Anatomy of a Pride and Prejudice Variation

Anatomy of a Pride and Prejudice Variation

What does it take to write a Pride and Prejudice variation?

After reading 200+ variations in 2012-2013, I found there were a number of plots running through my head. Although I had toyed with the idea of writing fiction off and on for years, I had never really taken it seriously except for one Science Fiction story that I started about fifteen years ago but never finished. (I am thinking seriously about finishing it in the next year or so.)

I did find that I love the Pride and Prejudice variations and began to contemplate writing my own. With several different plots to choose from, Darcy Chooses came into being. The first question was ‘Do I follow canon or leap into the unknown on my own with a completely different plot?’ Since this was my first foray into Jane Austen’s world, I took canon and put thirteen twists on it. Two of those twists involved Wickham and Lady Catherine and making them a tad worse than Jane Austen had done. I wasn’t at the point of making them good guys and may never reach that point.

However, the very first thing I did after deciding to write a variation was to read Pride and Prejudice again since I had only read it once when in High School. And, no, I won’t tell you how long ago that was. 🙂 Too long. And I’ve decided that it will be read again before the end of this year also and probably once a year after that to get more the feel of Austen’s writing because I don’t think like Austen and don’t write like her either. So, in my case, I try to give my books a Regency feel instead.

One of the things I did at the beginning of my writing career was to write dialogue without contractions more or less as Jane Austen did. However, she did use some contractions with a few of her characters. Unfortunately, when I used none, I got reviewed as being stilted with my writing. So, I began using more in my writing and got slammed for using them as she didn’t use contractions in her writings. Of course, that wasn’t correct, but detractors didn’t care about that.

When I did research, I found that most contractions were used, in speech, mainly from the 14th century onward. And I appreciate that Joanna Waugh was kind enough to allow me to use her list of contractions with ones that Jane Austen used in her books listed in red. For writers of Jane Austen Fan Fiction or other Regency books, Joana’s website has quite a bit of research information. She has over 100 Pinterest boards that have even more research and illustrations, etc.

Red indicates contractions used by Jane Austen

Ain’t                                                                                       in use by 1780
‘cause (because)                                                                     in use by 1450
Can’t                                                                                       in use by 1655
Couldn’t                                                                                  in use by 1650
Don’t                                                                                                   c. 1640
E’en (even)                                                                                         c. 1300
E’er (ever)                                                                                          c. 1300
‘em (them)                                                                                          c. 1100
I’d                                                                                                       c. 1655
I’ll                                                                                                       c. 1570
I’m                                                                                                      c. 1595
I’ve                                                                                                      c. 1745
It’s                                                                                                       c. 1625
Ma’am                                                                                                c. 1670
Mustn’t                                                                                               c. 1745
Ne’er (never)                                                                                      c. 1300
O’ (of)                                                                                                 c. 1300
O’clock                                                                                               c. 1720
Shan’t                                                                                                 c. 1655
She’d                                                                                                   c. 1745
She’ll                                                                                                  c. 1595
Shouldn’t                                                                                            c. 1850
Tain’t                                                                                                  c. 1820
They’d                                                                                                c. 1680
They’ll                                                                                                c. 1615
They’re                                                                                               c. 1595
They’ve                                                                                               c. 1615
T’is or ‘tis                                                                                           c. 1400
Tone                                                                                                    c. 1350
Tother (the other)                                                                               c. 1350
‘twas                                                                                                   c. 1590
‘tween                                                                                                 c. 1300
‘twere                                                                                                  c. 1590
‘twixt                                                                                                  c. 1350
Wasn’t                                                                                                c. 1850
We’d                                                                                                   c. 1605
We’ll                                                                                                   c. 1580
We’ve                                                                                                 c. 1745
Who’d                                                                                                 c. 1640
Won’t                                                                                                  c. 1655
Wouldn’t                                                                                            c. 1830
You’d                                                                                                  c. 1605
You’ll                                                                                                 c. 1595
You’re                                                                                                 c. 1595
You’ve                                                                                                c. 1695

Now, I had a decision to make: would I include contractions in my variations? The answer is ‘yes.’ I do have the characters using some contractions, and I use contractions in my narrations. Only four contractions in that entire list show up in the 1800’s. And they were probably in use long before that even though they didn’t show up in print.

Why didn’t Jane Austen use them? She may have preferred more formal speech for her characters, or she just may not have liked contractions. And if I refrain from using them at all, my writing will come across as stilted, so I will use contractions with a light hand to provide an enjoyable experience for my readers.

Research. I’ve done as much or more research for my Regency books than all my health books and articles combined. 🙂 I did a bunch of research for Elizabeth’s Choice. I wanted Darcy and Elizabeth’s honeymoon to Ireland to be a fun experience for them AND my readers. And I wanted to have fun in writing it as well, and I did.

First and foremost was what I found out about clipper ships. They were quite a bit faster than regular ships, and that suited the book just fine as I didn’t want my couple spending a lot of time just traveling. So, I had Darcy owning a Baltimore clipper ship that enabled them to get where they were going fairly quickly so they could enjoy the sights of Dublin and Cork. They were to be gone only a month as the demands of Pemberley would soon need to be met. Also, I didn’t want to have to gloss over two or three days travel as they would see mostly only water on their journeys by ship. Traveling by clipper ship, they arrived at Dublin from Liverpool in one day.

It was important to give my readers a real taste of Ireland and its people as Darcy and Elizabeth followed their own personal interests. In real life, these two bibliophiles would have spent several days at the Trinity College Library looking at ancient books and learning more about them. However, I kept it to two mornings and also went into information about the ancient harp and the sculptures that were also found at that renown library.

Ireland has a history as varied and, I daresay, as bloody as England’s background, and I touched on it with Blarney Castle at Cork and references to Ireland’s rebellion against the English. I endeavored to put myself in Darcy and Elizabeth’s shoes and depict how they really would act and what they’d be interested in while visiting the Emerald Isle. I also loved having them go incognito to an Irish Pub. Between that and the sea life they spotted when sailing to and from Ireland, some angst, and a whole lot of loving going on, I was pleased with how Elizabeth’s Choice turned out.


Darcy Vs Bingley did not start out as a series. I was picking the brains of my friend, Joy King, when she and I both realized, at the same time, that Warring with Lady Catherine really needed to be Darcy Vs Lady Catherine and part of a series. So, the Darcy Versus Series was born. The third in this series is Darcy Vs Elizabeth and is my WIP. Since the first two books’ angst revolved around Pemberley, this one will also. And, yes, Darcy and Elizabeth will have their HEA, but it will be a little angsty with hurt feelings, irritated acquaintances, and Darcy might get slapped once or twice for being pig-headed. 🙂

I didn’t start out my writing career planning on doing series, but that is where I’m at for the time being and will probably specialize in. So far, all my writings are parts of series: The Darcy and Elizabeth Collection, the Darcy Versus Series, and The Four Lords’ Saga Series. I will also be starting The Lord Paisley Mystery Series under the pen name Millicent Jaffey in January 2019 or sooner. This will be an ongoing series. And I will be planning on series for each of the four lords’ families as well.

Short stories and novellas are becoming more popular as readers have less and less time to devote to their favorite pastime. These will work well for me and for my readers as I have been condensing an hour’s worth of Bible information for five-minute talks for many years. I’ve learned to put information in a nutshell. 🙂 Although Darcy Chooses was lengthy, and I enjoyed doing it, I feel quite comfortable with novellas.

I hope to have Darcy Vs Elizabeth available toward the end of the month, and it will be at a discount for a limited time.



20 Responses to Anatomy of a Pride and Prejudice Variation

  1. The reality is, they not only used contractions, but they used a bunch we no longer do, especially in the US. I have always assumed her (and other authors) minimal use probably had to do with her (or her publisher’s) class and education and there probably being some sort of rule about contractions being too lower class or lazy. People who are literate should not slur their words together like an uneducated peasant. Except those contractions that were acceptable (o’clock for example) or if a contraction was needed to make a line of poetry work, because such rules are always riddled with exceptions.

    • I’ve wondered if the written Regency word was more formal than the spoken. We might find if someone from that time period wound up here that what we think was the way they spoke then is not quite the same as the real thing. Bottom line: we just do the best we can and hope it satisfies the readers. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your comment. I’ll try and be careful with that, Leigh. I don’t cut a story down just to make a novella. My stories seem to be about 45-60,000 words. ‘Darcy Chooses’ was an exception, and that may have been because I was new at writing fiction though I had done non-fiction for a number of years. I’m more kind of into the groove now, and future books will be stand-alones even though a part of a series.

  3. I hope your books don’t get too short, because I prefer average length or longer novels to small novellas because I read way too much and want a full story and I feel like novellas just aren’t as fleshed out as I’d like them to be. They have their place and I read them, but they’re not my favorite thing.

  4. Darcy had a Baltimore Clipper ship. They began being built in the early 1770’s.

    The first ships to which the term “clipper” seems to have been applied were the Baltimore clippers. Baltimore clippers were topsail schooners developed in the Chesapeake Bay before the American Revolution, and which reached their zenith between 1795 and 1815. They were small, rarely exceeding 200 tons OM, and modelled after French luggers.[1] Some were lightly armed in the War of 1812, sailing under Letters of Marque and Reprisal, when the type—exemplified by Chasseur, launched at Fells Point, Baltimore in 1814—became known for her incredible speed; the deep draft enabled the Baltimore clipper to sail close to the wind.[6] Clippers, running the British blockade of Baltimore, came to be recognized for speed rather than cargo space.

  5. Clipper ships are NOT in evidence until at least the 1840’s. The setting for P&P, since Jane Austen did re-write it from First Impressions, can slide from then until when she actually published it. If you wish to move it to another time period entirely, say so. I am a trained historian, so I do get really, really irritated when writers do not research the period in which their novels are set. An occasional misuse of a word, eh. I get irritated enough with all the easy misspellings, grammar errors, etc. which were never caught and corrected because the author was too lazy NOT to re-read her/his book before it was released or did not have decent editorial assistance or the beta readers did not want to upset their friend. Bah Humbug. They should be more than just ashamed at themselves. On this basis alone I would barely grade many of these writer with a passing mark. It shows that we expect low standards.

  6. I admire your desire to be authentic although for me personally I don’t mind when those kind of errors are made. This is one of the reasons I wouldn’t be able to write a regency story as I wouldn’t have the patience to do the research required to avoid the criticism.

    • Unfortunately, my desire for accuracy (because I’m a bit of a perfectionist) doesn’t avoid the criticism. I wish it did. 🙂 I just like for my facts to be straight.

      If you just sit down and read my stories for enjoyment of reading about Darcy and Elizabeth, you are my kind of reader. That’s why I write. I don’t pick up any book to nitpick to death. Not all are to my taste, but I won’t do an author that way. I do only four and five star reviews when I do review, and if there is something really wrong in a book, I contact the author privately and let them know what I found. I don’t make it public in a review.

  7. Great reference for us, Gianna. Thank you 🙂 Personally, I go with contractions. I’ve noticed we have Darcy rarely use them and Wickham often use them. Bingley generally uses them as well. For me, it’s a way to keep some characters more formal sounding verses others. I wouldn’t have Lady Catherine use a contraction but Lydia spouts them. Either way, I’ve said it before and I’ll almost certainly say it again, my goal when writing is always ease of reading.

    Besides which, I’d never pull of mimicking Austen’s voice. Trying would make me look silly. I’ll leave that to those better at it.

    Oh, and I did that too, when Renata asked me to write with her. I immediately reread Pride and Prejudice. Also Emma, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park. I also watched a lot of the movies and TV shows, all the ones I could find on cable and various streaming channels, so at least one of each of those but multiple versions of most (I think I only found one Persuasion movie I could get? Or was it Mansfield Park I only found one version of?). It was fun and I had to do it, obviously, for work. Totally required! 🙂

    • It may have been for work, but what a fun way to work, Summer. I love doing the research. Learning something new helps keep me young and my brain still working. With Alzheimer’s and dementia with several close family members, I keep active especially with writing, playing games and doing research.

      • I learned really quick I couldn’t write like Austen, and, like you, don’t try to. And I want my readers to have that ease of reading also. 🙂

  8. I didn’t realize there were so many contractions! You did some very thorough research! The books sound great!

  9. Thank you for this informative post. I have read reviews that mentioned the contradictions. I’m glad to see that they were in fact used. Great reference link… thanks for supplying it. Blessings on the continued work on your WIP and much luck when it launches.

    • Thank you for your sweet comments. They are appreciated. Critical reviews, unfortunately, come with the package. If one is an author, there will always be somebody who has to disagree. I take it on the chin most of the time, but occasionally I do get irritated at some of the comments. Though I would like to please most readers most of the time, it won’t happen. I just grin and bear it. 🙂

  10. I also did not use contractions in my debut novel. With this new knowledge, I have a decision to make as I currently write the sequel:

    1) continue to not use them so the two books flow nicely – so far not a review issue

    2) sprinkle them throughout as Miss Austen had doneissue

    Thank you for sharing this, Gianna. I love learning something new. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, and thank you for your comments, Virginia. What it boils down to is we can’t please them all. And I’m constantly amazed at the number of reviewers who insist on telling authors how to write or title their books. In the meantime, you do what you think is best for your books. 🙂

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