Following in the footsteps of a giant?

I sat down with my second cup of coffee after breakfast to add a few sentences or paragraph to my current work in progress. Five hundred plus words and another one of those ‘where the heck did that come from?’ moments later, I realised that this story is one of those that sparkles with ideas. But I had to ask myself ‘why is this happening to this particular story?’

The work in progress concerns my third novel. My first I have long since abandoned because it is a beginner’s novel, the one where you write out your mistakes and ditch. It also has what I call the standard science fiction themes and action. My second is a serious novel where the main characters develop, albeit as a result of what happens to them rather than them actively progressing forward themselves. The third, which admittedly is being written alongside the second? Well, that just goes from strength to strength, surprising and delighting at every turn.

At this point, the penny drops. Another author took a similar path a long long time ago (but not in a galaxy far far away). I am of course talking about Jane Austen.

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Her first novel was Northanger Abbey and written, tongue in cheek, in the gothic style that was popular at the time. It was published posthumously. And it would never have got published had not Jane Austen been a famous author by that time.

Her second novel was Sense and Sensibility, which Jane had to publish herself. This examines the interplay between common sense and emotions, which many people would consider opposites. My second novel also works through what many people would consider opposites in science fiction. The heroine, like Marianne Dashwood, gradually moves from one extreme to the other over the course of many ‘adventures’ during the novel.

Austen’s third novel was Pride and Prejudice. That just examines the social attributes of the time, as Jane herself put it, it sparkles.

So more by dint of accident than design, I’m kind of following a similar development curve to Jane Austen. Two key differences are:

  • Jane Austen was dealing with contemporary novels whilst my genre is science fiction
  • I don’t pretend to be as great a writer as Jane Austen

But the pattern is interesting:

  • 1st novel – imitating what is already being sold, but also commentating on it
  • 2nd novel – dealing with basic opposite characteristics
  • 3rd novel – examining variations on themes

Austen’s fourth novel was Mansfield Park, which has been described elsewhere as a moral tale. The fifth was Emma which is about an anti-heroine which the last was Persuasion, to my mind a commentary on the politics of the then society.

Will I continue to follow the Jane Austen pattern?

Only time will tell, but how really don’t see how the idea for my fourth novel would ever develop into a moral tale.

Now to get back to that sparkling novel.

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