Monday, December 7, 2009

First Impressions: Chapter One, 1st Installment

O.K. Deep breath. Here it goes.

I am very nervous about posting excerpts from my book and have been putting it off for weeks. At my husband suggestion, I am going to post the first few chapters in "teaser" format, a little piece at a time. It took some work for him to convince me that this is a good idea before I agreed. I'm still not totally comfortable with the notion.

Please be kind. I know once it's published anyone can read it and tear it shreds as they like but too much blatant criticism now may cause me to shove the thing in a folder and never look at it again. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is of course welcome.

So here it is: this is about a third of the first chapter, covering the point where I deviate from Austen and expose the entire premise of the story. Please don't forget about the intro, my apology, in the tool bar to your right. Enough dillydallying. Without further ado, I offer for your amusement (hopefully) the beginning of First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice.

Fitzwilliam Darcy found a quiet corner of the overcrowded assembly hall and breathed an almost silent sigh of relief. From the safety of this retreat he could watch with some degree of composure as his friend, Charles Bingley, smilingly endured the crush of new neighbors from which Darcy had just escaped. Bingley, always deemed universally charming, had somehow managed to maneuver his rather plain dance partner into introducing him to the blonde beauty whom Darcy found to be, unquestionably, the handsomest lady in the room.

Darcy tried to summon a smile in response to his friend's easy sociability but was far too unhinged to succeed in the maneuver. From the moment the Netherfield party made their entrance he could not help but be acutely aware of the familiar buzz that filled the attentive room as Meryton assessed the newcomers. Though he strove to be oblivious as rumor of his income spread through the crowd, the astute observer could clearly perceive the tinge of discomfiture that disfigured his handsome face. No deep observation was required on his part to immediately discern who amongst the strangers surrounding him was privy to the gossip and who remained in ignorance: their overly attentive demeanors told all. He cursed inside. Nothing put him more out of countenance than fawning sycophants and he was displeased to observe that this neighborhood, in which he had unaccountably found himself, had an ample supply. Almost always, except in very elite circles, Darcy felt isolated by his wealth. And when he was amongst his financial equals he felt equally isolated by his values and intelligence as, unfortunately, fortunes were frequently inherited by those of less than stellar abilities. Darcy suffered nearly perpetual discomfort in society but on the evening in question, amongst those he did not know, geniality was proving a particular trial.

Between the songs of the set Bingley sought out his visibly disconcerted friend in the kindhearted, if misguided, hope of admonishing him into ease. “Come Darcy,” he said jovially, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”

“I certainly shall not,” Darcy replied emphatically. “You know how I detest it unless I'm particularly acquainted with my partner. At an assembly such as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.” He suppressed a shudder at the notion.

“I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom!” Bingley cried in amusement, both at the irony of his statement, for never was he near as fastidious as Darcy, and at his friend's predictably taciturn behavior. “Upon my honor I never saw so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”

“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” Darcy declared with a glance in her direction. Inwardly he acknowledged that she was nearly the only woman he could remember noticing at all, so preoccupied was he with his own awkward predicament.

“Oh she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” and turning around, Darcy saw a dark haired woman, of shorter stature than her sister, just perceptively tapping her foot in time to the music as she watched the dancers. She did not possess the impressive beauty of her sister, yet his quick mind was struck by the cheerful liveliness of her appearance. This lady did not pine over sitting out the set, sulking like so many women he had observed. No indeed – rather than languishing she displayed an easy pleasure in her surroundings and a generous goodwill towards those enjoying the dance. Darcy wished he could be so content, so able to relish his chosen role of spectator. He knew it to be the safest place for him. Were he to seek an introduction at this juncture it would, undoubtedly, incite unwelcome attention and gossip while forcing him to indulge in idle conversation with a young lady whose companionship surely must be intolerable. Why should he subject himself to such atrocities? A dance was entirely unthinkable. He moved to turn back round in order to give Bingley a decidedly negative response to his proposal when the lady's eyes locked on his and he realized, with a great deal of horrified mortification, that she had obviously overheard Bingley's idiotic suggestion!

She gave him a knowing look – he could almost read her thoughts: “Well sir? Would you deem my company insupportable?” There was no denying the challenge implied in the raised brow: she was clearly calling him out. Was retreat possible for a man such as he? To not step forward now would be ungentlemanly, an insult to what he must admit to be an intriguing young lady – unthinkable! If there was anything certain to overcome Darcy's timidity it was the need to always uphold the dictates of etiquette. Why else would he have come to this unfortunate assembly in the first place? He was a Darcy of Pemberley after all, descendant of some of the oldest families in England, nephew to the Earl of _________. He had the honor of his name to uphold; it didn't matter if it meant attending an assembly with his host or preventing the infliction of an insult upon a lady, he would fulfill his duty.

“Very well Bingley. If your partner would be so kind, I would be happy to make the acquaintance of her sister.”


  1. Well, I like it. The way you've expanded descriptions is very nice, though I'm curious how it melds with the undeviated introduction (if I'm reading your preface correctly)...perhaps I shall have to wait until it's published. I also really like Darcy's pride being the motivator of his dancing, directly overturning the circumstances while retaining the character exactly.

    It seems like you deviate about the same place my imagined scenario does - except that I have Darcy dance with (and eventually marry) Jane at that point. :-)

  2. You want Darcy to marry Jane!!! That's like sacrilege, or something similar.

    Thanks for the positive feedback. It means a lot.

  3. Not sacrilege, silly! Fanfiction. And I necessarily want it - I just think it's as interesting as any of the other reworkings of the story I've seen.

  4. You should write it. It would definitely be a novel twist. I just have a hard time imagining Jane and Darcy together - do you think her personality is forceful enough to keep up with him?

  5. Well, I started outlining, but I'm just not confident or energetic enough about creative writing. I hope to do some more work on it in the spring.

    However, my story is premised on the idea that Darcy and Bingley come down to Hertfordshire a year before they do in P&P - before Wickham runs off with Georgiana, so Darcy is less reserved, and Jane, being one year younger, is less reserved because she's less crushed by her mother's expectations and constant valuation of her looks. So it's a slightly different Darcy and Jane for me. Plus, I think Jane has a lot stronger character than most give her credit for - "She was firm where she knew herself to be right" (or some such paraphrase - from when she insists on going home from Netherfield when she is well).

  6. I would be very curious to see what you come up with. It's definitely an interesting premise. I never thought of Jane as crushed, though I can see from where the idea would spring. Have you read Intimations of Austen? Heaven Can Wait is a very different take on Jane. I would be very curious to hear your take on it.

  7. You know, I think Jane Greensmith is an dwiggie ('s Derbyshire Writer's Guild author), because looking at the table of contents and story descriptions, I think I've read these stories before.

    So, is that the "Heaven can wait" in her collection? Because, if it is, I adore it. And "Remember we are English."

  8. That's it. Her stories are fascinating. Have you read Three Sisters? It's my other favorite. I love her radically different approach to Austen and thought Intimations of Austen one of the best books I have read all year.

  9. Out of curiosity, what is it you think is "radically different" about Ms. Greensmith? I think her novellettes are quite sweet, and certainly more emotionally direct and less ironic and detached than Austen, but I think other authors (Debra White Smith, Margaret Sullivan in her Uppercross series - oddly enough, since she's so dedicated to snark and Austen's "humor" (which to her seems to be "making fun of people and putting them down") - though they were written when Sullivan was younger and perhaps more pleased with life) have been similarly emotionally direct (in less obvious Austen fanfic I'd put North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - clearly to me a reworking of Pride and Prejudice - and with an extraordinary emotionally and physically clear and powerful book).

    I wonder if all of her stuff is on DWG? I shall have to root around - it's nice that certain authors have kept their stuff online even after going pro (Greensmith and Altman being the main ones I know).

  10. Well, Greensmith's stories are radically different from anything I have read, not just due to their simplistic and modern prose style but also because of the variety and uniqueness of the devices she premises her work upon, which are sometimes blatantly fantastic. I haven't read Smith or Sullivan but have a sneaking suspicion that the latter is the thoroughly charming lady I met last Sunday at my first JASNA meeting - I knew she has a book out about Jane Austen and the Regency era but didn't know she had written any fan fiction! I have to seek it out.

    I haven't read North & South since high school. I really need to revisit Gaskell.

  11. Smith does modern religious retellings of Austen (unfortunately not great prose, in my opinion), and Margaret Sullivan is better known as Mags, proprietor of Austenblog (not my favorite site, despite its general usefulness) - her fanfic isn't available for purchase, but is at her website at

  12. Found it! I will have to find sometime to check this out. I will probably skip Smith since you sound less than enthralled.

  13. Yeah - the Smith is well-intentioned, but just so...mediocre. And Sullivan's stuff is a mixed bag - her Uppercross stuff is quite powerful (though I'm relying on almost four or five year old memories), but I've not been impressed by most of her other stuff.

  14. Well, assuming I find something likable in it, I will review the Uppercross stories once I have read them. I'm always clamoring for more Persuasion fan fiction so this should be right up my ally.