Monday, May 28, 2012

ICLM - Guest Blog by Elsa Watson

Continuing on with the celebrations of not only International Chick Lit Month but also Elsa Watson's VBT# for her new novel "Dog Days" , we have a Guest Post from authoress Elsa Watson here on The Phantom Paragrapher and chatting about one of my favourite topics "Jane Austen".

Jane Austen Novels – The Chick Lit of Their Time
Elsa Watson

These days Jane Austen’s novels are— very rightly—considered classics, so it’s easy to forget that, for her contemporary readers, she was offering the early 1800s version of romantic comedy.  At the ends of her stories, her heroines are always put safely together with the right man on their way to the altar.  Granted, her books weren’t enjoyed by the masses during her lifetime, but I think we can chock that up to the early 19th century shortage of movie adaptations and cable channels like Lifetime. 

It’s fun, if you’re a fan of the genre, to take a look at what Jane Austen’s books and modern-day chick lit have in common.  Here’s my quick list.  I’m sure you’ll think of more to add, and I’d love to hear them!
A smart heroine with a lacking love life
We like our protagonists to have a little wit and sparkle to them.  Jane’s books were all written in third person, so we usually saw her heroine’s spirit through dialogue.  A lot of contemporary chick lit is in first person (my personal favorite) where we can get the voice in a direct infusion, right off the page.  Regardless, from Bridget Jones to Lizzie Bennett, we like a heroine with some spark.  And, ideally, a good sense of humor.
Funny supporting cast
From the goofy best friend to the zany mom, a cast filled with off-the-wall characters is key.  Where would Persuasion be without Anne Elliot’s vain father, or Sense and Sensibility without Mr. and Mrs. Palmer?  The minor characters are a critical source of humor.  While the main characters often have to spend at least some of their time being serious, the lesser characters are under no such obligation.
Let’s face it, romance is tricky business.  The guy who seems like Mr. Wonderful one minute can turn around and show his true colors the next when he snarls at a waitress or is mean to a dog.  Plenty of great fiction hinges on this kind of character revelation, and Jane was especially fond of it.  Nearly every one of her books includes a young man who seems terrific—seems like a catch—until it turns out that he’s a real slime ball.
Balls, picnics, and dinner parties meet weddings, girls’ night out, and restaurants
Jane Austen’s tried and true romantic settings have shifted, but not too far.  In her day, balls were a popular place to show off your new dress and meet your young friends.  Today, chick lit novels and chick flicks often send their main characters to a wedding (a similarly beautiful spectacle at which people wear their nice clothes.)  Dinner parties have evolved into restaurant scenes.  And where friends used to gather for a country picnic, today’s urban girl heads out on the town for a night with her friends.
Honorable (and dashing) men
A prerequisite of any great romance is a noble hero.  Attractiveness is a bonus, but honor is a must.  These stories are about looking for a lifelong mate, not a cute guy to take to the prom, so the man must be a keeper in the deepest sense.  Mr. Darcy can be shy and seem rude because of it, but underneath we want to see that he’s a man who will ride to the rescue of a woman in need, especially if it’s to protect something our heroine treasures.
Elsa Watson is the author of Dog Days, in which Zoe (a dog) and Jessica (a person) are struck by lightning and switch bodies, leaving Jessica trapped in a dog’s body—and giving Zoe thumbs and the chance to speak.  (Coming May 22.)  Find Elsa online at www.elsawatson.net.

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