Monday, January 17, 2011

Style and the Austenesque novel

Writing a novel in another author's world, using her characters, presents a special set of difficulties. As I read through His Good Opinion, one comes up more than others: How important is it that I emulate Austen's writing style?

Jane favored indirect dialogue. She did it in such a way that you might not even realize it; did you know Mr. Darcy's proposal contains only four sentences of real dialogue? We are then told what he said regarding her family and her background, but not given the words he actually used. In contrast, I love dialogue. My rough drafts are often little more than conversations strung together with a few actions. Description follows in later revisions.

However, I faltered when it came to the internal monologue. Here again Jane used a deft hand to indirectly tell us what the character was thinking. My usual technique is to italicize the private thoughts of the character, but for some reason, I tried to follow her pattern here. Instead of sounding clever, my observations were little more than thinly disguised exposition. I see some serious rewriting in these areas.

The other stylistic question is trickier. How much of the older spelling should I use? Whenever I pulled over dialogue from Pride and Prejudice, I kept the original spelling. However, when I use the same word later, will the modern spelling jar the readers? It seems inconsistent to me, and yet I do not wish to change the spelling in the quote. "Chuses" was the word that caught my eye this afternoon, and it is certainly a common enough word to warrant consideration.

So what say you, readers? Do I follow Jane's patterns, or forge my own road? Should I do as I... chuse?