Boy meets girl. Girl instantly dislikes boy. Circumstances keep bringing them together. There’s a lot of sexual tension and verbal sparring. There’s a misunderstanding! Boy explains everything and saves the day. They kiss. THE END.
Sounds like every romantic comedy ever, right? That’s because it is. And every romantic comedy ever takes its inspiration from the mother of all romantic comedies – Pride and Prejudice.
Now it’s fine to take inspiration from this seminal romance novel. The characters are recognizable and fully fleshed out, and it’s a story that’s been capturing the minds and hearts of AP Brit Lit students for years. It’s even fine to (if you’re into that sort of thing) write a little fanfiction once in a while. But it’s a completely different story to pursue getting your fanfiction published.
There are generally two types of published P&P fanfiction – the retellings (reinterpretations) and the continuations. Retellings place the characters in a different time, or in a different country (a la Bride and Prejudice) but with the same basic plot. The continuation stories show the reader what happened after Lizzy and Darcy tie the knot. Both of these generally make me want to scratch my eyes out, mostly because of the sex scenes. Yes, I said sex scenes. The women who are writing these novels seem to think that Jane Austen was a bit of a prude, and seek to remedy her failure to depict these timeless characters doing the nasty. There are detailed descriptions of Elizabeth’s heaving bosom, disturbing depictions of Darcy’s mighty wang, and naturally they have earth-shattering orgasms every time. I don’t know about you, but I DEFINITELY never wanted to know what happened in the Darcy bedroom. TMI fanfiction writers, TMI.
Almost worse than the sex scenes are the titles of these derivative works of fiction. Mr. Darcy’s Undoing. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. In the Arms of Mr. Darcy. A Wife for Mr. Darcy. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Rock Star. Mr. Darcy’s Bite (I think he’s a werewolf in this one. Ew.). And let’s not forget Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (although that one is less fanfiction than just inserting zombies into the original text).
Now I know some might argue that since our beloved P&P is in the public domain that it is fair game. I would like to argue that it is not! A nagging feeling of unfulfillment that Jane Austen never explicitly detailed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy’s sex life is not an invitation to fill in the blanks. If you want to be an author, GREAT! Be an author. But then BE an author. Create your own characters, your own conflicts, your own setting. Don’t sully the perfection of Jane Austen with your anachronistic dialogue and sexual behavior. Leave poor Mr. Darcy alone.