It was never a conscious decision. In fact, it’s something I discovered quite by accident recently. Yet, it’s true. There is a little bit of Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet in nearly every one of the heroines I write.
Some, more than others, of course. But still she’s there. Peeking from behind the literary curtain. Whispering things in my heroine’s ear. Influencing my ideas about secondary characters and plot twists.
Does that make Lizzie Bennet my muse? If so, I’m completely okay with that.
Elizabeth Bennet is hands down my favorite literary character. She charms readers with her self-deprecating humor and wicked wit. The deep love she has for her sister Jane and friend Charlotte Lucas is endearing. Her conviction and determination at a time when neither was deemed “appropriate” for women make her a strong heroine. Yet she has her flaws and we watch her grow over the course of the story. As readers we fall in love with Lizzie, even as she falls for Mr. Darcy. In the end she gets her happy ending and accepts a man who is an eligible match, yet she does so because she truly loves him. A luxury women in her position weren’t often afforded.
Like Lizzie, the heroine in my upcoming debut novel, Making the First Move, sometimes bumps heads with her mother, Ellie, who would like to see her married with kids–like her younger sister, Mimi. She loves her sister and the best friend who is like a sister to her, but she can often be judgmental which impacts her relationship with each of them. Lizzie defies society by holding out for love. Mel has had her heart broken and has decided that love alone isn’t enough. She builds a wall around her heart by setting a list of impossible standards that must be met before she’ll allow herself to fall in love again.
My second favorite heroine is Jo March of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Jo is the character who first made me fall in love with the plucky heroine who defied convention. But it was more than just Jo that impressed me in that story. The March Family wasn’t living the fantasy. They weren’t ridiculously wealthy with the world at their feet. They struggled to survive, yet they found joy in each other, and did whatever they could for their neighbors. I loved the family dynamic of the sisters who loved each other madly, yet battled each other fiercely.
Pride and Prejudice also includes the crazy love/hate dynamics we often experience with parents and siblings. Lizzie’s younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are a constant source of embarrassment. Mrs. Bennet is often horribly inappropriate and is hellbent on her daughters being married off. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet can barely tolerate each other. Then there is the touching relationship Lizzie has with her father. All of it makes for a delightful story with characters we remember like dear friends long after we’ve closed the cover of book.
After reading Pride and Prejudice as a young girl I remember thinking…I want to tell a story like that. Tales of smart, strong women, their quirky friends and family, and the men they loved. Yet I didn’t appreciate the impact these two classic tales had on my own storytelling until I read an article about a year ago which made me examine the consistent themes behind my stories…identity, the destructive power of secrets, self-forgiveness, and love/hate family relationships.
Which heroines have most inspired you as either a writer or a reader? Are you a Jane Austen fan? If so, which Austen heroine is your favorite?