Elizabeth: Women’s Fiction?

For someone who doesn’t even have a Twitter account, I’ve encountered a lot of interesting tweets lately.  Last week it was the By Age 35 thread and this week it was the tweet to the left from Comedy Central writer Jake Weisman about Jane Austen’s writing.

The tweet, as he may or may not have expected, stirred up a bit of a storm.  Not by people who disagreed with the fact that Austen combined satire with spot-on social commentary, but that Weisman had felt the need to disparage the fact that her stories also included . . .gasp! . . . love and romance.  The consensus seemed to be that he had read her work, enjoyed it, and was appalled that he might be thought to be a fan of romance.

Heaven forbid! Continue reading

Michaeline: Secrets, Secrets Never Cease

Elizabeth Bennet with the scales of justice

In Pride and Prejudice, secrets are kept from the readers, but we have a friend and guide as Elizabeth Bennet discovers the secrets and weighs the characters of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not sure why, but my mind is still on secrets this week. Last week, we expressed indignation in the comments about writers who keep secrets from the readers, but I’ve been thinking about it a little more, and . . . isn’t that precisely what writers are supposed to do? The writer, by the third or fifth or fiftieth draft, knows exactly what’s going on and all the secrets in the book (in theory). The writer could reveal everything in the first paragraph and be done with it. The art and the skill comes in revealing the secrets bit by bit.

I think what we protest against is clumsiness in handling secrets. As Nancy mentioned, one way of handling it is that there must be clues, they have to make sense, and the reader shouldn’t feel duped when they discover what’s going on.

I’m re-reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for the umpteenth time this week, and you’d think by now, I know all the secrets in that book so thoroughly that the story would fail to entertain. But it doesn’t . . . I still find it very hard to put the book down.

The big secret is Mr. Wickham’s true character. Continue reading

Jilly: Creative Re-Writing

Creative Re-writingHave you ever read or watched a story that frustrated you so much you re-wrote it in your head the way you wanted it?

I was still at school the first time it happened to me. A friend lent me Gone With The Wind, and since even then I was a committed lover of the happy ending, she assured me that everything turned out okay in the end. I sobbed through the final chapters waiting for the reversal that never came. I dealt with it by imagining my own version of the story, and I’ve never re-read the original since. I’m still on speaking terms with the ‘friend’ who caused my book trauma, but it was touch and go for a while.

I’ve been revisiting the question this week Continue reading

Michille: Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

512px-SenseAndSensibilityTitlePageJane Austen’s birthday was actually December 16, 1775 (okay, that was yesterday, but that wasn’t my post day). So I will honor her a day late. Jane Austen is arguably one of the most important modern literary voices. Her works of romantic fiction provide a lasting social commentary of English society in the early 1800s. She showed the flaws and foibles of people with humor and charm and, while considered a romance novelist by most, can also be viewed as a humanist for her realistic portraits of society. Four of her novels were published in her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously in 1818.

Here are some interesting tidbits about Jane Austen (and her fan base) that you may or may not already know: Continue reading

Jilly: Alpha Males and Guilty Pleasures

Alpha Males & Guilty PleasuresHow alpha do you like your heroes? If your favorites are uber-dominant types, do they inhabit a sub-genre that expects or requires that behavior?

In my reading life I greatly enjoy alpha male asshattery. There are provisos: obviously the asshat in question must be a good guy deep down, he must have brains and a sense of humor, and he must be enlightened enough to respect and enjoy being challenged by a heroine who’s his equal and maybe even stronger.

Even with those provisos met, though, most of my favorite heroes indulge in the kind of high-handed, obnoxious behavior that I would find totally unacceptable in real life. It’s been on my mind this week, because I’m in the first draft of a new story and I’m gradually filling in all sorts of details about my hero. As I’m writing contemporary romance, it’s closer to home, and I’m finding it tricky to get the balance right. I found it a struggle with the previous book, too: after reading my opening scene from an early draft (a McDaniel College romance writing assignment), Jenny Crusie said she’d keep reading, but only in the hope that my hero, Ian, would get hit by a bus. Continue reading

Michaeline: Description, Part One

line-drawing of a horse in the Japanese style

A horse is a horse, of course. But how much detail do we really need to be able to see a horse? (Via Wikimedia Commons)

I am wrestling with description this week, and will probably be doing so for much of next month (and perhaps for the rest of my writing life).

Description boils down to the very simple fact that you have to get images out of your head, and transfer them into your readers’ heads. Some writers are quite particular about drawing word pictures, and they want the reader to see almost exactly what they see (a bit quixotic, if you ask me).

Others, on the other hand, concentrate on getting the images out of their own heads, purging them, if you will, by writing them. They may not care if the writer’s image and the reader’s image match exactly. They should care, however, about whether or not  Continue reading

Jilly: Treats from the Peak

North Lees Hall, the original Thornfield Hall (David Lally via Wikimedia Commons)

North Lees Hall, the original Thornfield Hall (David Lally via Wikimedia Commons)

Are you tempted by our Christmas Week Short Story Challenge? Everyone’s invited, and it’s only a measly five hundred words.

The challenge evolved in the comments to my post Man-Caves & Brainwaves, about the rich and varied history of my home county of Derbyshire and its story potential. The rules (guidelines, really, it’s Christmas and we’re flexible) are simple – write a 500-word short story including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following: Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, Volcano, Ghost. Extra kudos for using more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

I’ll be starting off the challenge next Sunday (21 December). Several of the other Ladies are planning to play, and Michaeline will close the week in style the following Saturday, 27 December.

If you have a little reading time, here are Continue reading