Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Learning from Bronte: Jane Eyre and Writing Craft

new annotated version of Jane Eyre is out now on Amazon

KM Weiland’s annotations of the classical masterpiece Jane Eyre are very timely. More than ever, scores of writers are getting published, and the modern reader is overwhelmed with  reading choice. Yet, there’s always an issue of quality of the written word, and in our era of fast publishing this issue is especially obvious.

Over the past decade KM Weiland has been blogging on writing craft. She’s released brilliant craft books on character creation, outlining and the story structure. She often quotes passages from famous books to show use or misuse of a particular technique, and this annotated version of Jane Eyre is her first systematic attempt at making a craft book where all the techniques she’s been teaching are exemplified in one masterpiece. I say systematic, because this book can be used as a study material for writing courses.

Topics KM Weiland touches here are:

  • beginning and ending of the novel – hooks and the tone of writing.
  • character arc
  • three-act structure – plot points
  • scene structure (action and reaction, and more detailed scene mechanics)
  • plot progression through foreshadowing, the concept of a Lie, character arc
  • subplots and backstory
  • prose (use of symbolism, unique detail in description, subtext, sentence structure)

In her recent interview, KM Weiland mentioned that she wanted to focus on good things you can learn from this book rather than  criticise Jane Eyre, which is the easiest way to alienate readers.

Personally, I think there are many elements in this novel that wouldn’t work well for modern writers. Yet, 200 years ago they were norm.
For instance, St John gives Jane a poetry book, and Jane Eyre suddenly spends a page mulling over poetry and literature, – the scene is disrupted. These philosophical pauses, bits of non-fiction, were common in novels in the old times, now they’ll just distract the reader.

Another thing genre writers should be aware of is coincidences. What is the chance of a wandering orphan randomly stumbling upon a remote house in the English countryside, where three people who reside there who turning out her cousins?

Back to KM Weiland. She does mention that certain techniques such as blatant foreshadowing or prose modified to show an unusual accent may backfire. Yet these remarks are by no means criticise the Jane Eyre novel, rather they highlight the evolution writing craft has undergone in the last couple of centuries.

If you want to take your writing to the next level and find out how the modern story craft works within a context of the classical read, you’ll find this book helpful. Also, studying the basics of story-telling from craft books by KM Weiland and James Scott Bell and reading this book would go along nicely. Thank you , Katie, for another great resource!


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