Thirty-three Degrees of Separation from Jane

Thirty-three Degrees of Separation from Jane

In case you’re wondering, the title of this post and the image that accompanies it are teasers. Feel free to guess what it might all mean, but I’m not going to tell you just yet. I’ll get to it eventually. First, I will share the delights of this past weekend, May 4-5, 2018, which I spent at the annual Storymakers Writers Conference in Provo, Utah.

There were stickers, a notebook, a folder, a tote, a pen, ribbons and nametag and a t-shirt, but the best bit of swag I got from the conference was the lovely Jane Austen pin, from Shaela Kay.
This Darcy would have been right at home at Storymakers on Friday.

The conference is full of writers from every possible genre, and on Friday, May 4, while my relatives were sending me “May the Firth be with you,” memes on social media, I was mingling with a variety of people, some in Jedi robes. At dinner, there were two lovely Leias at my table.

Fuzzy picture of Sarah Eden as MC – taken from a distance.

The conference Master of Ceremonies this year was Sarah Eden, a well-known author of Regency (and other) Romance novels. It should be no surprise that her writing style echoes her personality. She was entertaining and hilarious, as you’ll see before I’m through here.

The classes and workshops of this conference always motivate and inspire me, but this year, I struck the mother-lode. I found solutions to issues I’m having with my current WIP along with ways to add layers–so many layers–that I’m excited to implement. I’m officially fired up to take what I learned this weekend and finish the final book of the One Thread Pulled series.

The instructors of the workshops often use Austen novels as examples of how to write well. It’s impressive that Austen intuitively nailed all the “beats” without the benefit of all the resources modern writers have.

One of my favorite sessions was a workshop on how to apply the 15-beat “Save the Cat” screenwriting template to novels. The instructor, Jessica Brody, frequently used Pride and Prejudice to illustrate the beats. From the opening scene where Mrs. Bennet is exulting about Netherfield Park’s new tenant, to Lydia’s disastrous elopement being the moment when it is clear that all is lost, it’s evident all over again that Jane Austen was a master storyteller. It’s one thing to read her stories and love them, but it’s thrilling to more fully understand what makes them so compelling.

One of the highlights of this year’s conference was the keynote speaker, Shannon Hale. She had me at Austenland as she shared some hilarious photos with the cast that were taken on-set with Jane Seymore’s contraband cell-phone, but she kept my rapt attention as she talked about serious social concerns that authors must face head-on. When she spoke about the fact that the perspective of men has historically driven the narrative, I thought to myself that Austen had essentially believed the same thing. This conversation between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville in “Persuasion” came to mind:

“…Well, Miss Elliot” (lowering his voice), “as I was saying, we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you — all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps, you will say, these were all written by men.”

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

Shannon’s keynote was thought-provoking and enlightening, and I gained a new perspective on the opportunities and responsibilities of being a female author in today’s world. A two-hour workshop with her the next day expanded on the importance of detecting and rooting bias out of our writing, being sensitive to the communities we write for and about, and the importance of not leaving large percentages of the population unrepresented in our work.

Shannon Hale Characterization Workshop

If you’re still reading, now we get to the payoff, the part where I explain the title of this post. Remember that Sarah Eden was the MC. Well, on Saturday morning, genius that she is, she told us how she brilliantly tested the limits of technology in the field of writing. She took a scene from the movie “Twilight” and input the dialogue into Google Translate not just once, but in a sequence of thirty different languages, and then back into English. She and a few daring friends then performed the resulting scene as a skit. The guy portraying Edward wore a descriptive t-shirt as his costume for the skit. Here is the scene that was translated:

As you might guess, hilarity ensued. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of the script, but the multi-translated term for “Vampire” was “Blood Rocket,” which was the imprint on the t-shirt. Now for the math.  Stephanie Meyers has stated that her novel Twilight was modeled after Pride and Prejudice, which is step one. Twilight the novel to Twilight the movie is step two. Now we add thirty, one degree for each foreign language that the script passed through, and one more for the translation back to English for a total of thirty-three degrees of separation between Jane Austen’s proud Darcy and the “Blood Rocket” character in the skit.

When the skit was over, they tossed the “Blood Rocket” t-shirt costume randomly into the crowd of 700 or so people. It landed right in front of me on the table. I’ve never caught a baseball or won a door prize, but that, my friends, is how this Austen Author wound up as the proud (?) owner of Edward’s “Blood Rocket” souvenir/trophy t-shirt from the Storymakers 2018 Conference.


26 Responses to Thirty-three Degrees of Separation from Jane

  1. Oh, I never knew about the P&P / Twilight connection. I read the first book (only to keep up with some young friends), hated it, but somehow got the impression that Edward and family were werewolves, not vampires. Maybe that was changed for the movie.

    • You are correct that Twilight featured werewolves, but Edward’s family were vampires. The local tribe of Native Americans who lived on the Reservation near Forks, WA became werewolves at puberty. Bella’s friend, the character Jacob Black, was among that “pack.” There was an uneasy truce and territory agreement between the vampires and werewolves in Twilight.

  2. I wasn’t aware there was a connection between the two and never got around to reading the twilight series. I enjoy paranormal books but usually stray away from vampires to some degree although I have branched out to them a bit more over the last year or so but when Twilight first came out I did not intentionally read any books were the main characters were vampires. I preferred to about other paranormal beings like shifters and werewolves which sadly do not get made into many Austen related books.

  3. I knew as those books were being published of the connection. It was written up in various reviews. So I was looking for the similarities. I am sure that was a wonderful “lucky” catch. Good for you. The conference sounds interesting…even more for a writer. Thanks for sharing.

    • It would be interesting to do an actual analysis of parallels between Pride and Prejudice and Twilight. I never read or watched Fifty Shades, so I can’t speak to that one. It’s safe to say that there’s always something interesting beneath the surface when it comes to brooding men.

    • I had a great time. The folks who weren’t in full-on introvert mode were having even more fun than me. In any case, it was an awesome 2 days. Thanks for the comment!

    • It was fun seeing you too – it would have been great to chat for a few minutes, but as you know, that lunch line was insane, and we were going in opposite directions.

  4. I never thought about the parallels between P&P and Twilight before, so I have something new to ponder when I’m supposed to be writing. Sounds like a great conference! I’m glad you took home a prize along with your swag.

    • Hi, Nancy. I first learned about this startling connection between “Pride and Prejudice” and “Twilight” when “Fifty Shades of Grey” was published, and I read a blog about how FSoG started as a “Twilight” Fan Fiction. The writer of the blog linked the article to an interview with Stephanie Meyer where she stated that P&P was her model for Twilight. The factoid stuck in my head because it was such a strange connection, particularly with the leap to FSoG. The conference was fantastic. As for my “prize,” I still need to figure out where I’m going to wear it…or if, for that matter.

    • I’m glad that came across in the post, Charlene. It was fun, inspiring, and exhausting. I knew a few of the people I saw there–like fellow Austen Author, Rebecca Jamison–but I’m there solo. Although I’ve gone to this conference for five years now, I’m still in a sea of mostly strangers, which, as an introvert, is completely draining. If it weren’t such a fantastic conference, I probably wouldn’t be able to bring myself to deal with a crowd that size, even though I can honestly say that the people I meet there are consistently kind, generous, interesting and gracious, on top of being fun.

  5. Sounds like a cool conference! I think the Firth is with us all!lol I read Twilight but never thought it had been modeled so to speak after Pride and Predjudice. Now I’m trying to think of similarities. Good for thought. Great post!

    • This particular conference is one I make it a point to attend each year. It’s close to home, so I don’t have to get a hotel, and I always come away motivated, but this year’s conference outdid itself. I’m still processing it all.

  6. Diana, it sounds like such a great conference and I’m thrilled you ate inspired to work on and finish book three.

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I’ve been working on it, but struggling with a few issues. You know how the “aha” light bulb moments feel? Well, I had an “aha” weekend. It was enlightening. Ba doom boom. I’ll be here all day, folks. 🙂

  7. Diana, What a fun post! I forgot about the connection between Twilight and P&P. Lucky you… A Blood Rocket t-shirt. I always wanted one of those. (tee-tee)

    • Hehehe – I’m pretty sure that I heard envious weeping and wailing all around me when that shirt sailed through the air and found me, like a Blood Rocket seeking out it’s prey. Yeah, I know. It doesn’t really work as a metaphor. Thanks for commenting.

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