Sherrian Crumbley is a freelance writer and editor who can be caught working on poetry or song lyrics when she isn’t tackling the world of personal finance. To learn more about Sherrian, visit KNSFinancial.com.
Since my teenage years, I have spent many hours idealizing 18th-century England with its fancy balls and titled gentlemen, while ignoring the fact that the period lacked penicillin or modern plumbing. I have read Jane Austen’s novels countless times and have owned them in paperback, hardcover, electronic, and audio formats. But even after 20 years, what is the draw? What keeps me coming back? Most importantly, what have I learned from Jane Austen’s style that has influenced my approach to writing content for an audience?
When I was younger, I could see myself clearly in Pride and Prejudice‘s Elizabeth Bennett. I could connect with being independent and opinionated, often jumping to conclusions and making concessions. As I got older, I became more of an Anne Elliot from Persuasion, more contemplative and careful – a bit wiser because of my past mistakes and more subdued in my behavior.
My affinity for these characters or some aspect of their experience keeps me engrossed in their story. When writing for an audience, tapping into something that the majority of people can relate to is what draws them in and holds their interest. Whether it’s a personal experience, fictional story or example, this association with a reader may be the most memorable part of a piece.
One of my favorite things about Austen’s novels is the arrival of the “Aha!” moment.
The protagonist in the novel arrives at that moment when she realizes something she believes about herself or someone else has been completely wrong. Austen is masterful at writing the processes that lead up to that moment and then displaying the metamorphosis that happens as a result of the discovery.
In a short article, it is possible to have a similar, though less dramatic, effect. For example, if educating an audience, the introduction could first highlight common incorrect thoughts or ideas on the subject. Or, if telling a story, it could demonstrate the time of “blindness” before the discovery. Taking the audience on that journey of discovery and metamorphosis is a powerful tool to keep the reader engaged.
3. Elevate the Ordinary
Other contemporary novels to Austen’s were vastly different in content. They were meant to sweep the reader away on wild adventures, mysterious escapades and the like. Austen spurned that notion and wrote about the type of people and places she knew.
She wrote about common conversations in the parlor, taking a walk, or preparing for a ball. The amazing thing is that her perspective drew the attention of the readers who were experiencing those same mundane things day to day. In March of 1826, contemporary novelist Walter Scott wrote in his diary: “[R]ead again and for the third time at least Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.”
Every topic we have to write about will not be exciting or revolutionary, but it is our job to present the information in an interesting way. Think of different angles and perspectives with which to write about the content that will appeal to readers.
Each time I consider these points, I am reminded that my content should give my readers an experience. They should be able to connect in some way with the message as I deliver the information. This is what makes Jane Austen’s writing so powerful and timeless. And I endeavor to write content that is accessible, progressive, and from a unique perspective to have a consistently satisfied audience.
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