JAFF, a passing fancy?

I have heard some comments about the fact that, with so many new Indie authors (independent or self-publish authors), that everyone is just out to make a buck and do not care about being true to Jane Austen’s work.  There are also comments that there are too many Indie authors publishing stories now.  What do you think?

Is this using Jane Austen’s work to make a profit or is it taking cherished characters for a spin, and keeping the love of them alive?  You decide, but personally, I think it is the latter. We are able to give the characters we love a twist (yes, I know, my books are sometimes MAJOR TWISTS), or give a new way of looking at why characters behaved the way they did.  It is like Jane Austen gave us the frame work, but left much room for the imagination to expand on.

There are questions such as what were the first names of some of the major characters?  We know them as Mrs Bennet, Mr and Mrs Gardiner, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and more.  We have had so many authors give the characters the same names, such as Colonel Fitzwilliam is often written as Richard.  Mr Gardiner is often Edward, Mrs Bennet is often Fanny.

What were the Colonel’s parents’ names?  Many refer to them as Lord and Lady Matlock.  These names were not in the original story.  This surprises many fans, as they are so used to the fan fiction authors using the same names, it seems as if that is what the character’s name should be.

And then you look at what the characters did in the story.  It surprises many that the scene in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, where Darcy dives into the pond of water at Pemberley, was never in the book.

What were Mr and Mrs Darcy like, to make Darcy so taciturn?  Did they have a loving marriage or a marriage of convenience?  Where did Darcy go after leaving Rosings, after being denied Elizabeth’s hand? What was he doing in between leaving Netherfield and arriving at Rosings?

Due to Jane Austen’s spaces in the story, we are allowed to use our imagination to fill in the questions.  To me, this is her way of giving us the characters, the love we feel for Elizabeth and Darcy, the love to hate characters such as Lady Catherine, Caroline Bingley, and Wickham, the settings of Longbourn, Netherfield, Pemberley, and Rosings, and says “go for it”.  That is what I love about writing with the characters.  I know where I want to be with them in the end, as all of my stories have Darcy and Elizabeth happily married and in love with each other. Now, where do I want to begin? What has happened in the past to make the characters what they are?  What do they do to achieve their happily ever after?

Another thing I like about all the new authors is the different writing styles.  I have had people say that my stories are far from the original.  Yes, that is why it is a variation.  It is written in my style, as I cannot write in the same style as JA.  We are from different times and places, with different ways of doing things.  I cannot write in the same manner she did, and I will not attempt to say otherwise.  I try to be true to Darcy and Elizabeth in their characters, but enjoy playing with the other characters. Being dyslexic, some styles of writing are difficult for me to read, and others flow easily for me, so having choices of styles is a blessing for me.

Another aspect of being a JAFF author is being able to enlighten people on who Jane Austen was. I have several fans who love my work, yet have never read Pride and Prejudice.  But, through me, they have learned about Jane Austen and her work.  It allows me a chance to pass on a bit from an amazing woman, who never received proper recognition when she was alive.  It is my hope that, in another 200 years, Jane Austen will still be remembered and even more popular than she is today.

So, to wrap things up, I wish to say thank you to all the JAFF authors.  You have given me many hours of enjoyment, frustration when I have to wait for the next book to come out (I hate having to wait, and my memory goes on overload, so I end up having to re-read the first book).  And you have given me many ideas of “what if this had been different?”  You keep my mind alert and learning, wanting to know more.  And I can never get enough of Darcy, Lizzy, and the cast of characters.  Keep writing, write longer stories, and tell me in advance if it is part of a series, so I will have hair left on my head, rather than pulling it out when I reach the end of the first book (Yes, Elizabeth Ann, I am still waiting on your next book in the Consequences of Marriage series).  JAFF forever, my dear friends. JAFF forever.

Now, back to my latest tale.

Oh, and for you who live in Utah, and are in the area of Salt Lake City on December 5th and December 12th, there will be a book signing with JAFF authors (and fellow Austen Authors members) Jeanna Ellsworth, Rebecca Jamison, and Diana Oaks.  We will be at Sorenson Unity Center (1383 South 900 West, SLC) from 10am to 6pm.  Come on over and visit us.


25 Responses to JAFF, a passing fancy?

  1. Excellent observations. Kinda like a recipe that’s delicious but also encourages you to add your own touches.

    I’ve read JAFF on some of the generic FF sites and was quite disappointed by the sophomoric, often pornographic, materials I found there. I now read more sophisticated JAFF written by authors who actually are acquainted with the the personalities of the characters, the structure of story-telling, and not to mention more than a passing acquaintance with orthography and punctuation. I even read one JAFF book that I liked better than JA’s original! (Altho’ I do read the original again every so often.)

    I don’t want to live in a world where there aren’t any talented writers taking JA’s delightful characters and giving them new opportunities to bring joy to readers!

  2. “There are also comments that there are too many Indie authors publishing stories now.”

    This sentence always makes me eyeroll. In some ways, I feel like you always have to apologize for publishing JAFF–to fans, to random strangers, etc, since you are not writing original fiction. Some people’s reactions seem like they think it’s easy to write a JAFF vs. an original fiction. I would argue that it is even harder to write a JAFF, because there is nothing new under the sun. I think by now, every scenario/variation form has been written, one way or another, and our job as JAFF writers is to make OUR take interesting and different from that other person. If you care about the quality of your work, I think you’ll be conscious of it more. At least, I am.

    I also think that because they (commentators) know it’s JAFF, that it gives some more of a reason to criticize. I’ve seen/read a lot of criticisms over price vs. length, tacking on the obligatory “these fanfiction writers are getting too big for themselves”, in ways that I have never, ever seen with traditional publishing, no matter how expensive or crappy the book was.

    –Aubrey Anderson

  3. I don’t know how I missed this at the time but I would just like to say that I agree with you. While there may be one or two people who just use the characters to sell a story I am convinced that most JAFF authors are like you and write because they love the original and Darcy and Elizabeth. It is obvious from the way the stories are written and I for one am grateful. I’m sure that Jane herself would be proud of most of the stories based on her wonderful book. Thanks Melanie ?

  4. I enjoyed reading this post. I enjoy the variety of variations that are out there. it is fun reading different ways their story could happen. As to whatt made Darcy so taciturn…I think there is some in his innate personality and well to have everyone after you for your property and money would make you very distrustful and therefore seem aloof and taciturn.

  5. When I read the original Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen I absolutely and irrevocably fell in love with all the characters. Frustrated by some and in love with others. Mr. Bennet is always my biggest frustration, Jane is second. He refuses to correct his wife and Jane is all sweetness, all I wan is to see her get angry. Elizabeth, well she can be just a little proud and a lot of arrogant when it comes to Darcy. Mrs. Bennet, well, what can you say a good set down may shut her up a while. Lydia, I could just take her behind a barn and give her a whipping she will never forget. Kitty and Mary, their characters weren’t as well developed. All we know is that Kitty is a follower and Mary is pedantic.

    Having said that, if it wasn’t for you (Melanie) and all those wonderful writers I love so much (Brenda Webb, Regina Jeffers, etc. etc.) I can go on forever, we would stay ignorant. I remember finishing the book and sighing because I wanted to know more. What happened to Lydia, Kitty, Mary, even, god help me Caroline. JAFF writers, as far as I am concerned, are the best of the best and I think Ms. Austen would be so diverted to read all about her characters in a whole new way.

    Thank you Melanie and now I am off to buy your new book.


  6. Technology has made it possible for almost anyone to publish these days. Of my friends who have published e-books and paperbacks, I’d guess 80% are self-published. I’d guess that 80% of self-published authors take it very seriously and do a full, professional job of it, and it shows in the quality of their books. I don’t know if readers know how much work that is. Some choose to hire professionals, pay a service, or work with a publisher to accomplish that work, and some choose to post for free on JAFF web sites. No matter how it happens, it’s great for us as readers to have a ready supply of the stories we love!

    In some ways, writing is like any other profession: Some treat it like a labour of love and some like a job. The actual work of writing comes easier to some authors than others, and some are more gifted writers than others. Some are nit-pickers, some cheerily share after one draft. JAFF sells about 10x better for an unknown author than in other genres, and that’s due to the love of the readers. Those readers’ endless curiosity about the characters, their willingness to be open-minded to authors who think a little outside the box, and their mostly positive feedback helps the writers’ enthusiasm for writing.

    I’m proud be be among those readers. Keep the variations coming!

  7. Good job Melanie! Like you I can never get enough of D&L. I hope that new authors continue up to try their hand at writing JAFF and look forward to all the creative stories they create.

  8. Brilliant post, Melanie!!! We MUST have our fix of Elizabeth and Darcy! Someone said once it’s like having a favourite show that’ll run forever. Yep, JAFF forever, couldn’t agree more!

  9. Love the post, Melanie 🙂 I am relatively new to JAFF but not to the works of Jane Austen. I stumbled upon JAFF about 3 years ago now, and I love it! I have written various things over the years, but this genre really sparked something in me. I like to think of writing JAFF as the same thing as what I did as a child when I would turn my bike into a horse so I could be Laura Ingals or my Barbie into Jo March. I have always extended books or considered what would happen if…always from the time I could read. The fact that I can share those stories with people and use them to help pay bills is awesome! But, while the money is necessary (I appreciate being able to eat and heat my home), it is not my driving force. In fact, it was my DH who pushed me into attempting it, and I am certainly happy he did.

    • It allows us to take our favorite couple, who are like old friends to us, and let loose our imagination. Nothing better than to let creativity flow. You are doing great with your stories. It is fantastic to have all of you in my life!

  10. Long live Jane Austen fan-fiction!!

    I don’t doubt there are some who jump onto the JAFF train for a quick buck or to make a name for themselves. How many? Impossible to tell, and truthfully, even IF a writer takes on Austen for other than pure love reasons, it doesn’t mean the story will be bad.

    Bottom line as I see it: Writing a book, any book, isn’t easy, so there are few people who finish a book and then go to the trouble of getting it published unless they strive to create something wonderful. This should be applauded. Taking on Austen is REALLY tough, devoted readers are not tolerant of mess ups, and the readership while enthusiastic is small compared to other genres. If a writer isn’t serious and only wants the easy, fast money route, frankly, the LAST genre to select is Austen!

    Great post, Melanie. I agree with every point!

  11. I truly believe that inside most readers is a writer yearning to get out! Most of these works strike me as labors of love that would have been written or at least imagined in the writers’ minds anyway. Self-publishing and the miracle of e-publishing gives them a voice and a place to share their imaginings — and who knows, they may be rewarded for their creative efforts!

    • I love playing with the stories, and letting the story come alive in my mind. I never intended on selling books, I published to have copies of my books for my family. Being an indie, I was able to do so, and surprise, sold books.

  12. Well Melanie, I found JAFF 5 years ago after my sister Melody died and it was a great escape after a sudden tragedy. I had picked up a collection of JA at a used book store many years prior, and had seen all of the old movies starting with Garson/Olivier and the PBS shows. How surprised I was to walk into Barnes and find a whole table of JAFF what ifs/continuations. It seems I can never get enough, and when I can’t find what I’m looking for, I just write my own stories. Great fun, this genera. Let’s hope it never dies out and many thanks to all of the authors who continue to give us stories. jen

  13. I think it’s a bit of both; there are authors who are fascinated by Austen’s characters and want to have more of them and then there are others who are just cashing in. I think there are more written in the former spirit than the latter, thankfully.

  14. Melanie – I have been a voracious reader of JAFF for quite some time now – I’ve gone back to the originals several times too. All JAFF writers have their spin – some are better stories than other, some are better writers than others, but all have something to offer. Thank you to you all. While I would love to join the ranks of JAFF authors I feel I am a better consumer than producer 🙂 And consume I will. Please keep writing everyone!
    And one day I will visit Salt Lake City. It is about as far away from here as is possible to be, but one day…. Just not this week 🙂

    Lynley – Perth, Australia.

  15. Melanie thank you for the thought provoking post. I think that Jane Austen’s writing are a great inspiration to so many. With that in mind, she is still being honored by authors of all types.

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