“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
— Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey)
Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen‘s first novel, and it is widely believed this book is a truest reflection of Jane’s inner mind. The story is about a gentleman’s daughter who only wishes to read books far too often and usually lets her imagination run away from her. The quotes of the young heroine in the novel demonstrates Jane’s own mind in her novels and letters.
Yes, this means I enjoy reading Jane Austen. And yes, you can infer that I have exceedingly high expectations of men. But for once, that is not the point of this discussion of Jane Austen.
Jane Austen was a passionate-type person, one who never did anything in halves. This is a personality I can closely relate to, especially when it comes to my dedication to writing. And, as you can see in the quote below, people who never do things in “halves” do not tend to allow themselves to get close to others. At least not without extensive interviewing and maybe a trust exercise or two (or maybe that is just me?).
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”
— Jane Austen (Jane Austen’s Letters)
As you can see, Jane herself admits that she would rather keep her distance from a person than to like them. Either way, it is a difficult process to become a close friend to such a passionate person. Passionate people tend to feel things intensely, and thus can seem more extreme than an average person. (Do you, reader, feel you are much the same way? Or do you shy away from others who seem to feel emotions too intensely?)
However, lucky for generations of adoring readers, Austen was able to turn her intense passions into excellent writing. She turned her strong ability to read people well and criticize others (as well as society ) into writing that people can relate to…for hundreds of years.
This is a formula behind many successful writers, especially those who tend to satirize their world (Oscar Wilde, Douglass Adams, Mark Twain, and Chuck Palahniuk). The formula makes sense, and should be easily duplicable.
Knowing the world around you is ridiculous is an easy statement. Knowing how to put that ridiculousness into clever words without hurting too many people’s feelings is near impossible. And that is what most writers are tasked with.
As a writer, you are expected to feel things in your characters with intensity, understand them at a basic level, yet see those people for who they are to society as a whole. Jane Austen did it. Are you next?
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