Characters do what they want

Jane Austen coloured version
There’s a scene in The Man Who Invented Christmas where Dickens complains, “I can’t make the characters do what I want… I’m the author here!”

That reminded me of Shannon Hale’s book, Austenland. It’s the story of a woman who’s becoming frustrated with her inability to find a modern-day Mr. Darcy. In an attempt to overcome her Darcy obsession, she goes off to a resort where guests can interact with actors pretending to be Regency-era characters. And of course, she meets a man who resembles Mr. Darcy, as well as another tempting man.

As I see it, there were three ways that Hale could have ended the story:

  1. The heroine ends up with the grumpy-but-charismatic Mr. Darcy-type hero.
  2. The heroine ends up with the lowly-but-charming gardener.
  3. The heroine rejects both men and ends up with living on her own and feeling good about it.

Reading this story, I had the strong impression that Hale wanted one ending and the heroine wanted another. That sounds odd, but it’s true that sometimes, as Dickens said, you can’t make the characters do what you want. It felt as if the author were pushing the heroine toward one particular potential hero. There were whole scenes where the heroine waffled back and forth about whether she should make that choice. The trouble was, that choice didn’t make sense in the context of the way the story was developing, how the heroine interacted with the two potential heroes.

The ending felt right, and I’m glad the heroine made the choice she did, but I don’t think it was the direction the author had wanted the story to go.

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