As I've mentioned before, when I'm writing the diaries I like to catch something of the hero's personality in the diary entries, so that the tone of the entries in Mr Darcy's Diary is very different to the tone in Edmund Bertram's Diary etc. In Henry Tilney's Diary I'm constantly aware that Henry is an ironic character and so I've tried to reflect this in his diary entries. I'm also aware of the strong elements of novelistic parody running through the book, as Jane Austen constantly pokes affectionate fun at the Gothic novel.
I wanted to have a house party in Henry Tilney's Diary because I wanted to explore the back story, introducing Eleanor's future husband, the man we only learn about right at the end of Northanger Abbey. I also wanted to show some of the family dynamics and to delve deeper into Fredeick's character.
I have had house parties in other novels but I have written them very differently.
In Mr Darcy's Diary I have this:
Monday 15th December
At last, they are here. Bingley and Jane were the first to arrive, bringing with them Caroline and Louisa.
‘Mrs Darcy,’ said Caroline, with an excess of civility. ‘How pleased I am to see you again.’ She smiled as though she and Elizabeth had always been the best of friends, then turned to me. ‘Mr Darcy, how well you look,’ she said. ‘And Georgiana. How you have grown! It must be this Derbyshire air. It is so invigorating.’
Louisa was less vocal but greeted us pleasantly. Mr Hurst merely grunted before retiring to the billiard room. Caroline and Louisa went upstairs, led there by Georgiana, and Elizabeth and I were free to talk to Jane and Bingley.
In Henry Tilney's Diary, the entry about the start of the house party is far more detached. It also plays on the theme of Gothic novels.
And so, the characters are assembled: Eleanor Tilney, heroine; General Tilney, loud and irascible, demanding and domineering, determined to marry his daughter to the highest bidder; Mrs Tilney, soft and sweet; Frederick Tilney, the son and heir, a rake and a wastrel; Henry Tilney, the younger son, an ironic creature with - perhaps - the soul of a romantic; Sir Charles Borson, maybe hero, maybe villain, a man of fortune who seeks to take the heroine off to his castle in the remote reaches of -shire; friends of Frederick Tilney, idle and extravagant; a collection of military gentlemen, friends of general Tilney; and a group of young ladies and gentlemen, friends of Miss and Mr Henry Tilney.
Of course, this is just an early draft. As I'm writing it, I'm constantly asking myself questions, for example:
1) Should I leave it as
And so, the characters are assembled
or should I expand it to:
And so, the scene is set, the characters are assembled.
2) Should I keep it simple with Eleanor Tilney, heroine; or should I expand it, giving her some of the attributes of Gothic heroines, like this:
Eleanor Tilney, sweet and innocent, beloved of everyone who knows her
And if I expand it, do I want to expand it in that way, or do I want something even more over the top - more pointedly Gothic, with a greater element of parody, such as
Eleanor Tilney, friend to small animals in distress, saviour of wilting rose bushes,with a voice like a lark in the glowing dawn of a summer's day
Or should I have something even longer and more over the top?
These are the sort of things that will change a dozen times or more as I write the novel. On some days I'll prefer the simpler option, on other days I'll prefer the more over the top version, and I will probably only decide which to use when the book is nearly ready to send off to the publishers, because then I'll know how much parody is in the rest of the book, so I will know if I need more, or less, here.
Henry Tilney's diary is proving great fun to write. It's a very different writing experience to my other diaries, and it promises to be a very different reading experience.