I stopped reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice forty-two pages before the end of the book. I am familiar with the conclusion, and I have viewed both the Jennifer Ehle version of the movie as well as the Keira Knightly version (the Jennifer Ehle is far superior), and yet I put the book down for no other reason than to extend my own enjoyment. I’ll never tire of the tension between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Jane’s sweet disposition, or even Mrs. Bennet’s endless rambling and scheming plans to marry off her daughters.
Pride and Prejudice is the first in a list of books that I am reading not only for pleasure but also for a close study of classical literature as suggested by Francine Prose in her book, Reading Like a Writer. The language alone inspires me to write better. I do have to wonder, though, if Jane Austen would have liked the benefit of word searches. While her pet words do not detract from the story in any way, she does have a few that she repeatedly employs. I find it encouraging that someone who is considered a master of writing and storytelling made such a simple error, and it is certainly one that I am willing to overlook.
Most importantly, what I am learning from reading Pride and Prejudice is that great writing appears in many different styles that transcend time. I may acquire a few talents from Jane Austen, and being compared to her would be no small compliment, but I have a voice of my own to hone and hopefully will do so until one day, when someone reads a passage from my books, they will be able to say, “Clearly, this is HL Gibson’s writing, and it is remarkably well done.”
Is using “pet” words wrong or is it just what someone thinks today. If P&P is a classic, and I agree it is, then perhaps the use of pet words isn’t wrong it’s just a style.
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I wouldn’t say they are bad, especially if it is a particular character’s favorite expression, but I do think one should control how often they use them. Even gestures can be overused. If either of these writing habits don’t move the story along and/or don’t show any depth to the story or character, then I say use them with caution. I know I had to clear out quite a few of mine!