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Edit Tip: What is Going On in Their Head?

I read and edit a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF). It’s fascinating to me all the different stories and scenarios writers reimagine Austen’s masterpieces. Keeping Austen’s characters recognizable to the reader is vital to make the work credible, especially when the story strays far from canon. Sometimes, though, an author may write Darcy in a scene that seems so out of character from how Austen wrote him that I have to raise a big, red flag.

But how can writers make that work? By working on their interiority, their psyche. What is going on in the character’s head? We need to see why a character reacts in a situation. What makes them process the information as they do?

In essentials I believe Mr. Darcy is very much what he ever was. When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean that either his mind or manners were in a state of improvement. But that from knowing him better his disposition was better understood.—Jane Austen

 If a JAFF writer has only relied on Austen’s interiority, some readers will say, “These people aren’t anyone I recognize; they've simply written a story and added Pride and Prejudice names.” We have to understand why the author made the characters behave differently than what Austen wrote. When fans read JAFF, they expect a certain amount of consistency with the primary characters at least. 

If you are getting feedback on your work about "not connecting with your characters," take a closer look at interiority. Do you agree?


This is great advice, Christina! I can sometimes stray from it, imperfect writer that I am.

For Darcy, there's the specific challenge of how we interpret canon in the first place, particularly with regards to his motives. Was he uncivil at the Meryton assembly because he is a bit of a snob? Socially awkward? Depressed about what happened to Georgiana at Ramsgate? How we answer this question tends to guide how we expect Darcy to act in a JAFF novel. So yes, your point about interiority is spot on! By giving us a window into a character like Darcy's mind, we understand what emotional baggage he's carrying.

I wonder if this represents one of the central challenges of writing fanfiction.…

Replying to

You, I love. You always seem to understand my point and add your experience and wisdom to make what I am trying to say even better. Thank you. Now, get back to your manuscript.

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