As I say often around here, some stories start with a whisper. Emma + Elsie hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. The idea started from a basic premise—what if two of my favorite Jane Austen characters, Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet, were best friends in modern times? And then the story grew from there. And grew and grew…
This quote is obviously a play on the much more famous one, which goes like this:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Like many writers, I am fascinated with opening lines, and while there are many things about Jane Austen’s writing that I don’t love, man can that woman write a killer opening line.
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
Sigh. Just perfect. Brilliant.
When I tweaked Jane Austen’s opening line to Pride and Prejudice, I realized how much friendship centers on gossip, secrets, and confidentiality. I really wanted to bring the playfulness and, to some extent, the campiness, of rewriting a classic, beloved book (and a classic, slightly-more-difficult-to-get-onboard-with-the-main-character book—I think you can figure out which one that is) to my own series. The tweaked version also refers to the opening scenes of Pride and Prejudice, with gossipy Mrs. Bennet speaking to her husband.
From this quote, I came up with this opening for the first scene. (Still a work in progress, of course!)
Her best friend paced back and forth in front of her dresser, mumbling to herself. “Flowers, shoes, necklace…”
“Emma,” Elsie repeated.
“Gift!” Emma exclaimed, marking something on the small notepad she was holding. She set the pad on her dresser, scribbling furiously.
She heaved a huge, exasperated sigh. “Emma!”
Emma spun around. “Elsie! You’re here.” She tilted her head, letting her blonde, bouncy curls fall to one side. “When did you get here?”
“Set it down.”
“The pen, the book, the whole shebang. Step away from the to-do list before your head explodes.”
“I am the maid of honor,” Emma said. “I will not rest until my list is complete and I’ve ensured that Annabeth’s wedding is absolutely, 100% perfect.”
“But Emma,” she said, a light grin dancing on her lips. She plopped down onto her best friend’s 4-post princess bed, sprawling out across the crisp, fresh, and pristinely lightweight comforter. She was bursting to tell her what she had just learned, but Emma was wrapped up in her own world, as usual.
“No buts,” Emma said. [She’s rushing around]
“You’re going to want to hear this,” Elsie said in a singsong voice. She sat up, slightly annoyed that Emma was still staring at that blasted list.
I still have a lot to go to get this into shape, and I’ll be playing with the wording quite a bit over the next few days to set the tone for the rest of the series. I’m currently going through Emma and Pride and Prejudice line by line to make sure I get the characters exactly right (they don’t feel quite spot on here, but I’m not worried—this is just a rough draft).
I’m so excited for this project, as you can see. It’s crazy fun so far and these are two of my favorite stories in the world, ever. I feel incredibly blessed that they are in the public domain and I get to rework them like so many others before me.