So, last week I talked about the idea for the story. Scroll down and you can read it. I'll wait here.
Next, I had to write the story.
One of the particularly tricky things, I think, about writing a Pride and Prejudice Variation (what is the right word? Variation? Continuation? Spin-off?) is doing justice to the characters Jane Austen created and which have been studied and loved for two hundred years. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I'd hate to be disrespectful to such wonderful and complex characters.
On one hand, it's wonderful to have characters which are already named and have plenty of back story. On the other hand, they are so well known, that writing something which seems too far outside the realm of what the character is likely to do can cause problems.
Thus a bit of a quandary: how to create a story using known characters while still having them do something new and interesting.
For me, the first step was really getting to know the characters. I read Pride and Prejudice several times with an eye to all the little details. I read it slowly and tried to get all the subtleties. I watched the 1995 BBC production (oh, it was torture...) and even read my newest bit of geeky goodness, The Annotated Pride and Prejudice. All these little layers helped me to know the characters a bit better.
I also had many chats with my friend, Lynne, about the characters and their interactions and motivations. Is Mrs. Bennet really such a villain for wanting her daughters to be married? Is that any different from my mother pushing for me to get an education? It was tricky to put myself in the mindset of that era rather than looking back from my own 2013 perspective.
Mrs. Bennet was my favorite character to write because she is just so outrageous. Here is one of her first scenes in Betrothed to Mr. Darcy.
“Mama,” Jane said, “perhaps it would be best if you rested quietly.”
“Quiet, quiet, quiet. That is all anyone says to me. Well, let me tell you, Jane Bennet, I will not be quiet. If I had kept quiet would Lydia have gone to Brighton? And if Lydia had not gone to Brighton, would she now be married to Mr. Wickham? I think not.”
Mrs. Bennet set her tea cup down and spoke on, gaining volume and vigor with each word. “Was it not I who succeeded in persuading your father to call on Mr. Bingley last year? If not for me, you would not find yourself so happily engaged to a man with such fine prospects, now would you?”
Having forgotten about Lizzy and the earlier commotion, Mrs. Bennet stood, admired herself in a looking glass, and continued regardless of any response or encouragement from Jane. “No, Jane, I will not be quiet.” Mrs. Bennet adjusted her cap and smiled at her own reflection before turning to address Jane directly. “I suppose Lizzy put you up to this. Just the other day she tried to tell me that I ought not to talk so much about Lydia and Wickham. I suppose she thinks I ought to be talking about her instead. Well, I will not be told what to do by her or anyone else, even if she is marrying Mr. Darcy of Pemberley.”