I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

zaterdag 7 juni 2014

Lessons From Jane Eyre: 5 Ways to Bring Minor Characters to Life

Just for fun, today I’d thought I’d give you a sneak peek of my upcoming book Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. The book, available in late July (release date coming soon!), finds the method behind the magic of Charlotte Brontë’s enduring novel. Via annotations to the original text, I have analyzed the storytelling techniques Brontë used to create this literary masterpiece—so you can put these same techniques to use in creating the next great classic! Today, I’d like to share an excerpt from Chapter 10, in which Brontë masterfully presents an insignificant minor character in a way that brings her to life without leading readers to believe she’s more important to the story than she really is.

Excerpt from Jane Eyre

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the shoemaker’s to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.
“Are there any letters for J.E.?” I asked.
She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my hopes began to falter. At last, having held a document before her glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful glance–it was for J.E.

Bringing Minor Characters to Life

In some ways, minor characters are like settings: they’re background “filler,” used to flesh out your story world and provide interactions for your protagonist. However, wielded with a deft hand, minor characters offer the possibility of being so much more. As we’ve already discussed in Chapter 6, they can be a mirror in which the protagonist compares and contrasts her own strengths and weaknesses. But they can also provide everything from comic relief to conflict to communication. A minor character can appear throughout the story, as does Rochester, or only once, a does our unnamed post lady in this scene.
Whatever the importance or length of their roles, minor characters should never be taken for granted. If you’re going to raise your story into a convincing facsimile of realism and, as a result, suspend your readers’ disbelief, every minor character needs to be treated just a seriously as the protagonist. Brontë’s postal lady appears only once. She is given a grand total of five paragraphs and one line of dialogue and isn’t even introduced by name. Brontë tells readers just three things about her: she’s old, she wears glasses, and she wears mittens. But these details are more than enough to give readers the paints they need to finish the character’s portrait. Let’s take a closer look at how Brontë accomplished this:

1. The length of the description indicates the character’s role in the story.

A more prominent character would deserve a much more complete description, but any more than we find here would have given readers an incorrect sense of the postal lady’s importance within the story.

2. The details are vivid and specific.

The old woman’s spectacles are “horn” and her mittens are “black.” Because textures and colors immediately establish visual images in the readers’ imagination, they can be extremely efficient adjectives

3. The “rule of three” achieves a sense of balance.

The human brain, whether through inherent tendency or just ingrained association, finds a sense of wholeness in lists of three. The result is a catalog of details that presents a rounded picture without lapsing into a “grocery list.”

4. The readers are trusted to fill in the blanks.

Say “apple,” and readers see a shiny red apple with a green leaf and a friendly worm. Say “nerd,” and they see a guy in black glasses and a loaded pocket protector. Readers don’t need much to be able to visualize a character. Less description is often more.

5. The character acts uniquely and realistically.

When the old woman peers and fumbles, and then stares at the letter for five minutes before “suspiciously” handing it over, she becomes a personage in her own right. She’s the heroine of her own story, whatever it may be, and she acts like it.


2 opmerkingen:

  1. This is good advice because it's basic and simple. I have found that if writing about writing is too exacting , it can kill the writing.

    It's the difference between seeing a butterfly floating in a field or seeing one pinned onto a board.
    You want the live butterfly .

    When I read that passage of the postmistress, I can't help feeling it's an older version of CB interacting with a young one ( as JE) . She has CB's glasses,mittens and the up close reading...plus the mistrustful glance! lol

    One of the best books on Jane Eyre I have found is

    " Mysteries of Love " by Elizabeth Imlay

  2. I realized I should post the book's full name as it has important words in it. It's called

    " Charlotte Bronte and the Mysteries of Love: Myth and Allegory in "Jane Eyre"

    Myth and Allegory being the extra important part.

    Ms. Imlay's proves to my mind Jane Eyre was no subconscious out pouring. But a closely crafted book by a amazingly deliberate artist who used age old means and methods to plot out her book . These Myth and Allegories were well known to the educated 19th cent reader...but are mostly lost to us. Imlay restores them .

    She also closely studies the magazines the Brontes read, such as Frasers etc.. It's important to know what they read in order to fully appreciate what they wrote


The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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