Thursday, May 26, 2011

Looks Like a Duck

These two fine mallards might not bear any resemblance to Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I assure you, there is a symbolic connection. 

You're likely familiar with the inductive reasoning test, "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." This dictum works equally well for fiction. When authors create a character, we give them a set of things they do and say. That's how readers recognize them as they read the book.

In writing a Jane Austen sequel, the characters form the core of your story. One of the questions I asked on my first editing pass was, "Does this sound like Darcy?" I can tout my book as "A Mr. Darcy Novel" all I want, but if I don't get him right, none of what I say will matter.

Kindle sample chapters make it even more imperative to show your grasp of character from the first paragraph. Readers of Jane Austen sequels open the sample with one question in mind: "Will I recognize the characters?"

Today, I'm putting that question in your hands. I haven't shared any of HIS GOOD OPINION with you--yet. Here is the opening chapter, as it currently stands. What do you think? Is Darcy, Darcy?

Chapter One

"I will never understand, Darcy, why you insist on going out in Society only to be displeased with everyone you meet."

Fitzwilliam Darcy poured two glasses of brandy and handed one to his friend before he took the chair opposite him. "I go out because it is expected of me, Bingley. You know that."

Charles Bingley pointed at him. "Ah, but that does not answer the question, does it?"

Darcy conceded the point with the barest shrug of his shoulders. Here, in the comfort of his own study, there was no need to pretend. "I admit that I find little in Society of which to approve."

"Only because you are determined to disapprove!" Bingley protested. "What of the young lady you sat out with tonight? Let me hear your opinion of her."

Darcy ran his fingers down the side of his glass. "Her aunt approached me and said her niece had sprained her ankle, and would I be willing to keep her company? Courtesy forbade I refuse, though you know how little I enjoy making conversation with someone I am not intimately acquainted with. I have not your ease of speaking on subjects in which I have little or no interest." His lips curled in disdain, and he took a sip of brandy to wash the sour taste from his mouth.

"That is a commentary on your own character, not the lady's."

He ignored the familiar needling. "After two minutes of idle chatter, I inquired after her injury."

Satisfaction gleamed in Bingley's blue eyes. "Ah, you are capable courtesy after all!"

Darcy leaned forward, his forehead creased in a frown. "Perhaps you will not be so victorious, Bingley, when you hear the rest of the story. She did not understand what I spoke of. When she returned to her aunt shortly thereafter, she did not have a limp. The entire incident was manufactured so she could gain my attention. No doubt they have heard that I do not dance often —"

"Or ever."

The leather chair creaked in protest when Darcy stood. He took Bingley's glass and strode to the table, glad to have something to do, even if it was only refilling their drinks. This topic never failed to rile him, and he could not sit still. He poured the amber liquid and found a measure of calm in the action.

"They sought a way to get time with me, and they found it. You wish to know why I so seldom give my good opinion to those I meet; it is this dishonesty, this deception of which I cannot approve. I cannot — I will not — marry a woman I do not trust."

Bingley took his refilled glass, and Darcy noted his frown with some vexation. "You are being a bit presumptuous, Darcy. How can you be so certain she wished to marry you? It was simply a dance."

Darcy set the decanter down on the tray with a hard clang. "Surely even you will acknowledge that a single woman in possession of no brothers must be in want of a husband."

Bingley shook his head and laughed. "You can hardly claim that to be a universal truth."

Darcy ran his hand through his close-cropped dark curls. Has it truly escaped his notice that he too has received such attentions? Though it was this very ability to see nothing but the good in people that recommended Bingley to him, at times his amiable nature bordered on naivet√©.

"Perhaps not universal, but a truth nonetheless." He paced the confines of the study. The dark walls, usually calming, pressed in on him tonight. London always worn on his nerves, but this Season had been worse than most. "I need to get out of Town, Bingley."

Bingley eyed Darcy over the edge of his glass. "You sound as if you had a plan in mind."

Darcy stood in front of the empty fireplace and tapped his fingers on the mantle. "I believe it is time I visited Georgiana in Ramsgate."

"Is that what has made you so tense of late? I know you take great care for her."

Bingley's insight startled Darcy. "Yes, I imagine so. I trust Mrs. Younge of course or I would not have consented to the plan. Still, I will feel better once I see for myself how she is getting on." He turned back to his friend, at ease for the first time in weeks.

"When will you leave?"

"Tomorrow morning."

Bingley raised his eyebrows. "That is rather spontaneous, Darcy — indeed, it is the kind of precipitous decision you often tease me for."

Darcy tossed back the rest of his brandy before he answered. "In truth, I have been thinking about it some weeks. I just did not realize it until tonight."

"Well, if you are decided, then I wish you safe travels."

Bingley returned home soon after, and Darcy retired for the night, content with the knowledge he would soon be free of the artifice of Town, once again in a comfortable family setting.

His Good Opinion can be purchased in e-book format from AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwordsAmazon UKAmazon DEAmazon FRAmazon.IT, andAmazon.ES. The paperback is available from Amazon.