Tips to Building Suspense

1 09 2017

WHAT JANE AUSTEN CAN TEACH US
ABOUT BUILDING SUSPENSE

HOW TO USE DRAMATIC IRONY AND PLOT SECRETS

Secrets are key to Jane Austen’s fiction and to driving her narratives forward. She lived in a society where life was lived very publicly, and yet true feelings and emotions were often kept hidden. In Love and Friendship she spoofed the cult of sensibility—the characters have constant fits of fainting, weeping and running mad—but in her mature works Jane Austen demonstrated the power of keeping characters’ feelings under wraps. Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth is a wonderful example of suppressed feelings coming to the surface. In Chapter 34 of Pride and Prejudice he bursts out, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,” sentences that can now be bought on tote bags and keyrings. Until this point Mr. Darcy has kept his feelings hidden because he thinks that Elizabeth’s family are beneath him.

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