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?