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!