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How to write like Jane Austen: try her "ing" rule for Austen-like style and dignity and authority; examples
Instinct and style gave dignity and authority to the works of Jane Austen. But what rules did Austen apply as a writer?
How to write with authority
Successful writers use rules; instinctive, or, deliberate methods.
- If we unpick the writer's knitting, sometimes we can learn the rules of success.
- On investigation, I found a valuable-3-part writers' rule. This idea helped me.
- Apply this new three-part technique; you'll gain new authority.
Examples: To explain, see below, examples from successful authors; Jane Austen and Australian author, Patrick White. Both tend to apply the three rules, below.
Three simple writer's rules:
- Write without use of the word "is";
- write without use of the word "was"; and
- use no words with "ing", on the end.
Style clean-up: Work to apply those three rules, above, and I believe you'll sense a sudden transformation in the quality of your work. You'll feel a new active, simple, quality.
Jane Austen sparse with "ing": To to that, follow the three simple writer's rules, above. In this example, below, from Price and Predjudice, I found small use of "was", no use of "ing". No use of "is".
Austen paints in past and present tense, and, you'll hear Austen's recurrent "they"; used to register collective mood. Austen's "shared mood' technique sounds with a regular beat. For example; "Elizabeth felt Jane's pleasure". The shared mood quality feels so marked, I felt the need to bold those bits. She records the experience of a group.
"The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane's pleasure.
Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants.
They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that his wife's views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found out that he had a different story to hear".
Austen did NOT write: "Mr. Bennet was still up. He was reading a book..."
Austen writes with few "ings": "They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of time;..."
Austen's writers' instinct avoided present continuous tense - words with "ing" on the end; like going, singing, and reading.
Patrick White wrote in long hand at on a 1950's desk
Australian writer Patrick White applied a Faulkner-like style:
In this example; we see White - like Austen - use a mix of past and present tense; no "was", two "ings" and no "is".
Excerpt from Voss, pp.336-337:
"In the lyrical grasslands through which they had lately ridden, they had sung away what was left of their youth. Now, in their silence, they had even left off counting their sores. They had almost renounced their old, wicker bodies. They were very tired at sunset. Only the spirit was flickering in the skull. Whether it would leap up in a blaze of revelation, remained to be seen".
A nice battered collectors' edition of William Faulkner's "Go Down Moses"
William Faulkner example
In this example; from Go Down Moses,1940, Faulkner applied no "ing", no "was" and just one "is". See also, two "he thoughts". (A journalistic way to hold things together, she thought).
"This delta, he thought: This Delta. This land which man has deswamped and denuded and derivered in two generations so that white men can own plantations and commute every night to Memphis and black men own plantations and ride in jim crow cars to Chicago to live in millionaires’ mansions on Lakeshore Drive, where white men rent farms and live like niggers and niggers crop on shares and live like animals, where cotton is planted and grows man-tall in the very cracks of the sidewalks, and ursury and mortgage and bankcruptcy and measureless wealth, Chinese and African and Aryan and Jew, all breed and spawn together until no man has time to say which is which nor cares…. No wonder the ruined woods I used to know don’t cry for retribution! He thought: The people who have destroyed it will accomplish its revenge".
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