Now that you’ve had the chance to read Letters, I thought I would give you a glimpse into how the story came about.
If you’ve ever read any of my explanations about how I come up with my stories, you know that I always start with a premise and then work my way to my plot from there. When I begin writing, I have my basic premise and a fairly good idea of what the end will be, but most everything else in between is rather fluid. I have a bare bones outline in my mind, but I pretty much allow my imagination loose.
(I should stop here to remind you that Letters is a working title. The final title will be the number of letters that end up in the story and then Letter. So if there end up with 26 letters, the title will be Twenty-Six Letters.)
Anyway, when it came to creating the premise for Letters, I asked myself what could be the circumstances where Elizabeth married Collins willingly, and not because her father was dying or something. Others have done that. I decided that for this to happen, she had to marry him very young. And so I choose to bring Collins to Longbourn when Elizabeth was 14/15.
We know that in canon Collins’ father has died sometime before the start of the story, and that he was not a nice man. I have been around teens enough as a coach to know that a parent can make life miserable for young men and women. If Collins came to Longbourn right after his father had died, he’d be at sea and looking for a positive father figure to replace the hard man who was his real father. When he met Mr. Bennet, he had to have met someone who was as opposite his own father as he could ever have met. Again, remember in canon that Mr. Bennet and Mr. Collins senior were at odds so this isn’t that big of a leap in character understanding.
So, I have an impressionable William Collins, a young Elizabeth Bennet, and a shrewd Mr. Bennet that could see he was dealing with a young man who was starved for attention.
From there it seemed obvious that Mr. Bennet saw an opportunity to provide for his family’s future with a little effort on his part. He knew his daughter could manage a man like Collins if she wanted.
And so we have this emotionally scarred William Collins who comes to Longbourn and becomes enamored with being a part of a family so unlike the hard one he had been raised in himself. He was needy and Elizabeth filled his emotional and spiritual needs. He was grateful she could accept him – he had not yet developed his self-importance as a shield against rejections. So we have a younger William Collins that adored the woman who consented to be his wife. He literally worshiped the ground Elizabeth walked on.
Now I had my premise. Of course, I needed Elizabeth to be a widow when they met, and thus the reason I killed him off. I knew I wanted to use canon timeline with Collins taking the living in Hunsford in 1811. That meant that I needed to kill him around the time of Ramsgate and thus I filled in one of the major elements of the story. From there I came up with the letter to warn Darcy so that when he showed up at Longbourn and found a pregnant Elizabeth Collins, he had a reason to be in her debt and not make an ass out of himself. I’ve always enjoyed D&E meeting and getting along well from the start.
I figured out pretty early on that I wanted to use the correspondence and things that represented change, or the next direction for the plot. They are like milestones you have to accomplish to finish a task. A letter warns Darcy about Wickham, a note announces that Mr. Bennet has died. Love letters show how much the couple has come to need each other. That’s why they are there and that’s why they are the title. It was fun and different to write it this way.
Anyway, if you have questions you’d like to ask about the story, now is the time to ask.