Welcome back on My Jane Austen Book Club to Emily C. A. Snyder . Emily has been inventing stories since she was old enough to babble, and writing them down since she was old enough to dictate. A prolific writer, Snyder is the author of "Nachtsturm Castle" available from Girlebooks.com, as well as the author of The Twelve Kingdoms series from Arx Publishing, LLC (arxpub.com) which includes "Niamh and the Hermit" and "Charming the Moon." In addition to novels, Snyder enjoys writing plays, such as "Wallace's Will" available from from Playscripts, Inc. (playscripts.com).
Snyder holds an MA in Theatre Education from Emerson College, Boston, MA and a BA in Literature and Drama from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH.
When not writing, Emily can most often be seen teaching or directing Shakespeare. And when not doing that, chances are she's driving aimlessly in her car, singing at the top of her lungs. For more information, please visit her website http://www.christianfantasy.
net/emilycasnyder or http://www.youtube.com/gaudete .
Read Emily's brilliant piece, comment and enter the giveaway of one of her Austen-inspired books. The details of the giveaway are at the end of the post.
When reading Austen’s novels in quick succession (or watching a marathon of movie adaptations), one thing becomes immediately clear: “It would be ridiculously easy to write an Austenesque novel. Right? Well, possibly. After all, a casual deconstruction of her works reveals that she drew heavily upon archetypes, such as:
This is our protagonist—or, in the case of Sense and Sensibility, protagonists plural—who will, in the course of the novel meet the hero, lose or push away the hero, and find the hero again. She will also comment on the oblique restrictions placed on women in an oblique style, will struggle with her family relations, will be foiled or embroiled by a foil, and finally break free to a happily ever after. She will be, if not spunky, than certainly possessed of deep reserves of strength.
The fellow whom our Heroine will ultimately marry, he may come in one of two varieties: someone whom the Heroine meets later in life during the course of the book (Mr Darcy, Mr Tilney, Col Brandon and Mr Ferrars) or someone whom the Heroine either grew up with (Mr Knightley and Edmund Bertram) or has been intimate with previously (Captain Wentworth). He must be a man of upstanding and outstanding virtues, perfectly willing to jump into battle the dangers of society. Wit is a plus, but not a necessity.
Every plot requires some obstacles and the Foils—male and female—provide just that. The job of any Foil is twofold: if possible, to separate the Hero from the Heroine, and to provide a counter example, an anti-doppelgänger, a distorted reflection of the Hero or Heroine. They are everything the Hero or Heroine isn’t or shouldn’t be.
Often do all within their power to secure the amorous attention of the Heroine. Almost exactly half never prove any more than comic relief (Mr Collins, John Thorpe, Mr Elton) while the other half give the Heros an actual run for their money. Although the Heroine is initially attracted to these rascally Foils (Wickham, Mr Elliot), the audience occasionally roots for the Foil to win over the Hero (Willoughby, Henry Crawford). Silly Foils can be easily dismissed, and are usually no more venial than your next door neighbour. However, rascally foils typically hide some deep dark sexual secret (preying on fifteen year old girls, or eloping with married women, for example!).
Are never as dastardly as their counterparts—with the possible exception of Mary Crawford, who nearly succeeds on both befriending the Heroine and winning the Hero. Some female Foils take the time to betray the Heroine by both befriending her and then pursuing the Hero (Mary Crawford, Lucy Steele). Some merely pursue the Hero (Caroline Bingley, Louisa Musgrove), and others befriend the Heroine and collect collateral hearts (Isabella Thorpe). One might argue that in Emma, the Heroine is her own foil, with Jane Fairfax and Harriet Smith the disgraced Cinderellas!
Austen’s own familial and intimately familiar links to the clergy reveal themselves in her wide-ranging depictions of her characters of the cloth.
Henry Tilney, Edward Ferrars, and Edmund Bertram are all clergymen—although Henry is the only one who has already taken orders before the start of the book. Of the three, Henry almost never speaks about his profession, but proves himself to be as witty and charming as if he were a foil…which he isn’t! Edward Ferrars has chosen the cloth almost as a last resort: to him, the church is a benign and acceptable occupation. For Edmund Bertram, however, we see that passionate burning to do good which leads him to withstand the temptation of Mary Crawford and fulfil his vocation.
While Mr Collins and Mr Elton are the most well-known of Austen’s absurd clergy—and are foils to boot!—there is another humorous clergyman who populates the edges of Austen’s novels. Doctor Grant from Mansfield Park, who has the dubious honour of claiming the Crawfords as cousins-in-law, is a man whose main concern is not whether the people in his parish will roast in hell, but whether his goose is properly cooked.
No Austen novel would be complete without at least one churchman, such as Charles Hayter, a humble clergyman engaged to Henrietta Musgrove in Persuasion, or the little-seen father of Catherine Morland (and nine other children), Mr Morland in Northanger Abbey, or the even littler seen brother of Captain Wentworth. Regardless, when you’re writing your own Austen novel, you’d better have a clergyman or two!
Much like the clergy, military men come in a variety of flavours. But whereas the worst a clergyman ever behaves in Austen’s novels is to be a picky eater or a social climbing fool, the military tends to come off much disappointed in Austen’s world.
To count, Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensiblity is the only army man to actually get the girl—and that, almost by default. Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice makes a valiant effort to win Lizzy Bennet, but can never compare to the paragon that is Mr Darcy. Captain Wentworth from Persuasion does the royal navy proud by winning Anne Elliot prior to the book’s opening, losing her, going a little bonkers, and then getting her again.
Unfortunately, the army takes quite a beating in this respect. Wicked Wickham from Pride and Prejudice is part of the militia. Over in Northanger Abbey, our heroine is thrust out of the titular house by General Tilney, while his son, Captain Frederick Tilney, destroys the heroine’s brother’s hopes of a happy marriage. A little more peripherally, the Crawford siblings from Mansfield Park cast a bad name on the navy in the form of their uncle and guardian, General Crawford, who has flaunts his lover in London society…and whose bad behaviour apparently influenced his wards considerably!
True to their name, members of the military can always be counted on for a friendly shoulder. Captain Denny and the whole militia are always happy to dance with a Bennet girl or help Wickham run off with them—they’re here to help! Fanny’s brother, Midshipman William Price, is a sympathetic ear in Mansfield Park. Likewise, Admiral Croft from Persuasion is just as happy to help the Eliott family retrench as he is to help those two crazy protagonists get back together again. Captain Harville welcomes Wentworth and his entire entourage into his home in Persuasion, even though he has suffered a severe leg injury. Wentworth and Harville’s mutual friend, Captain James Benwick, is good enough to marry the female foil, Louisa Musgrove—and bring the romantic successes for the Austen navy up to two. In Persuasion, which is just crawling with military, even the rotten Mr Elliot has a friend in Colonel Wallis, whose wife is friendly with Nurse Rooke, who is friendly with Anne Elliot’s dear friend, who tells Anne all the rotten things about the rotten Mr Elliot. You can count on a peripheral military man!
Lords & Ladies
While more prestigious members of the peerage are not unknown in Austen’s world (remember that Colonel Fitzwilliam is the second son of an Earl!), it’s much more common to meet a baronet or two or three, and their attendant ladies.
If your Austen novel includes an aristocrat as a father figure, he will likely be something like a tyrant. For example, various cinematic adaptations have shown Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park to be merely strict to overbearingly dictatorial. In Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot’s vanity is the root of his family’s disgrace and need to retrench. Sir John Middleton in Sense and Sensibility proves to be only delightfully meddlesome—but that’s probably because he is only a cousin.
Neighbourhood Noblesse Oblige
If there’s a lord or lady hanging about an Austen novel who is not directly related to the heroine, we can be assured that he will do all within his power to help our heroes to their romantic end—whether intentionally or not! Sir William Lucas and Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice both do their parts: the first by needling on Mr Darcy to dance, the second by daring the heroine not to love that same gentleman. In Persuasion, Lady Russell gave us the excuse for the entire book by originally counselling against the marriage of Anne Elliot to Captain Wentworth, while Lady Dalrymple separates Anne’s oppressive family from her long enough for our heroine to see Wentworth clearly. Even the Honourable John Yates and the never-seen Lady Stornoway from Mansfield Park do their jobs: the first helping to orchestrate the disastrous affair of the theatrical which helps our heroes get their moral heads on straight, and the latter sealing the deal by helping Henry Crawford and Mrs Rushworth in their dangerous liason. Lady Middleton from Sense and Sensiblity, of course, is the quintessential aid, bringing the Dashwood girls to London so they can pursue their escaped romances.
Add in some friends and family members (preferably with strange quirks and occasional bouts of hysteria) for the Hero and the Heroine and their friends and their families, all of whom either keep the lovers apart or drive them together (aunts and uncles are great for this), and you’ve got yourself a Jane Austen novel!
Easy, right? Easy! Write.
Part I of this collection of Austenesque short stories offers us a glimpse into various behind-the-scenes interactions from Austen's original works. "A Most Persuasive Correspondence" is the epistolary correspondence between the two splendidly-matched villains from Persuasion, Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot. In Part II, Snyder runs with her imagination taking on various "what-ifs" to hilarious results. What if all the villains (or heroines, or heroes, or baronets...) from Austen's novels were thrown together on a Dark and Stormy Night? The final story, "Pride and Paraliterature" is a satiric take on the phenomenon of monster mash-ups, concluding that nothing proves so dangerous to Mr. Darcy as that original adversary, Miss Bingley. Read an excerpt
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