Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: Creating Jane Eyre

This post was written in response to Charli Mills Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge, at Carrot Ranch.

January 26, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.” It can be art, sewing, ideas, babies. What is at the heart of women as creators? Go where the prompt takes you.

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Creating Jane Eyre

“Who’s the author of this abhorrent attempt at a novel?” asked Lady Eastlake.

“Currer Bell,” replied Mrs. Mozley.

“Who on earth is he?” asked Mrs. Rigby.

“Some say he’s a woman,” said Mrs. Mozley

“Women don’t describe such coarse and shameful relationships between men and women,” snapped Lady Eastlake.

“Unless it is such a woman who has long forfeited the society of her own sex,” said Mrs. Rigby.

“It’s unchristian. We should make sure it’s banned,” suggested Mrs. Mozley. “Just in case it’s a woman’s creation. Imagine how degrading it would be for the rest of us.”

They nodded.

****

When Jane Eyre (1847) was first published by Charlotte Bronte under the masculine pseudonym Currer Bell, it was received with mixed reviews. Some were highly praising and others harshly critical.

Some of her staunchest critics were female and criticized Jane Eyre for being vulgar, improper, anti-christian, as well as politically incorrect. Her three main female critics were Lady Eastlake, Elizabeth Rigby and Ann Mozley, the three women I’ve brought together in today’s flash.

Among the most outspoken critics was the conservative Lady Eastlake, who accused Charlotte Bronte of lack of femininity, and of agreeing with the working class uprisings of the Chartists, who were demanding votes for the working classes.

In addition to Lady Eastlake, Elizabeth Rigby, an author and art critic, and the first woman to write for the Quarterly review, stated that if the book was by a woman, “she had long forfeited the society of her own sex.” Rigby also considered Jane Eyre  showed “coarseness of language and laxity of tone.” Rigby was especially irate about her unflattering depictions of the aristocracy, accusing Charlotte Bronte of a “total ignorance of the habits of society.”

Ann Mozley, writing for the Christian Remembrancer in 1848, writes “Never was there a better hater. Every page burns with moral Jacobinism.” The Jacobins were French revolutionaries who aimed to abolish the monarchy and do away with class distinctions, as well as instituting a universal vote, an idea abhorrent to upper class, Anglican Britons.

According to these and other critics, Jane Eyre challenged traditional views about how women should act and behave, and therefore threatening the established social order.

Jane is indeed rebellious and demands respect and equality, although she knows her place, she also believes that her fate isn’t written in stone. Here are her unforgettable words to overbearing Mr. Rochester:

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Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since the 19th century. Censorship, accepting injustice and exploitation, and gender, racial or religious discrimination is something we aim to overcome.

Well done Jane Eyre for shocking them all out of their complacency!

You’d be happy to know that my sequel takes up her fiercely independent, outspoken and resilient, free spirit.

In Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, Charles Dickens visits Jane Eyre (at that time, Mrs. Mason) at Eyre Hall for a few days over Christmas. Dickens confesses that he has left his wife and has a young mistress, although it is a well kept secret, because he is not prepared to affront the establishment. When Jane tells him she is having an affair with Lieutenant Kirkpatrick, her former valet, and she is no longer hiding her feelings, he replies:

“How invigorating! Are you going to shock us all and defy the laws of propriety? How brave of you!”    

That’s my Jane!

4 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Three: Plotting

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.

Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.

I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.

Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.

In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.

Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.

 

Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’

There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.

Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.

I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.

My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.

Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.

Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.

This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.

The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.

Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.

Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.

If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.

Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.

Scenes

Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.

These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!

Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.

I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).

This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Part One: Season of Darkness

Chapter I – Abodes of Horror

Chapter II – The Best of Times           

Chapter III – Betrayal

Chapter IV – Winter of Despair         

Chapter V – The Worst of Times       

Chapter VI – Fugitives

Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us       

Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty   

Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness 

Chapter X – Wrath     

Part Two: Spring of Hope       

Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven   

Chapter XII– Everything before Us    

Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity

Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven    

Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.   

Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chapter XVII Manderley        

Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen    

Chapter XIX The Road to Hell

Chapter XX –  First Love         

Part Three: Season of Light   

Chapter XXI – Persuasion       

Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies

Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings      

Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request      

Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall   

Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno         

Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick        

Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen       

Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness  

Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall    

****

I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.

This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.

How do you plot your novels?

 

 

 

6 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage One: Visualisation

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are six days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

3 COVERS

I’m a visual learner, thinker and writer.

This means I need visual input to learn, understand and interact meaningfully with my environment.

As a learner, it means I need to see and/or make charts, images, diagrams, mind maps, videos, etc. to fully understand what I’m learning.

Visual 2

As a reader, it means that if the writer doesn’t show me where I am and what and who I’m seeing, I can’t relate to the novel, which is probably why I love the detail and atmosphere conveyed in Victorian novels. However, this doesn’t have to be wordy. Think of poetry; just a few words can express complex feelings and situations.

As a writer it means I need to see images in my mind of who and what I’m writing about, before I write, and it’s why I want my reader to be there with me, inside the characters’ shoes and looking around through their eyes.

These mental images can be based on memories, or something I can see, either physically or virtually, but I need that trigger.

Visual 1

For example, I need to see Eyre Hall before I can imagine anything happening there. I also need to see my characters: their clothes, hairstyles, accessories, mannerisms, etc. before I can hear them speak or watch them interact.

This visualisation stage happens in my mind’s eye, sometimes consciously as I take a walk, sit and think, or unconsciously when I dream.

It is the starting point of all my scenes. I’ve seen it all before I write it down.

I call this the summoning or activating stage, where I’m thinking scenes through, like a chess game. I purposefully think about my characters and location. I see what the characters are doing, where they are and what they are saying like film shots. I rewind, repeat, change, until I’m comfortable with the scene.

I can’t start writing until I’m satisfied with the scene I’ve seem.

Sometimes my imagination isn’t enough to visualise what I want to see, and I need to see photographs and paintings, of people, places and objects related to my scene, because if I don’t ‘see’ it, I can’t conjure it, and I can’t write my scene.

For example, I was having trouble writing about the sea scenes in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I saw plenty of pictures about naval battles and storms, but I needed to get inside the ship, before I could hear Michael and Captain Carrington speaking in the Captain’s cabin, and I couldn’t see the room at all.

Sea 1

Quite by chance, I went to Madrid for a weekend in March 2015, and decided to look into war museums, and I discovered that there was a fabulous Naval Museum, which is very close to the Prado Museum, where I spent an unforgettable afternoon. I was lucky enough to take part in an enlightening guided tour of naval history from Columbus to the present, using the museum exhibits.

Captain's cabin.1

There was one exhibit which mesmerised me and enabled me to write the scene I mentioned; an exact replica of a captain’s cabin in a 19th century frigate. It struck me powerfully how grand it was. The polished wooden walls and furniture, rich carpets, drinks cabinets, paintings, upholstered chairs, which were in stark contrast to the rest of the rooms on board.

That visit was like magic. On the two-hour train ride back home, I jotted down all my ideas for the scene, and when I returned, I sat on my computer and it happened. But more about how the actual writing process tomorrow.

Are you a visual thinker?

Here’s an excerpt of one of the scenes on the ship in the first part of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

******

Captain Carrington looked up from his desk and waved a hand towards the chair facing him, and then busied himself with some papers, seeming to ignore my presence.

It was rumoured that he had spent so long waiting for a captain’s commission, that his hair had turned white and his skin grey. His face was dented with deep ridges that cut his hollow cheeks, and his head and stomach were unusually large compared to his scrawny limbs. I wondered how he had become so overweight with the meagre portions we ate while at sea.

He folded a document, which looked like a letter, and then stared at me before speaking at last. “Why are you here, Midshipman Kirkpatrick?”

“I wanted to be in the navy, like my father, sir.” I had said the words so often I had convinced myself they were true.

“Who are you running away from?” 

I took a few seconds to reply to his unexpected question. “I have never run away from any man, sir.”

“I can believe that.”

His eyes dug into mine, once again. “Cold blood. Determination. I’ve seen you kill without a second thought, when you needed to.”

The crew were mostly decent, self–respecting men, who worked hard and obeyed the regulations. However, there had been a few blackguards of the worst sort, tough, merciless men who stole rum and provisions, slept on guard, and increased the workload of the rest of the crew. Many of them had served their time in prison, where they should have remained. A group of such criminals had provoked a mutiny threatening the captain’s life shortly before our arrival in Jamaica. In spite of being flogged for not joining their criminal uprising, I managed to escape with the help of a few brave and loyal sailors and suppressed the rebellion by slaying the scoundrels.

“I’m prepared to do what is necessary for my ship and the crew, sir.” I was relieved that the conversation had returned to professional matters.

“Then it’s a woman you are running away from.” He smiled wryly, and I knew there was no point in denying it. I could not imagine how he knew, because we had never spoken about personal matters. “Not a woman, sir. A very special lady.”

“They are all special to someone, my boy. Beyond your station, perhaps? Her family didn’t think you were good enough, did they?”

“Something like that, sir.”

“So you came here to fix that, did you? To prove that you’re worthy of the damsel?”

“I came to forget.” I had not spoken to anyone about Jane since I left Eyre Hall and it was more painful than I had imagined.

“Of course, to forget.” He nodded mockingly, pressed his fingers on the mahogany desk and raised himself up painfully, swearing as he limped around the cabin. He stopped behind me, breathing down my neck. “But you can’t, can you? She is in your thoughts, under your skin, inside your blood, and you cannot pull her out. You smell her before you fall asleep and touch her in your dreams, don’t you?”

I was relieved that he stood behind me. I needed time to compose myself. How could he know how I felt if I did not understand my feelings myself?  

“And when you wake up, your whole body misses her, and your heart aches to hear her voice, you long to look into her eyes, preferably looking up to you from beneath.” I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Am I right, Kirkpatrick?”

I was silent, containing my breathing. How could he know?

“So, what are you going to do about it, man?”

“Nothing, sir. It’s impossible.”

He returned to his seat, staring at me again. “And if you were to return as a commissioned officer, as a lieutenant. Would that make it easier to convince her father?”

“No, sir. It would not.”

“Interesting, no father.” He shuffled the papers on his desk then looked up. “Is that why you’ve been trying to get yourself killed almost every day since we set sail six months ago, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not a lieutenant, sir.”

“You’re a dangerous and valuable man who can kill with one hand and plan the mathematical coordinates of the ship with the other. Your father would have been proud of you, and, one day, so will your beloved’s family.”

“Thank you, sir, for your concern, but I’m afraid not, sir. The lady is out of the question.”

“Then you’ll have to replace her.”

“Never.”

“Admirable self–control and loyalty. I presume she must be married?”

“She is beyond my reach, sir.”

“You were a valet at a country estate before enlisting, am I right?”

I nodded.

“I don’t think a young maid would have made you flee, or rejected you, and seeing the ambition and astuteness in your eyes, I added two and two, and realised it must have been the mistress of the house, or her daughter. Which was it?”

*******

Did I manage to bring you into the captain’s cabin? Did you see the characters? Are you intrigued?

 

 

 

 

 

#Christmas in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, Now in #Paperback

I’ve recently formatted Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall for print with CreateSpace and had it re-edited by by my patient editor, Alison Williams, in case there were any slips in the new format. All clear, so it was published in print on 12th December.

Both my books are now available in paperback, and they’d make beautiful Christmas presents! In fact, most books make beautiful Christmas presents, so please think of gifting them to your loved ones this Christmas 🙂

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Don’t forget I’m ofering a Giveaway of both paperbacks until 25th December, so you still on time to take part just follow this link to enter.

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The main action in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, takes place on and around Christmas time, 1866-67. Adele has returned from a long stay, of almost a year, in Italy with her fiancé, the widowed Mr. Greenwood and his son, Dante, to spend Christmas at Eyre Hall. They will be joined by other guests.

This is Adele’s narration of the Christmas Day Dinner and celebrations at Eyre Hall in Chapter VI.

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It was a merry reunion for the most part, filled with varied guests. The table was exquisitely laid, with our finest china dishes, fine Italian crystal goblets, sterling silver cutlery, sparkling cut glass decanters etched with grape and vine. Leah, as always, managed to excel on grand occasions. Cook had prepared a feast for us including roast turkey, mince pies, and plum cake with a sprig of holly on the top.

We had two merry visitors, Judge Harwood’s youngest daughters, Phoebe, John’s loquacious fiancée, and Clarissa her lively younger sister who insisted we decorate Eyre Hall for Christmas as everyone did in London. I helped them adorn the windowsills with Christmas wreaths made of yew, holly and holly berries tied with raffia. Jenny was instructed to make ivy wreaths by stitching ivy leaves on strips of green cloth, which we hung from the fireplace, through the balusters, and along the handrails of the staircases. I also helped the joyful sisters drape the chandeliers with greenery, pinecones, and walnuts. Eyre Hall had never looked so merry! Everywhere you looked, there was greenery and dried fruits and nuts. We even had a Christmas tree in every room for the first time! We decorated them with cinnamon sticks tied in bundles, walnuts all wrapped in colourful bits of cloth, and pinecones covered with bright ribbons.

Jane’s new little pet, Nell, followed us around like a lost puppy, trying to join in the fun, but Phoebe and Clarissa kept sending her off to the kitchen, saying she was a ‘tedious little elf’. She did look like an ethereal little waif, although now that Jane had bought her some proper dresses and shoes, she looked less like a pauper and more like a little fairy. However, she did have an exasperating way of popping up out of the blue and asking too many questions. I was glad to be rid of her.

I was furious with Annette who was behaving most selfishly. She was the most beautiful woman at the table, yet she was unfriendly, and refused to give Dante a chance. The places of honour at the table were reserved for Diana to Jane’s right, opposite her husband, Admiral Fitzjames, and for me to Mr. Mason’s right, opposite William. Annette sat on my right, opposite Dante. It was a magnificent occasion for them to become more acquainted, but I noticed how Dante spent most of the evening talking to John who had changed places with Clarissa, who had boldly insisted on sitting next to Michael. Although Annette was seated next to Dante, she was constantly turning away from him towards Michael who was on her other side. Actually, Michael was continuously turning to Annette, and away from Clarissa’s shameless flirting.

It was pleasing to meet Jane’s affectionate cousin, Diana, once more, although her boisterous husband, Admiral Fitzjames, who speaks far too much and far too loudly, dominated most of the conversation with boring talk about the navy. In fact, there were far too many tedious naval officers at the table to talk about anything else; the lecherous–looking Captain Carrington, who could not keep his eyes off all the ladies at the table, but especially Annette, and Michael who had returned as a dazzling lieutenant. Captain Carrington could not speak highly enough about his bravery, and both Phoebe and Clarissa were smitten by his uniform and good looks.

Michael was getting all the attention at the table, including Jane’s. I had always been wary of Michael. He was far too clever and ambitious for his own good. England was a great nation because everyone knew their place. He forgot his and poor Jane got into a great deal of trouble. I hoped they had both learnt their lesson.

Jane was wearing a beautiful silk crimson evening gown, which enhanced her stern expression, yet highlighted her pale beauty. It worried me that Clarissa swapped places with John so that he could sit next to Phoebe, but that meant that she sat next to Michael, and every time she spoke to him, touched his arm, or giggled loudly, Jane flinched noticeably. She should have had more sense than to care about him.

After dinner, Phoebe and Clarissa insisted on playing blind man’s bluff in the drawing room and hanging mistletoe balls in the centre of the room and the doorway. We all played, except Jane and Mrs. Carrington. Jane turned away from the bustle to the furious hearth as a brazen Clarissa, who insisted that everyone kissed at Christmas parties in London, pushed Michael under some mistletoe. She made sure she was kissed and caught by all the young men, and then organised a game of hide–and–seek, at which time William complained of tiredness, and I of a headache, so we both retired, reminding Dante that he should speak to Annette regarding his intentions.

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I hope you enjoyed this extract from Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

If you’d like to purchase my novels as kindle ebooks or paperback, please follow the links below:

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