Pub Rants

Enduring Themes in Chick Lit

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STATUS: I’m getting ready for my workshop on Jane Austen and Chick Lit with Shanna Swendson that will be happening in 45 minutes! Why am I blogging?

What song is playing on the iPod right now? Radio isn’t on! That would require a dash across the room to make it happen.

I’m constantly amazed at synchronicity in the world.

Here we are. Shanna and Kristin in Atlanta getting ready to talk about classic themes in Jane Austen and how you can use these guiding principles to really break into the market of chick lit today—to create a more complex story, timeless in nature, that women would want to read.

And here is Bookseller Chick talking about chick lit books on her blog, at what happened to the readers, and where is the future.

Three smart chicks I’m thinking.

So here’s a little snippet (or preview if you will) of what Shanna and I will be talking about at our workshop.

You can take any Jane Austen movie, pick your favorite, and analyze the main heroine’s place in her society, her expectations, and what she needs to be or do to create independence and by doing so, you’ll start seeing the timeless threads that can then be incorporated to a contemporary story.

For example, in Jane Austen’s stories, her heroines need to get married to find financial safety.

Well, some ladies are still pursuing that route but what is a more contemporary spin on that? Doesn’t that just get the wheels turning!

Jane Austen tackles the dilemma of how to stay happily single (and wedded to one’s principles) when your friend gets married (P&P—Plain friend Charlotte marries the very respectable—on paper anyway—Mr. Collins.)

Jane Austen tackles women meddling in other women’s lives (Emma—Emma and her kindly but interfering ministrations to Harriet).

Jane Austen tackles the craziness and disparate personalities of families (P&P and S&S).

But ultimately, chick lit is the contemporary social observation with satiric wit. Completely timeless if you understand the depth of that voice to really carry out a social critique.

Now I have to go say all these things, albeit more articulately, in front of hopefully a large group of writers.

Happy Friday All!

17 Responses

  1. 2readornot said:

    Great blog — wish I could hear the whole talk. I love Jane Austen, but then, who doesn’t?

  2. Zonk said:

    Austen is J.K. Rowling’s favorite author, according to published interviews.

    Would Austen be able to find an agent today, I wonder…or would she be told that her style was hopelessly archaic?

    If you find a chick lit author who can write with the kind of thematic timelessness and social satire of an Austen, let me know, will you?

    I would read that novel tomorrow, my Y chromosome notwithstanding.

    “Men of sense…do not want silly wives” is still true, and still funny.

  3. Carrie said:

    I am a writer, but also a teacher. When I planned my unit on Jane Austen’s Emma, I decided to have my students do a comparison of the novel and the movie Clueless -it is so fun to watch their reactions when they realize it is Emma, only in modern day.

  4. joanr16 said:

    Well, that didn’t work! Here is the text:

    ‘Four a.m., having just returned from an evening at the Golden Spheres, which despite the inconveniences of heat, noise and overcrowding was not without its pleasures. Thankfully, there were no dogs and no children. The gowns were middling. There was a good deal of shouting and behavior verging on the profligate, however, people were very free with their compliments and I made several new acquaintences. There was Lindsay Doran of Mirage, wherever that might be, who’s largely responsible for my presence here, an enchanting companion about whom too much good cannot be said. Mr. Ang Lee, of foreign extraction, who most unexpectedly appeared to understand me better than I understand myself. Mr. James Shamis, a most copiously erudite person and Miss Kate Winslet, beautiful in both countenance and spirit. Mr. Pat Doyle, a composer and Scot, who displayed the kind of wild behavior one has learned to expect from that race. Mr. Mark Kenton, an energetic person with a ready smile who, as I understand it, owes me a great deal of money. Miss Lisa Hanson of Columbia, a lovely girl and Mr. Garrett Wiggin, a lovely boy. I attempted to converse with Mr. Sydney Pollack, but his charms and wisdom are so generally pleasing, that it proved impossible to get within ten feet of him. The room was full of interesting activity until 11 p.m. when it emptied rather suddenly. The lateness of the hour is due, therefore, not to the dance, but to waiting in a long line for a horseless carriage of unconscionable size. The modern world has clearly done nothing for transport.

    P.S. Managed to avoid the hoyden Emily Thompson, who has purloined my creation and added things of her own. Nefarious Creature!!!

  5. eleora_3 said:

    I agree–love Jane Austen and Hollywood is full of borrowed scripts from her work. IMO, she is the woman Shakespeare of our time.

    There is no chick lit on my project list, but it is always good to analyze the timeless works in any genre to learn from them.

  6. zeldaz said:

    Buffysquirrel: Persuasion is my favorite after P&P. My heart aches for Anne when she thinks she’ll never attract Captain Wentworth again.

  7. BuffySquirrel said:

    Okay, so I’m in Waterstones looking for The Spire, which I don’t find, but I happen to be hunting for it near the front tables, and there are Austen’s novels in pretty pastel chick-lit covers. On the front tables.

    Like wow.

  8. Shanna Swendson said:

    We did end up getting a bit into Persuasion during the workshop. It’s not as familiar a story because the recent movie wasn’t as huge a hit (I was going for things that were most likely to be common ground), but I think we did throw that plot line and characterization into the mix during the discussion.

  9. Shanna Swendson said:

    The latest film version of Persuasion was from maybe the mid-90s. It got a limited release, then was shown on PBS. I’d read the book ages ago but didn’t see the movie until recently when it appeared on the free movies menu for Comcast OnDemand.

    If I do this workshop again, I’ll include more of Persuasion because it kept coming up as the favorite Jane Austen novel when I talked to people. I’d worried that people wouldn’t know or remember it because it isn’t one that generally gets a lot of attention. I love the story, though, and it’s definitely one you could move into the modern era without too much alteration, so it fits the timeless criteria.

  10. BuffySquirrel said:

    Just out of curiosity, how many people named Emma as a favourite? It’s a private theory of mine that men tend to like Emma while women tend to like Elizabeth. Of course, that may be only the men I’ve known…