Plotting Out a Pulse
Guest Contributor for Indie Jane
This year I have had two Pride and Prejudice adaptations published, but they could not be more dissimilar. Adaptations differ from variations, which take our beloved couple in new directions by veering off course from Jane Austen’s original plot. Variations actually are my favourite P&P “fan fiction” to read – all the “what if” paths for those frustrating points in the novel when I would scream, “Oh, if only!” or “Why didn’t he/she just say such-n-such?” or “Why is Lydia such an idiot?” Perhaps because I do enjoy reading them so much and derive tremendous pleasure in letting myself go in the realms of possibility created by those authors, I have had no desire to write a variation.
An adaptation, of course, could refer simply to recreating the original in a new form, say, film or stage. Here I refer to adaptations that take the basic plot, themes, and character objectives of the source material but put an original spin on it by changing the setting, the context, or even the characters. The plot of Pride and Prejudice conformed beautifully in the 1996 British retelling Bridget Jones’s Diary as well as the Bollywood film Bride and Prejudice. In my modern adaptation All My Tomorrows, I have moved the essential plot to the set of a soap opera in the twenty-first century, and the characters Alice and Peter bear little resemblance to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
A strong plot can be used to create a seemingly endless array of stories. Take this, for example:
A young man living on an isolated farm with his aunt and uncle dreams of a life of adventure. He receives a message intended for someone else, but while he is out delivering the message, his aunt and uncle are murdered. He then leaves the farm and joins the fight against the regime responsible for their deaths.
I could envision this as a being a farm boy in Virginia joining the Rebels in the Civil War or a French peasant during the Hundred Years War or even a young Russian in 1812 going to fight Napoleon. George Lucas used this plot in a galaxy far, far away for his little film Star Wars.
Pulse and Prejudice, my paranormal adaptation, presented unique challenges – and opportunities! – because, whereas Miss Austen provides Elizabeth’s perspective, my plot unfolds primarily from Mr. Darcy’s point of view with the focus on his objectives, conflicts, complications and crisis. Oh, and he’s a vampire.
Although Miss Austen divided Pride and Prejudice into three volumes, it undoubtedly follows a four-act story structure. She even helpfully placed one of the major turning points – Mr. Darcy’s first proposal and revelatory letter – exactly halfway through the novel, as did I. In both novels, the inciting incident is the same: the arrival of the Netherfield party in the neighbourhood, although I think a strong argument could be made that it occurs when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy meet at the Meryton assembly. The other turning points from the original plot remain as well: The Netherfield party quitting Hertfordshire and the crisis that arises when Lydia runs away with Wickham.
As for character objectives, Elizabeth’s is clear. As she tells Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness.” Marriage may or may not be a requirement for that objective, as she turned down two offers for her hand; but in refusing Darcy, she states, “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” The reader then knows she has been thinking of marriage, and she specifically thought of marriage to him.
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy’s objective does not become evident until that midpoint in the novel, for once he has been refused, his purpose is to change himself and become a man who can “please a woman worthy of being pleased.” When they meet again at Pemberley, as he says to Elizabeth, his object was “to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you.” In short, his objective is to win the woman he loves.
In Pulse and Prejudice, the objective of Mr. Darcy is far more complex not only because he is the protagonist and we follow his story from page one, but also because of the vampire element. His objective is not to “get the girl” but to fill the emptiness caused by his curse without succumbing to his dark nature. Indeed, whereas Wickham might be considered the antagonist in Pride and Prejudice, in my novel Darcy struggles with his inner demons caused by his affliction. He is his own enemy.
Does the vampire Darcy ultimately achieve his objective? Mmm, yes and no. One must read the novel to find out! I will say both novels share the same climax – when Elizabeth says, "Yes."