. We don’t even know for certain that she was ever married, because sometimes women over twenty-five were given the title Mrs. even if they hadn’t married. Was she duped by Wickham? Was she a plant to facilitate Wickham’s marriage to Georgiana Darcy? If so, how could she trust him to give her a share of the money? Was she so enamored by Wickham that she was willing to ruin her career by helping him? How old was she? What was her background? How was she able to run a lodging house after being fired in disgrace? Our answer should appear in the summer of 2015.

Jane Austen didn’t create the Wicked Witch of the West or Hannibal Lector. She created people. How many rock stars have a little bit of Lady Catherine in them? They may even hire their own Mr. Collins, who is an overstatement of yes-men. Mrs. Bennet is an exaggeration, but how many mothers are frantically trying to do what they can to help their children? Jane Austen speaks to us because she saw human truth in her limited world which was, in her words:  “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Caroline Bingley

Caroline Bingley is a character people love to hate. She’s often portrayed as a villain in Pride and Prejudice variations, but Jane Austen cleverly makes her only a mild villain. She lied to Jane Bennet, but most of her lies are difficult to pin down. She talked about people’s feelings, but she could be mistaken in those. Her claim that Mr. Bingley and Georgiana Darcy might marry is not entirely without foundation, since it is implied that Mr. Darcy considered that as a possibility.

Caroline Bingley is funny because she undermines herself. Sometimes she does so immediately, such as the following statement:

“Elizabeth Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”

One has to ask if she is listening to herself.

When Darcy praises Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes, Caroline mockingly talks of Darcy’s marriage to Elizabeth with an emphasis on his dealings with her family. But Darcy controlled his attraction to Elizabeth very well until he saw her at Rosings, away from her family. In Darcy’s proposal, he talked about his struggle. He almost certainly thought that he could enjoy Elizabeth as a wife and only have infrequent contact with her family. Caroline’s talk of the marriage probably helped Darcy’s struggle, since it pinpointed the problem.

Caroline also pushes Darcy to say how attractive Elizabeth is, probably for the first time. Regardless of how many times he thought that, saying it in public probably helped solidify his feelings for Elizabeth.

Caroline’s attempt to attract Darcy in a positive way, by flattery and attention, has to be considered less than well-planned. He must be very used to both. Praising his writing? Asking him to include statements to his sister, when it would be permissible for her to write Georgiana directly? Telling him they are both above the company they keep, when he must consider himself well above her? Reading the second volume of a book when he is reading the first volume?

On the last, how about reading the first volume when he is not reading it, and talking to him about it? Wouldn’t that be more likely to attract his interest?

Summer Hanford and I wrote a short story called “Caroline and the Footman” which explores the possibility that Caroline Bingley’s actions are not caused by stupidity and not motivated to attract Darcy. We aim to shatter the Caroline Bingley villain motif, and turn what you thought you knew about her on its head. This story will come out in January, 2015.

Georgiana Darcy

Georgiana Darcy is an important character in Pride and Prejudice, although she doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. As a writer of Pride and Prejudice variations, I have tried to speculate on what she was like. As is usually the case, I started with what Jane Austen tells us about her.

Wickham persuaded Georgiana to elope with him, which supports his contention he devoted hours to her amusement. His statement of her being proud we can dismiss along with his other lies about the Darcys. Miss Bingley describes her in glowing terms, but that can likewise be dismissed, since she was trying to ingratiate herself with Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Reynold’s description of her working on her accomplishments is probably true, since it is consistent with other sources.

When the reader actually meets her, she is shown to be very shy rather than proud. Jane Austen wrote a paragraph about Georgiana after Elizabeth marries Darcy, but it gives us relatively little information about her character, except that she was unsure of herself.

Georgiana could simply be shy, but she could be shy and rebellious. Her initial willingness to elope with Wickham says that she didn’t always follow the rules. She knew she was doing something wrong and her brother would disapprove. Presumably, her governess, Mrs. Younge, encouraged her on that, but she was no more willing to stand up for what she knew was right than she was willing to stand up to Miss Bingley criticizing Elizabeth, which was one of the few of Georgiana’s actions Jane Austen described.

In Georgiana’s Folly, Summer Hanford and I tried to show Georgiana as a rebellious teenager. Her relationship with her brother isn’t as perfect as it is sometimes portrayed.

Was Wickham Evil?

“[Wickham had] vicious propensities… [and] his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.” From Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth.

To answer that question, we have to list those things that are known about him.

He went into debt. These debts were both gambling debts and debts to merchants. The gambling debts were debts of honor, and thus not legally recoverable. The debts to the merchants in Meryton and Brighton were much more serious in Jane Austen’s time than today, because he could go to debtor prison.

He slandered Mr. Darcy. He certainly was guilty of that, and Darcy could have sued him for damages. Of course, Wickham didn’t have any money to pay Darcy.

He tried to elope with a fifteen year old heiress. This looks worse from a modern perspective than from the time. Mr. Wickham and Georgiana Darcy could legally marry in Scotland. He also had the consent of the person who was in charge of Georgiana. Mrs. Younge wasn’t Georgiana’s legal guardian, but was entrusted to her care. Her encouragement of the elopement gave Wickham some legitimacy.

He ran off with a sixteen year old. Again, this was less serious in his day than now. I don’t claim to know the law on this issue, but the fact that Mr. Darcy couldn’t get Lydia Bennet to leave Wickham suggests there were no legal issues here. Also, Lydia’s mother was happy with the marriage. The fact that the Bennets’ neighbors accepted Lydia and Wickham once they were married suggests that they didn’t consider Wickham too evil for this act.

As villains go, Wickham is very mild. Darcy said he had vicious propensities, but at the time Jane Austen wrote, “vicious” meant “immoral, corrupt. The word then did not have the connotations of ferocity or aggression that it has now.” [The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, edited by David M. Shapard, 2004, page 369.] It is easy to believe that he was guilty of “idleness and dissipation,” but that came from a man who hated him. A less prejudiced observer, Mrs. Reynolds, called him very wild. Wickham certainly wasn’t a good man, but calling him evil does not seem to be justified.

…except that he caused pain to our favorite fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth.