Vitality, enthusiasm, larger-than-life living… otherwise known as gusto. Readers look for that in escapist fiction, particularly the romance novel. Stories involve adventure and mystery and suspense; your lead characters must rise to the challenge and step outside their “comfort zone.”
I enjoy working with characters who are hopeless snobs (or who are uncommonly stupid). They say outrageous things and get away with them. Or, well…not.
But hey, they’re living with gusto, putting themselves out there in ways I would never dare to. How I laughed, for instance, at the way family members spoke to one another in the movie Moonstruck. So far outside my quiet and polite family’s comfort zone, these Italian-Americans. And so much fun to watch.
In Chapter 1 of Darcy By Any Other Name, we have Mr. Collins at his oily best, and Mr. Darcy at his most snubbing. Ah, but lightning crackles across the midnight sky, and will soon change the destinies of these men in ways they cannot suspect.
Collins gave a tittering laugh. “How can you say so, sir? You are quite the most sought-after guest, if what I hear from the ladies is to be believed.”
Was the man actually winking?
There was a flash of lightning. Collins’ confiding smile was back, displaying all of the man’s teeth. Such a grin on the face of a cleric was singularly disturbing.
“Such condescension,” Mr. Collins said, almost purring. “And such an honor, to have your august presence among us, Mr. Darcy.”
The wind tugged at Darcy’s coat. “Kindly stop blithering,” said Darcy, “and confine your interest to your own affairs.” He paused, and then purposely added, “When you introduced yourself earlier, I fear I did not catch the name.”
Two can play at lying, he thought.
But Darcy’s snub was too subtle. “Collins,” came the cheerful reply. “The Reverend William Collins.” And he held out an ungloved hand.
Darcy ignored it. Nothing would be gained by encouraging the man’s presuming habits. “Kindly convey my greetings to Lady Catherine,” he said through shut teeth. “And mention to her, if you would, that her latest rector—which would be you, Collins—is more of a humbug than the usual.”
Collins’ smile became less confident. “Her latest rector?” he repeated. “But the preferment is for life.”
Another bolt of lightning flashed, much nearer than the last. Thunder rolled, and the sound made Mr. Collins flinch. Darcy stood like stone, his eyes fastened on Collins’ podgy face. He allowed himself a slight smile. “Nevertheless, I fear my Aunt Catherine runs through rectors at a famous clip.”
This remark caught Collins off guard. His eyes widened. “My predecessors have…resigned?”
Darcy lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “Even a toad, when it is kicked enough,” he said, “will sooner or later come to its senses and hop away.”
“Kicked?” Mr. Collins repeated. “Did you say kicked?” He lifted his chin. “I do not think,” he said primly, “that this is a proper way to speak of my beneficent patroness.”
Tomorrow’s post? H is for The Hook. Because you have (maybe) five paragraphs to snag the reader. Thanks so much for stopping by!
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