Last month, I was one of thousands of determined authors who took part in National Novel Writing Month—otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. During NaNoWriMo, authors aspire to write 50,000 words (the equivalent of a novel) during the month of November. I’ve undertaken and completed this lofty endeavor four years in a row. For me, it wasn’t a matter of if I could write 50,000 words in a month, but whether I could write 50,000 words by November 25th. That way, I’d have everything wrapped up before Thanksgiving.
I have to admit there was a point when I thought I might end up writing past Thanksgiving Day—right up until November 30th. For two to three days during the final week of my self-imposed deadline, it was all I could do to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. Writing several thousand words a day was not an option. Oh, how I berated myself at the time. Little did I know, as I repeatedly succumbed to sleep, that I was simply recharging my muse.
I say that because, in the final days before November 25th, my creativity went into overdrive. I wrote 2,417 words on November 23rd and just over 10,000 words on the 24th, and effectively crossed the 50k mark one day ahead of schedule.
I love the premise of my NaNoWriMo 2015 story. Elizabeth becomes estranged from her Bennet relations largely by her own choosing owing to her sense of right and wrong and her desire to strike her own path. Fate intervenes rendering her increasingly drawn to Darcy. Neither of the two is willing to concede to the growing attraction to the other, and so the story goes.
Despite my fascination with this ‘what-if’ story, I’ve managed not to tinker with it since November, in keeping with my wont to allow a NaNoWriMo story to rest for a month or so before starting the revision phase. That is until now. I’ve skimmed the extremely rough draft, grabbed an intriguing snippet, and cleaned it up a bit for your reading pleasure. Without further ado, here’s a first look at my NaNoWriMo 2015 story: Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
“Oh! I am in love!” exclaimed young Lydia Bennet. “I should not have believed myself capable of falling in love with any man who does not don regimentals, but that is indeed what I have done, for I am so very deeply in love with Mr. Darcy.” She clasped her hands to her chest. “He is my hero, and I can hardly wait for the two of us to be married.”
Her mother replied, “Indeed, your Mr. Darcy is a true knight in shining armor who braved the raging fires that engulfed our beloved Longbourn manor to rescue his ladylove from certain death. You are indeed a lucky young woman, Lydia, to have captured the fancy of such a man.” Here, Mrs. Bennet commenced a familiar refrain. “Oh, he is so tall. He is so handsome, and he has ten thousand pounds a year. What pin money you shall have and what fine gowns and precious jewels you shall own. You are a lucky girl indeed.”
“I know, and do not think I do not remind myself of how fortunate I am every single day.” Lydia then pouted a little. “Although I cannot understand why he has not come to declare his true love for me and offer his hand in marriage. I should very much like to be the first of my sisters to be married. Even though I am the youngest, I am the tallest which must surely count for something.”
Mrs. Bennet shook her head. “I do not understand what is keeping him either, my dear. Perhaps I ought to speak with your father. He will know what is to be done to hurry the young man along. Everyone knows that Mr. Darcy has no choice other than to marry you. Why, I am certain everyone witnessed him carrying you in his arms.”
“Oh! Do speak to Papa, and tell him to make Mr. Darcy come and see me, else I shall have to go to Netherfield Park, and I would much rather not go there because it is so very far.”
“Oh, but we shall all be going to Netherfield soon enough. Do you not remember that you secured Mr. Bingley’s promise to give a ball as soon as your sister Jane was recovered? He cannot have forgotten.”
Elizabeth had been silent throughout most of her mother and sister’s ridiculous speech, but this latest sentiment was completely beyond the pale.
“Mama!” Elizabeth cried with energy. “In the wake of all that has happened, surely you do not expect Mr. Bingley to honor such a commitment.”
“Why, I most certainly do. Why should he not when a ball is just the diversion we all need in light of the unfortunate events of late? It is not every day that a family loses all of its most cherished worldly goods in a fire.”
“That is my point, Mama. This is no time for a celebration.”
“I must beg to differ, Miss Lizzy. Who doesn’t like a ball?”
“But, what of the expense? If I know anything about you, it is that you will want all of your daughters as well as yourself to wear beautiful gowns, and neither of us is in possession of such fineries.”
“Then I must speak to Mrs. Smith at the modiste and arrange for additional credit. What is the expense of another six gowns in view of such a happy occasion as a ball?”
Elizabeth was aghast. Her mother did not care one bit about all the debts she was incurring of late with the local merchants.
“Mind you, Lizzy, if you are so opposed to the idea of a ball then you are welcome to stay here and console yourself all alone. I shall not miss this opportunity and neither shall any of your sisters. Mr. Bingley will surely wish to see Jane, and Mr. Darcy shall be utterly and undeniably in love with Lydia by the time the night is over.”
Elizabeth thought she might appeal to her father to make him see reason and to encourage him to rein in her mother. She found him walking about in the garden. Falling in step with him, she began her ardent petition, but to no avail.
“Papa,” she cried at length, “can you not discern how unsuitable it would be for our family to be seen donning fine gowns and making merriment at a ball when our neighbors have been so generous in the outpouring of their support? They’ve kindly provided food, clothing, and furnishing. They have done everything in their power to assure our creature comforts during our time of need.”
“Lizzy, surely you can see that we shall have no peace if your mother and your sisters do not attend the ball.”
“Peace? Is that the only thing that matters to you? Would you have your own family make a mockery of our neighbors’ benevolence? Surely you know that my younger sisters will display an appalling lack of decorum.”
Seeing that her whole heart was in the subject, Mr. Bennet affectionately replied, “Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. What can any of this mean to you? No doubt you are used to such behavior. It has never bothered you before. In fact, have you and I not made sport of your sisters’ want of propriety? What has gotten into you that you now find them all in some way objectionable?”
“Our family’s diminished circumstances, for one, Papa.”
“So, is that the root of your concern? Are you now ashamed to be associated with your mother and sisters because of our loss of standing among our society owing to our reduced circumstances? I assure you, my Lizzy, this is merely a fleeting impediment.”
Again, this is just a rough draft, and I anticipate a fair amount of changes. That said, should Darcy’s reward for rescuing Lydia from a burning building be a lifetime with her by his side? Is there any wonder that Elizabeth is astounded?