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Developing A Will of Iron: from plot bunny to outline
by Linda Beutler
There are two kinds of bunny that hatch out of an egg, the Easter Bunny, and plot bunnies. It was about halfway through the editing of my first novel, The Red Chrysanthemum, that the basis of A Will of Iron was expressed. As Meryton Press editor Gail Warner and I bantered about TRC, we talked about what might happen if Darcy came back to Rosings while Elizabeth was still at Hunsford. Both characters would still be smarting from the Hunsford Proposal. How soon would self-revelation set in?
First, why would Darcy return—under what circumstances? A death in the family perhaps? Okay…that would indeed pull him back to Rosings, along with not just Colonel Fitzwilliam, but his entire family.
If Darcy comes back for a funeral, who has died? The obvious choice is Anne de Bourgh, the ever-sickly cousin. In such circumstances, Elizabeth might be asked to extend her stay to assist Charlotte Collins with any burdens placed on the Hunsford vicarage by Lady Catherine.
(The first scene written was a silent conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth, full of significant eye contact and mimed words, as they see each other across a room at the gathering at Rosings following Anne’s funeral.)
Of course Anne is sickly, but why would she suddenly die? Anything catching might carry off another character too, so that was out. Her malady had to be personal—or maybe not just personal, but perhaps an outright secret? Something scandalous, even? What about succumbing to complications of a pregnancy?
It started to become clear that at least some portion of the story must be told from Anne’s point of view, but with her found dead in the first paragraph of Chapter One, how could this be managed? The opportunity to get deep into Anne’s head was best exploited if she kept a journal.
(The prologue was the second thing written, consisting of Anne’s last journal entry the night before her death.)
Why would Anne de Bourgh get pregnant? Ah…to escape her mother. Well I ask you, who wouldn’t search every avenue for respite from such a mother as Lady Catherine? Anne is an heiress, having come of age as defined by the terms of her father’s will at age 25,and ready to cut the cord, fly the nest, beat a hasty retreat. Oh my…those journals could be dynamite!
(The delivery of the journals to Charlotte and Elizabeth was the third scene written.)
[Now mind you, all of these musings are shared with my editor as we polish a much different story.]
If Anne is pregnant when she dies, who was the sperm donor? It had to be someone pretty awful, if she thought carrying his child would buy her freedom from Lady Catherine. But what if Anne left a will? Her moral compass may be as skewed as her mother’s, but she would wish to secure her child’s future as the Rosings heir.
(The reading of the will was the next scene completed.)
Having read my other books, many More Agreeably Engaged readers will remember there is a wedding night at the end of my stories—I cannot escape including mature content, nor do I wish to. When three different scenarios for wedding nights intruded into my brain, I had to end the plot with three different couples to use the options. At first all three scenes, of three different couples at three different locations, appeared at first in the same chapter. Then Anne spoke to me from beyond the grave, explaining the need for two chapters to divide the focus properly between the first two wedding nights and the last.
(Oh dear…the end was written much too soon, yet again. This is getting to be a regular habit!)
The story took a dark turn, as stories based on a death do, but because it centers so heavily on Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and scrambling in her wake, the toady Mr. Collins, how could it not be a comedy? Perhaps an uncommonly dark mash-up of P & P with A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Suddenly there was too much written and not enough bridges between the pieces. Time for an outline, which saw bodies piling up, Anne’s will disrupting the socio-economic order of Jane Austen’s characters, and not a few ill-timed wounds from Cupid’s errant arrows. He has lousy aim.
My editor describes A Will of Iron as a macabre romantic comedy. Much to my surprise, the outline revealed some interesting explanations for details left hanging in Pride and Prejudice. How did Sir Lewis de Bourgh die? Who exactly purchased Wickham’s commission in the ____shire militia? Is there some mutual consensus that keeps Darcy and his cousin Anne from marrying? Does “Richard” Fitzwilliam always have to be a “Dick”? If your best friend swoons at the suggestion, might he not be Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam?
This last question I can answer truthfully without fear of spoilers. I have become so fond of the name Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam—and JA never christened him—that he will remain with this name in all of my future stories.
Outlines are flexible documents, not meant to be written in stone. But they also serve as an often necessary guideline. For me, the outline additionally serves as the repository of perhaps-useful facts and snippets of dialogue, a think tank. In this regard, the AWOI outline worked better than most.
I hope your readers will be intrigued and open-minded. This story is told with a peculiar voice. Thanks for this opportunity, Janet!
Thank you again, Linda Beutler, for including More Agreeably Engaged as part of your blog tour. I know it is a hectic schedule and I'm happy to have you here. I enjoyed you sharing your thoughts from plot bunny to outline. I am intrigued and open-minded as I feel sure these readers will be too.
Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam??? Tell me it isn't so! lol (yes, I know I said I would be open-minded) I had to laugh at your question about "Richard" Fitzwilliam. I will be looking now for Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam in this and your future releases! :) I guess because we see him so much as a Richard that that is how I think of him. But then, I had never imagined him as a "Dick" either. (chuckling here) He is one of my favorite characters and I always like to see him well portrayed.
Below is the book blurb, buy link, author bio and blog tour schedule, for Linda's new release, A Will of Iron. There is also a giveaway of one eBook and it is open internationally, thanks to Meryton Press and Michele Reed. Please have your 'share in the conversation'. Maybe tell us what you think of the name change from Richard to Alexander for the dear Colonel. What did you think of Linda's revelation of plot bunny to outline? So many questions she posed. I guess one must read the book to find the answers. 'What say you'? As always, please leave your contact information so we may tell you if you are the winner of this book. The giveaway will end at 11:58 P.M. on 13 July, 2015. Good luck to all! Please be aware that the book from the giveaway will not be sent out until about two weeks after the blog tour ends. Keep that in mind if you are the winner. Thanks!
The untimely death of Anne de Bourgh, only days after his disastrous proposal at the Hunsford parsonage, draws Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam back to Rosings Park before Elizabeth Bennet has left the neighborhood. In death, Anne is revealed as having lived a rich life of the mind, plotting rather constantly to escape her loathsome mother, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Anne’s journal, spirited into the hands of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth, holds Anne’s candid observations on life and her family. It also explains her final quirky means of outwitting her mother. Anne’s Last Will and Testament, with its peculiar bequests, upheaves every relationship amongst the Bennets, Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Collinses, and even the Bingleys! Was Anne de Bourgh a shrewder judge of character than Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy combined?
Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College, writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA, and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has--Linda Beutler is the curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Garden With Clematis (Timber Press, 2004) her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.
And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gob smacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she printed out the first three chapters of her book, and out it went, a child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austen-esque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, was ready for publication in September 2013.
Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.
Blog Tour Schedule:
7/6: Review at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
7/7: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
7/8: Excerpt at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice
7/9: Review at Wings of Paper
7/10: Guest Post & Giveaway at So Little Time…
7/11: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope
7/12: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
7/13: Review at Songs & Stories
7/14: Review at Austenprose
7/15: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
7/16: Review at Margie's Must Reads
7/17: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars
7/18: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
7/19: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
7/20: Review at Diary of an Eccentric