An Unpublishable Story?

An Unpublishable Story?

Not every story makes it to publication. The following excerpt is flawed as far as a publishable story. In the first place, it assumes the reader is familiar with more than one Jane Austen’s novels. Not all readers of Jane Austen fan fiction have read any of her novels, let alone multiple novels. Some have come to love Jane Austen fan fiction after enjoying movies based on her novels, or for various other reasons. This confuses the issue of how extensive the reader’s knowledge is of her work.

In the second place, the characters aren’t developed. It is assumed the readers know their background. The story is also flawed because a key character doesn’t appear as much as she should before she gets in the last word. However, it’s possible, with work, the idea could be developed into something compelling. I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Darcy’s butler at Pemberley brought the mail, which included a letter from Bingley. Darcy always had trouble deciphering Bingley’s letters, but the first part was clear. Bingley was sorry that Darcy wasn’t in town, but he was going to go to Netherfield Park and do some shooting. He recently met someone who was very congenial who was going to join him. Darcy couldn’t make out the name of the person, but he could understand that Bingley was willing to forgive this man for some scandal.

Darcy thought whoever this man was, he would not be a good companion for Bingley, who was a little too naïve, too forgiving. Darcy was invited to join them. He took another look at the name and finally made sense of it. The man was Henry Crawford. Knowing what he did about Henry Crawford, Darcy decided he would take up Bingley’s invitation.

***

When Mrs. Bennet discovered that Mr. Bingley was returning to Netherfield Park, Elizabeth sympathized with her father’s refusal to visit him. Bingley knew where they lived, and he would visit them if he wished to meet them. The third day they were there, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Crawford came to Longbourn.

Mr. Crawford was charming to everyone. He flirted briefly with Kitty and then turned to Elizabeth and flirted with her. Elizabeth realized her heart wasn’t in flirting with him. For all his charm, he wasn’t Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth had started out hating Mr. Darcy, but between learning the truth about his character, meeting him at Pemberley, and learning he helped her younger sister, she felt he was the only man for her. Mr. Crawford simply didn’t attract her. Despite her lack of attraction to him, she was happy to keep him occupied while Mr. Bingley talked to Jane.

The following evening, Mrs. Bennet’s sister, Mrs. Phillips, came to Longbourn. “There is a great scandal about Mr. Crawford,” she said. “I had it from the butcher who heard it from Mrs. Nichols who got it straight from Mr. Crawford’s groom, so it is certain to be accurate. Mr. Crawford ran off with a married lady! Mr. Crawford left her, and her husband is in the process of divorcing her! Mr. Crawford is ever so sorry, because it cost him his one true love.”

“That doesn’t sound like a good person to know,” Elizabeth said, wondering how a man could have one true love and run off with someone else. She had one true love, only she didn’t love him until after it was too late because she refused him.

“Of course, he is good to know,” Mrs. Bennet said. “He has four thousand a year and a nice estate.”

Elizabeth didn’t think that was sufficient inducement to counter his bad character. Nevertheless, the next day Mr. Crawford and Mr. Bingley visited. Mr. Crawford sat next to Jane. Elizabeth watched him work his charm on her. Elizabeth could tell her mother was torn between wanting Mr. Bingley for Jane or Mr. Crawford. Mr. Crawford had the advantage of owning an estate

***

The next day, Mr. Darcy joined them. Mrs. Bennet was beside herself having three eligible gentlemen. Elizabeth knew her mother didn’t consider Mr. Darcy as a potential husband for any of the Bennet sisters, so when Mr. Darcy sat next to Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet didn’t object. Mr. Crawford was monopolizing Jane and Mr. Bingley was stuck listening to Mary discuss morality.

Mrs. Phillips stopped in, and the resulting noise made it possible for Mr. Darcy to talk to Elizabeth without being heard.

“Mr. Crawford likes a challenge,” he said. “He discovered Mr. Bingley had an interest in your sister and has decided to make her fall in love with him.”

“I don’t think he’ll succeed,” Elizabeth replied.

“Possibly not, but your sister is too polite to rebuff Mr. Crawford. If you don’t mind, I have a suggestion. We could pretend to flirt. Mr. Crawford would find it much more challenging to take you away from me than to take Miss Bennet away from Mr. Bingley.”

“I don’t think it would be a challenge to flirt with you,” Elizabeth said, deliberately batting her eyelashes. Although she was speaking in tones suggesting she was in jest, she was very serious and her heart was pounding.

“You are very good at this,” Darcy said.

“When an attractive man wants to flirt with me, it isn’t at all difficult for me to respond.”

“Mr. Crawford is said to be attractive,” Darcy said.

“Attractive means that he attracts. He doesn’t charm me.” Elizabeth hoped Darcy would understand that he attracted her. “I find a man who is kind and good much more attractive than someone whose attractions are superficial.”

“It is interesting that you consider those attributes important.”

“Ah, but when he is actually attractive as well, then the appeal is magnified.”

“Is it?” he asked.

She smiled at him. “Can you doubt it?”

“You gave me reason to doubt it.”

“That was before I understood you. I was misled.”

“By an expert,” Darcy said with a touch of bitterness.

“Now I know better.”

“What do you know better?” Kitty said, who, fortunately, appeared not to have heard any of their earlier conversation.

“Not to believe everything people tell you,” Darcy said.

***

Bingley suggested that they take a walk. Darcy didn’t blame him. While he was talking to Elizabeth, Bingley was stuck between Miss Mary and Mrs. Phillips. Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, Bingley, Crawford, and Darcy all left Longbourn together. Kitty announced she wanted to visit a neighbor and left the group. The path narrowed and Jane pointedly joined Mr. Bingley. Crawford maneuvered to walk next to Elizabeth, leaving Darcy with Mary. Bingley and Jane walked rapidly, and Darcy saw Elizabeth was dawdling.

Darcy and Mary were immediately behind Elizabeth and Crawford. They must have known they were there, so Darcy had no qualms about eavesdropping.

“Your sister has abandoned me,” Mr. Crawford said. “Yet I am better off.”

“I doubt it,” Elizabeth said.

“You are not going to have pity on me for being abandoned?”

“Hardly. You are not deserving of pity.” Elizabeth said.

“Oh, but I am. Your sister is a good and lovely woman. To be abandoned by her might cause my heart to break.”

“Rumor has it that you don’t have a heart.”

“Oh, but I do, and it was nearly broken. I lost the love of my life, and I’m looking for another.”

“Jane won’t love you. She can’t love anyone who would break up a marriage.”

Darcy was shocked that Elizabeth would touch on that topic, but Crawford did deserve it.

“The marriage was doomed. She didn’t love him. Never did. I was a fool to fall for her pleas. That foolishness cost me love of a good woman. How can I be redeemed if I don’t marry someone good? Fate has given me a chance. Here I find a houseful of beautiful women and none will have me. I need redemption. One of you must help me.”

Crawford was clearly speaking in jest, but Elizabeth spat out in anger. “No.”

“Yes,” Mary said.

“What?” Crawford said.

“I can quote several sermons on the value of repentance and redemption,” Mary said. “Let me begin explaining that you must truly understand that you were wrong.” Elizabeth stopped walking and Mary went up to Crawford and took his arm, to his obvious surprise. “True repentance will be your salvation, but you must not pretend to feel remorse for your actions if you aren’t genuinely contrite. You must be genuinely sorry for your sin, not for being caught sinning. Some kind of penance might help you.”

Elizabeth exchanged a glance with Mr. Darcy. Without a word, they turned around and left Mary and Mr. Crawford, almost at a run. When they were out of sight, Darcy asked, “How much did you mean when we were pretending to be flirting?”

“All of it,” she said, “I wasn’t pretending.” He took her in his arms.

***

When Darcy and Elizabeth returned to Longbourn, they found Jane and Bingley had returned before them and were engaged. Darcy and Elizabeth announced their engagement as well. When Mary returned, Mrs. Bennet asked what happened to Mr. Crawford.

A sly smile appeared on her face. “He took his horse and rode back to Netherfield Park. He said he would pack and leave for London immediately.”

“He’s not coming back?” Mrs. Bennet asked. “Maybe he would like Kitty.”

“I’m pretty sure I convinced him never to return.”


What do you think:

Are there some places in this story that assume knowledge that an average reader might not have?

Is this an unpublishable story?

27 Responses to An Unpublishable Story?

  1. I don’t think the reader needs to know that Henry Crawford appears in another of Jane Austen’s novels. You could tell them in an end note of some sort and perhaps that would encourage them to read MP.

  2. I liked this sketch of a story. I don’t think foreknowledge of MP is necessary – as others said, enough is revealed of Henry C. that it’s not disturbing. I can imagine this story going two ways: either the ending as shown here, Mary scaring away Henry who was unable to truly repent, or the other, that severe critic, moral, bluestocking Mary actually gets the point across to him and they reach a HEA. She can be compared to Fanny Price as someone who has a strong moral compass and some people see both of them as too rigid and judgmental… (can a relationship with Henry Crawford help to soften her and make her less judgmental, to understand why people may make bad decisions?) in which case it is better publishable as a reformed rake romance.
    The first version could also work, I think, if you could write the detailed interactions between the Bennet sisters and Henry Crawford. Perhaps all of them saw through him but could not get rid of him as he did not take the hints? You might need a separate Kitty angle in this case, which I’m not sure about, as she is the most underdeveloped among the Bennet girls.

    • I always like the idea of Henry getting to live happily ever after, actually 🙂 I agree, he and Mary would balance each other.

  3. I liked it and would like to see it fleshed out into a short story. I have always liked Henry Crawford as a flawed character. I have read a couple of stories where he has redeemed himself. Could Mary “scare” him into redemption?

  4. I enjoyed this excerpt. The manipulation going on here was brilliant by the Bennet sisters. Mary’s sermonizing would definitely send Henry Crawford running given his character flaws. It definitely has possibilities. While I will admit that I prefer Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice the best, I recognize the major characters from her other novels since I’ve read them. So sprinkling characters from her other novels into a Pride and Prejudice Variation would not bother most Jane Austen fans. Tight control of the story’s details need to be watch closely in a crossover JAFF writing I would assume. Just fitting the characters together into one story would be a monumental task. I enjoy your stories so much that a mix up of Austen’s characters would be read regardless of who you throw into that mix.

    • Hi Carol 🙂 Yes, detail control would be crucial. That’s Renata’s department. She’s the one who would have to make sure Crawford and any information about him stays true enough to who he is to keep him correct. After all, if we don’t make sure he stays Henry Crawford, there’s no reason to have him and not some invented cad. Luckily for me, that’s not my job. Renata is the one with the head for details.

  5. I definitely think this has possibilities. You can also flush out the characters enough for them to be understood without reading all of Jane’s works. It could have a lot of fun turns. Bingley’s meeting with Crawford and his “sad tail” could be interesting. What does Crawford hope to get out of the friendship with Bingley. Perhaps Jane uses Crawford to make Mr. Bingley a bit jealous, the conversation between he and Mary prior to his flights has all kinds of delicious details that could be included. Mrs. Bennet could definite cause trouble trying to match things as she sees them. It would be fund to D&L come together quickly and almost unbeknownst to those around them because of all the other goings on and Mrs. Bennet’s dislike of Darcy and general disregard for her second daughter. Of course Lady Catherine would still have to intervene and she might have some connection to Crawford’s misdeed or at least feel compelled to say something about it. Whether this become a full flown story or not, it was an enjoyable snippet–just as all of your books are a pleasure to read.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Lizzybel 🙂 Those are some great suggestions! I’ll pass them on to Renata 🙂

  6. I loved this excerpt… I think enough background was given on Crawford that it wouldn’t matter if someone had foreknowledge of MP or not. He could have easily been a Joe Brown. It wouldn’t have made any difference. To those who know MP… they would simply clap their hands with glee. To someone who didn’t… they would simply think it was funny that Mary sent this jerk… flying back to London… never to return. That was hilarious. I also loved the interaction between Darcy and Lizzy. OMG!! That was so good. I hope you do something with it. I want to read it. Yeah!!

    • I agree wholeheartedly. Crawford could be anyone here. The reader doesn’t need to know him. It’s just an added bit of fun for those who do. Thank you for the kind words 🙂

  7. I agree with darcybennet, that Crawford’s character was revealed soon enough for readers to understand his sins. And I agree with other comments, that the story is still rough and not developed.
    It’s a difficult task for a writer of JAFF to decide how much background information should be included in a story. I believe a few sentences is enough to help a reader understand dynamics between the characters.
    Mary has a great potential here. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Kate. I think it has potential too. We’ll see if you all have talked Renata into elaborating the plot a bit 🙂

  8. I think the idea is good, but the execution is rough. I agree that you don’t need to be overly familiar with MP to understand that Henry Crawford is shallow and morally suspect. Nor does it matter who the ‘love of his life’ is. I don’t see how this could become longer than a short story though. Perhaps you have ideas?

    • I do see it as a short story, even fleshed out. It needs more scenes, and more added to these scenes, but I don’t think it would ever become long. I feel it’s doable to work in the Crawfords, especially Henry. As you said, a few lines can easily establish his key character flaws for those who aren’t familiar with him. I think Mary Bennet could be a great character in this. A little more interesting than she’s sometimes portrayed.

  9. I think this would be most enjoyable to people who have read P&P so they understand the characters and why Lizzy refused Darcy, why Mary sermonized, and why Mrs. Bennet was beside herself. An average reader wouldn’t know and “get” some of the words or actions of the characters otherwise. I don’t think they need to have read MP in order to understand what is wrong with Henry Crawford, enough is explained about him running off with a married woman, etc. I think with some additional information, this would be a great short story.

    • Certainly some background on Darcy & Elizabeth’s romance would be needed. All the conflict and all of the misunderstandings have been resolved by this time.

      As to it being a publishable short story, I worry there would have to be too much background and not enough story for it to be reasonable. That is why it can be used here, where people know the background.

  10. I find it a very intersting story. While I am familiar with both P&P and MP, I think there was sufficient information about Henry Crawford to understand he is not a good man. I do think the story needs to be rounded out more.

    • I agree. To me, so far, this is a piece of a story. It would take more work, but I think the underline idea is viable. I’m not saying Henry Crawford’s character isn’t complex, because I think it actually is, but the more relevant aspects of his character to a plot would, I feel, be easy enough to convey. I see this as being for a Pride and Prejudice loving audience, with the Crawfords added into Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s world.

  11. The beginning of this story is very wooden and off-putting, very declamatory — saying and not showing. It has no style at all. It needs a very good editor, as does most Austenalia.

    • Hi Julia 🙂

      Oh, yes, the story is rough. We were more exploring the idea of the story than suggesting it as a completed work. We haven’t done the fleshing out part, as we weren’t sure the base idea was worth the effort. Personally, I think we could make it into a good story. Renata is a bit more hesitant, but she’s the one who has to see the plot through (that’s not my department) so she has reason to be more worried the idea of this won’t work. We’ve never tried a cross-novel JAFF before.

  12. Although there is enough to know that Crawford is not a good man, I, as a reader would definitely want to know why and what for, etc. Even in published books there have been instances when I made remarks in the “note” section that something was not explained earlier. (One author went back and made a correction and notified me of such – Darcy’s insult was left out.) Also I will remark in my reviews if there is not enough development. So I agree that this is a fine example of “unpublishable”. I have read and reread all of Jane’s stories so I can make connections but this needs a lot of background for those who have not read all her stories. One would need to read at a minimum P&P and MP.

    • It is a difficult balance when writing Pride and Prejudice variations. I don’t like to put in too much explanation, but if I were to try to explain Wickham’s relationship with Darcy in a paragraph, it would seem like an information overload to readers unfamiliar with P&P. If I spent a couple of pages on it, it would probably bore readers who know the story.

      By the way, authors generally appreciate it when offered the type of criticism you describe. Well, I get annoyed, defensive, and a few minutes later admit to myself that the critic was correct. But since I have the sense not to publish my initial negative reaction, no one needs to know that. 🙂

      • I tend to really quickly skim over repeated quotes or descriptions, i.e. Darcy’s relationship with Wickham, but for a new reader it would be crucial to know all that. Most authors’ books are well edited but there is one who repeatedly ignores using Spell Check on her computer. I just have to smile to myself.

  13. I think in this excerpt, the author has established enough about Henry Crawford that it isn’t necessary for the reader to have read Mansfield Park to understand his character. In these cases, I think it is more enjoyable for readers that are familiar with both works but not necessary if an author has provided enough context.

Your thoughts are precious!