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My Mission Statement, PLUS…

February 26, 2010

It is my goal in writing fiction to create stories I would love to read myself. I would hope to entertain at least a little, and give good examples in characters while I’m at it. To begin with, there must be a happy ending. How many times have I read a story or novel to be frustrated at the cliff hanging or disappointing ending? I have always been inclined to rewrite the ending in my imagination because that was the only way not to remain in annoyance over the letdown. And then there were the characters. I’ve always wanted to admire and learn from main characters at least. No, they need not be perfect angels, but let them not be akin to devils. And where they are especially flawed human beings, let them at least learn something, repent and change for the better by the end of the story. I also want to relate to the characters and situations somewhat, if not exactly the plots. I want to meet someone I would like to know, a person who faces something like my life challenges and who’s pain I can comprehend, and somebody who overcomes. To see another climb a hurdle gives me hope that I can do it too. If I can believe in the main characters, I should become more capable of believing in myself and what I can accomplish. At least that is how I see that.

I’ve thoroughly loved reading Jane Austen’s novels as well as Anne, Emily and Charlotte’s novels over and over again. I’ve greatly enjoyed many stories by Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens. There are other British, American and Canadian novelists whose classic prose I have appreciated as well. Even with all this genius at my disposal, I have still hungered for more. I have wished that writers of today and in the recent past would write such worthy works, but so oftentimes I have been quite disappointed. In fact, throughout my teens and twenties, I became so disappointed and disillusioned with most novels I picked up, that I became somewhat of a fiction snob. I began to stick with non-fiction. I chose to focus on learning something and had begun to believe that stories were silly and a waste of my time. I steered clear of fiction through my thirties and it wasn’t until my forties that I finally and happily discovered Jane Austen. I could not believe that I had not been introduced to her works in school or by anyone else. I dove into one Austen novel after another and then hunted down anything Austen I could get my active hands on. After reading and rereading Austen’s key novels, I then revisited old almost-forgotten-to-me classics and searched for more. I could not be satiated, it seemed.

Why did I adore Jane Austen’s novels so very much? Being an incurable romantic, of course I enjoyed that element, but, I was not a ‘romance novel’ fan. At the tender age of twelve, I had been given a bundle of clean romance novels (that had been circulating amongst many neighborhood females) to read and pass back or on, and being an avid reader of stories and a growing romantic at that time, I was happy to try them out. I read the first one, in one night. I think I remember liking it. Then I began to read the second book. It quickly occurred to my young mind that this novel seemed to be the same story wrapped in different trimmings: locale, names, professions, hair and eye colors and so forth. By the ending I was quite certain that I had just experienced a ‘repeat’. I was not satisfied. I was annoyed. Barely into the third book and I saw what I did not yet know was labeled as formulaic. I was reading formula romance novels. I could hardly finish that third romance novel. It was beyond irritating to me. The plot, if it can even be given that elevation, was so terribly predictable to my still tweenage mind that I was not willing to waste another moment or night perusing further into the dozens of books of that ilk. And so, as I saw it, here was the formula: girl meets boy, they at first despise each other, they keep running into each other, the man begins to show signs of liking the young woman, but girl still detests boy, and after a series of events, at the end, the female finally realizes that she has or should have loved the worthy fellow all along. Or something like that. But does it matter? It’s the same old story repeated over and over again.

When I first read Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I did believe that I had finally met the mother of all modern romance novels. It seemed to me that every ‘romance’ I had ever heard of was based on the ‘Elizabeth and Darcy’ model. Now, I will give you that Jane Austen’s genius of a framework is a very fine model and formula indeed, but can we not try something different now and then? The ‘Emma’ model? ‘The Persuasion’ formula? The ‘Sense and Sensibility’ recipe? What of other classic story inspirations? Or how about something entirely original? What about something inspired from real life or experience? Or perhaps something ‘the muse’ leads us to? I still don’t comprehend ‘the muse’ but I do know that there is ‘something’ instinctual or perhaps divine that can be followed to a degree, towards something better than following a typically and habitually followed story formula.

I do believe that my scatter-brain mind has taken me off track as per usual for me. Back to my point, or at least one point I was trying to get to somewhere back and up there. What I love about Jane Austen and other such classic (especially) feminine novels, are the interrelationships and realistic characters and situations. What I first marveled over in ‘Sense and Sensibility’ were such as the nasty, mean, greedy Fanny and her weak whipped husband John, well-intentioned busy-body Mrs. Jennings and her gabby gushingly silly daughter Charlotte. I related to the situation and characters in my own ways, having known some of such in life. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’, for example, I enjoyed the imperfections of the Bennet parents and daughters, each in their own ways. I sympathized with certain characters, laughed at others and shook my head at some. Though I am inclined to be romantic, and love a little romance in a story, I crave so very much more than a simple romance. I wish to learn something of others and myself. I want to be entertained a good deal beyond some romantic tension and, ‘Oh, they are finally going to get married!’. Even as a romantic young schoolgirl, I wanted more than a simpleton romance. At twelve, I first saw the ‘Jane Eyre’ movie (with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine) and I was enraptured. Though I was not able to see it again for possibly two decades, and I did not know that it was based on a book for many years, that movie held out as my favorite for a goodly stretch of years. What is my favorite now? It depends on the day and even perhaps the hour. I have too many favorites to mention them all now. But, the other night, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte was my favorite story and movie (with Toby Stephens and Tara Fitzgerald).

Well, another day and another try at a mission statement. As you can see, I don’t do statements all that well. My inherent excessive verbosity means that I must talk and talk, or as we see here, write and write. A simple statement, for me, is the most difficult writing of all. Perhaps, on another day, I will congeal my thoughts down into a little, simpler, more comprehensible ‘statement’. For now, I will leave this as it is, and bid you a good day.

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