By Liz, happy to welcome Darcie Wilde today! I love her post about “what ifs” – the most useful words for writers. Take it away, Darcie!
The most dangerous words in the English language are also the most useful. These words start the creative process. They vault over writer’s block, the shape the ending, and clear up the murky, marvelous middle. They pair up unlikely characters, and reshape perspective on any scene.
When I’m asked how I start a project, I’ll usually say I get a flash: a scene shows up, or a maybe piece of dialogue gets stuck in my head. And this is true, but more often, the project really starts with those two words, and whatever might follow.
I got a fresh lesson on the power of those words when I sat down to work on my latest Useful Woman mystery — The Secret of the Lost Pearls. Actually, it was before I sat down, because I had an unusually hard time getting started. I had some character ideas, I had some timeline points, I had some historical detail, but I didn’t have anything solid for the plot. It just wasn’t showing up.
So, for inspiration, I went back to the roots of the series, and my love of the Regency in general. Which sounds much fancier than what it actually was — me flaking out in front of the screen and re-watching the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.
We can argue about best adaptations, but this was my gateway to the Regency, and to Austen fandom. This and the Collected Works of Jane Austen which my then-boyfriend bought me shortly after we started seriously dating (yes, dear reader, he was in want of a wife, and yes, I married him).
While I was watching, I got to thinking a number of things.
First, Mr. Bennet really does not get enough blame for hiding in his study and failing his family on so many levels.
Second, it must have been really hard to be a younger Bennet sister. I mean, can you imagine? Mom loves Jane best. Dad loves Lizzie best, and the rest of you are being constantly compared to these paragons of beauty and wit, and constantly being put down because you don’t measure up.
Heck, if I’d been one of the younger sisters, I would have eloped too.
And there it was. Or rather, there they were. Those two words.
What if there was a change to the original plot? What there was a neglected younger sister, like Lydia, who’s sisters looked set to marry rich, but this time the younger sister was not not simply scatter-brained and nieve? What if she had a plan? What if she went to the ne’re do well who was also sniffing around the sisters and said “I know a way we can both make out like bandits…”
What would that mean for a family? For a young woman who took a chance like that?
What would that story look like?
I mean…What if…?
Darcie Wilde is a bestselling, multi-genre author of Regency mystery and romance. Her latest Useful Woman mystery — The Secret of the Lost Pearls, has been named a Must Read by USA Today, and an Editor’s Pick by Amazon.com. She lives and works in Michigan.
Readers, weigh in on the biggest “what ifs” in your lives!
Welcome to the blog, Darcie, and congratulations on finding the “what-if” you needed. Probably my biggest what-if was when I said, eleven years ago, “What if I left this day job to write fiction full time?” I answered it by doing exactly that, and I’ve never looked back.
As a person that doesn’t adjust well to change, my biggest “what if” was on the way back home from a short vacation in the place we loved – the Ozark Mountains. Shocked my hubby by saying “what if” we sold out and moved here permanently. He literally pulled off to the shoulder, looked at me with those big eyes and said “Are you serious?”.
From there it was the are we really serious about this, thinking out about selling the house we had designed and lived in for so many years, and the almost fall over in a faint thought of having to move and to where. There were many discussions, plans made and then changed, research done on things like what could we get for our house, what property cost there, finding a builder (because we knew this would be our forever home and it had to be everything we ever dreamed of in a home), how to move since I am physically limited, and a zillion other details. There was facing fears, tears of indecision at times, Lots of worry if we were making the right choice. And happiness at the thought of following our dreams.
The end result we found the perfect property and builder, discarding all the excess “stuff” we had was liberating, finding just the right ingredients for our perfect home was fun and here almost six years later, I can tell you it was the best decision we ever made. My only thought is “what if” we hadn’t followed our dreams – oh the horror!
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I think of all the places and things I could/would do if only I didn’t suffer from chronic lower back pain where standing in lines is pure agony.
Ooo, what a delightful “what if?”! Love it.
I also adore the 1995 “Pride & Prejudice” and yes, Mr. Bennet doesn’t come in for enough criticisim.
And how funny. This is the second “what if” post I’ve read this morning. Two powerful words indeed!
I love this post. What if opens so many doors!
But what if, instead of the younger sisters being upset, the older ones hate being on a pedestal? Yes, “What If” really is a power driver for so many stories.
Welcome, Darcie! I love that take on my favorite of the Austen books!
What if, 49 years ago, I had run off with a burlesque dance troup, or with the traveling motorcycle group (nice folks)? Both were real opportunities. I would not have married the greatest man ever. But, oh, the stories I would have had!
Comments are closed.