Later this month, I will be releasing Master of Longbourn, the sequel to Mr. Darcy’s Comfort. If you own Mr. Darcy’s Comfort, you may or may not have noticed that the first chapter of Master of Longbourn was included in the back matter. If you do not yet own Mr. Darcy’s Comfort, you can read the first and second chapters of Master of Longbourn here.
If you have read that first chapter, you know that the hero of Master of Longbourn is none other than Mr. William Collins.
I like taking on challenges when I write, and I thought as I was setting up Master of Longbourn in Mr. Darcy’s Comfort, that making Collins likable would be a challenge. However, I was wrong. I came to like the gentleman before I had even finished writing Mr. Darcy’s Comfort, and my affection for my dear Mr. Collins grew as I wrote.
Now, you will have to suspend all previously conceived notions of whom Mr. Collins is when approaching my version of the gentleman. Hopefully, the cover model will help you imagine someone different as you read the book because that is the sort of fellow I was imagining as the new and improved Collins at the end of the book.
But, how did I come up with the Collins who appears in Master of Longbourn?
Well, I started with his description in canon and made notes about my interpretation and plans. I have arranged those thoughts, which were scrawled willy-nilly on a sheet of paper that has since found the recycling bin, into the chart below. [I had a few more notes written in. However, I don’t want to give too much away and therefore have left them out of what I am sharing here.]
|MR. COLLINS was not a sensible man||He doesn’t catch on to things easily|
|the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society||awkward in society and not a high-flyer academically|
|the greatest part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father||Motivation — horrible father; this will be heightened|
|and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance.||Change – he did make at least a few connections that were useful; one of these is his “fortunate chance” which recommends him to Lady Catherine|
|The subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity.||The subjection of his father is a key in his development; however, changing I am changing this to not being conceited at heart but appearing to be (anxiety); also he’s not prosperous or does not think of himself in such a fashion (is concerned with expense)|
|Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he intended to marry; and in seeking a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to chuse one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report.||This holds true and is covered in Mr. Darcy’s Comfort|
|Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth||This happens in Mr. Darcy’s Comfort, but Darcy then dissuades Collins from Elizabeth. When Collins arrives at Longbourn, he finds one daughter particularly captivating which is covered in Mr. Darcy’s Comfort.|
|He was a tall, heavy looking young man of five and twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal.||He is a young man with height and substance (think stocky, not fat) which would give him a bit of an imposing figure if he were to carry himself well (which he does not always do) He is somber and not given to jesting, his formality will be attributed to his not knowing how to act and the reason for his appearance of arrogance (We see Darcy decipher this reason in Mr. Darcy’s Comfort, and Master of Longbourn will build on this and help Collins work through it) He’s not ugly. He’s handsome but it is hidden in awkwardness and poor clothing choices. Think ugly duckling trope here.|
|Mr. Collins seemed neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself||He has a propensity to talk – a lot – but for a very specific reason.|
Knowing these things about my Mr. Collins, I then had to devise the story plot.
I’m not the sort of author who makes great detailed outlines before I begin writing. I have a few main points jotted down such as who is the hero, who is the heroine, what is the main obstacle, what is pushing them together, and what is pulling them apart. While I don’t have an outline to follow before I begin writing, I do fill in a chart of chapters as I write.
In the past, this has often just been a list of events followed by a bullet list of relationship points (where I check to see that the romantic relationship is building properly). This time, however, I decided to combine the chapter events and relationship points into one chart. That meant, under the events for a specific chapter, I wrote out what part each scene and chapter played in the story structure.
That seemed like it would be an easy thing to do. I mean, I had always analyzed events for how they fit in the story before. I had just done it mentally. How much harder could it be to put it into words, right? Apparently, the answer is a good deal more difficult for me. However, I truly enjoyed the exercise of putting my thoughts into concise statements of how the action was building the plot, and I will continue to use this method.
Getting back to Mr. Collins…
The pulling apart action in this story is not from an outside force or a misunderstanding. The force keeping Collins from his goal comes from within.
While plotting this story, I had to keep two journeys in mind.
First, I needed to take my hero on an outward journey from arrival to happily ever after.
Of course, a few obstacles had to stand in his way, but these obstacles were not large. They were not rife with danger. There was no deep and serious love triangle. There was no opposition from family or anything of that nature.
The obstacles in this story appear relatively small but were made larger by Mr. Collins’s inward journey from what he saw himself as to what he wished to become.
This was the second and most important journey that I had to keep in mind — the true battle to find happily ever after was fought within the gentleman. His growth was the key to his happy future. Without that growth, he would have inherited an estate, but he would never have become the true Master of Longbourn.
As I was writing, there was a statement that Collins made which caused me to pause. It seemed wrong from where I was sitting and looking at Collins’s journey, but try as I might, he insisted that what he had said was correct. And he was right. I’ll tell you more about that next month after you have had a chance to read Master of Longbourn for yourself. I fear it might spoil something for you if I were to discuss it now.
When you pick up your copy of Master of Longbourn, pay attention to the discussion between Collins, Bingley, and Darcy in Chapter 11. The statement I am talking about happens in that chapter. It is the pivotal moment or the climax of Collins’s inward journey, and that’s what we will discuss next month.
Did you read chapters 1 and 2? You can find them here.
After you have had a chance to read those chapters…
- you might want to enter your thoughts into the discussion about reading that is being held in Longbourn’s sitting room. Are you with Kitty and would never read the ending without reading the rest of the book? Or are you more like Bingley and perfectly happy to read the ending and move on unless the book entices you to read more? I’ll admit that I’m a Bingley in this regard. 🙂 Yes, I am an end of the book peeker. No, it does not ruin my enjoyment of the book. In fact, it enhances it for me. I’m pretty sure Kitty would not understand that, but then, we are all individuals and as such, do things differently. (And different and wrong are NOT synonyms.)
- you might also wish to give your first impressions of my dear Mr. Collins. He has become one of my favourite characters that I have written now. But could you see his verbosity coming out at times due to nerves? And how did he respond to himself? Can you see where his view of himself is starting? And where he wants to go?