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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lost and Found in Jane Austen

Last night I had the pleasure of viewing a film titled 'Lost in Austen.' Amanda Price, modern young woman, loses herself in the world of the Bennett's. So much so, that she jeopardizes her relationships. And then, one day, Elizabeth Bennett shows up in her shower. Amanda's story unfolds as she attempts to right the wrongs her appearance in the book has caused.

Whether or not you are an Austen fan, this movie has several takeaways for writers.

Backstory - What is revealed about your characters sets the tone, the action & the motivation for them. If Mr. Darcy were an abusive drunkard, how redeemable is he? But, if he is this way due to a broken heart, we have more sympathy & he has redeemability. What if Elizabeth is a gambler? A coquette? You name it; possibilities abound.

Know the backstory of your characters. These elements reveal character, character flaws, character tics & provide the skeletal structure upon which you are building.

Detail - This movie, your basic fish-out-of-water, transports us to 1820s England, the detail is rich, multi-layered & reflective of the characters. Mr. Bennett's study, Elizabeth's bedroom, Amanda's flat. Each of these directly reflects character, attitude, emotion & their own desires. Even the clothing works to establish this without being over the top or too understated.

Understand how background noise, so to speak, affects your characters, reflects their attitudes & plays upon their ultimate motivations & goals.

Setting - This plays an important role in who characters are, how they function & the rules of the society in which they reside. Taking your characters out of their normal environment speaks directly to who they are, what they want & how they get it. For instance, placing Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Collins & Mr. Wickham on a subway in NYC together provides an introspective look at these individuals on & off the page. The alpha & the beta on both sides of the protag/antag divide. How they interact, how they react are both telling & informative.

Take your characters out of their normal surrounds & see what happens. This can provide a deeper level of character development than you could imagine.

I loved this film for its homage to Austen & for its ability to plunge us into the Bennett's lives. And, I would recommend it as a study in character, dimension & uprooting in order to get to the pulp that makes your people delectable, endearing or whatever they may be. Check it out from Netflix.

Happy Writing,



  1. Interesting. We both had Austen tie-ins on our blogs today. Is like that wearing the same color to school?

  2. Kay,
    I've been running around all morning - 1st day of h.s. for the boy - so I will check it out. We did both have brushes with the preppie handbook, so in some preppieverse I guess it's plausible.