Tis I, your ye olde editor. I am writing to confirm that I have received the first draft of your new novel, tentatively titled Emma, or Clueless & Cantankerous.
Whilst I agree that Emma is, as you say in your letter, “straight fire,” and, to wit, a savage satire of the class system and customs of upper-class Regency England, which academics and audiences alike will no doubt celebrate hundreds of years into the future, I do have some notes.
The air of subtle but persistent melancholia that runs behind this lively comedy of manners, the notion that being a woman in this day and age means to be perpetually caged and never free, to be denied intellectual stimulation and instead pacified with petty rivalries, arbitrary accomplishments, and romantic interludes, even if one is the most privileged and precocious of women, like Emma — is this on purpose? Because it bums me the fuck out, Jane.
Fear not, however, as I’ve devised the perfect remedy to punch up this manuscript: MURDER.
It is my editorial opinion that you ought to orchestrate the grotesque murder of one of your characters, and then allow Emma, driven by her headstrong and impetuous nature, to declare her intent to discover whosoever hath committed the heinous crime. In so doing, you’ll invent the murder mystery genre about a hundred years early.
Hell, you’ve already created what could be considered a significant development in the “Fair Play Mystery” with the generous, deft sprinkling of clues laid throughout the novel to foreshadow that shocking third act twist. Most readers won’t pick up even half of those until, upon venturing a re-read, they shall exclaim “Damn
Jane Anonymous Author of Pride & Prejudice, my mind hath been blown! Bother and combobulation, someone loosen my stays!”
So just do that same thing again, but this time, with murder clues.
Emma, the novel, needs a murder. More than that Emma, the character, deserves a murder. You write of your intention to create “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” but you have failed in this, because I like her, Jane. I mean, granted, at first, I was like, “Who does this bitch think she is?” But then, Jane, I got it. Emma is like one of those tigers that the lecherous Prince George keeps at the Tower of London, even though it seems abundantly clear that the Tower is not an environment in which tigers thrive. She is a bright and boisterous thing straining at the seams of what life she’s allowed. When you said she’s never seen the sea, that broke my heart, Jane. We’re in England. The whole country is, like, five hours wide, even by carriage or whatever. Everyone should get to see the sea once. Think of how of how delighted she would be to solve a murder. Getting up in everyone’s business, snooping around people’s stuff, but for a noble cause? Maybe murder can be Emma’s seaside.
I must also commend you on writing a romantic pairing that makes for an excellent mystery-solving team, as should be a consideration in all matches. Emma would drag Knightley headlong into adventure in spite of his cynicism, and Knightley would temper her more exuberant theories with his own quiet insight. Side note: as it is olden times, I definitely have no problem with the fact that Knightley is Emma’s 37-year-old father figure, best friend, and love interest. It is 1815 and that is a normal and cool thing. However, I would strongly suggest that you cut the line where you imply that he fell in love with her when she was 13 and he was 29, because readers can and will do that math.
You may be asking, “But which of my beloved characters could I grisly-ly dispose of?”
I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of suggestions for you, in no particular order.
This scoundrel plays games with other people’s minds and feelings. He will lie and scheme to get what he wants with no regard for how his actions affect others. And did he murder his overbearing aunt? (I can’t tell if you’re hinting at it or not. Great subplot, if so). This man deserves to be murdered. You could re-jig half the clues you’ve already planted to be the motive for a half-dozen characters. Wouldn’t it feel good, Jane? To finally condemn one of your charming but untrustworthy rakes not to an unwise marriage, not to a life of low morality as its own punishment, but to violence by the blade? Aren’t you tired of being nice, Jane? Don’t you just wanna go apeshit?
One hates to say it, because she’s very nice and she deserves better, but Miss Bates will almost definitely have to die. She’s the archetypal Woman Who Knows Too Much. She is fated to drop some crucial clues in her endless monologues, come to an epiphany mid-conversation and rush off with only a cryptic message and a desperate desire to speak to our heroes somewhere private once she has “checked one thing, oh dear, it couldn’t really be –” only to be gruesomely killed before she can reveal the identity of the killer. These are just basic facts.
There are many common base motivations for murder — love, jealousy, revenge, scientific hubris — but the most common of all is money. Mr. Woodhouse is very rich and very foolish. An easily swayed hypochondriac is a tasty target for a dramatically altered will and some deadly nightshade! If we were to go down this route, however, it would dramatically alter the tone of the novel. Emma loves her father very dearly — great humanising trait you’ve given her there. This would be a grimdark, disillusioned Emma in a leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. An Emma that Fucks. Perhaps we ought to save this for the sequel.
You have created a charming little village ripe for murder yet you hesitate to deal the final blow? For shame, Jane. For shame.
I hope you take my suggestions in the good faith they were intended and re-sharpen your quill with an aim to kill. I know you were reluctant to acquiesce to my repeated suggestions that Darcy hang dong in Pride & Prejudice, and you may argue that “Pride & Prejudice turned out just fine without any vigorous, pornographic sex scenes,” but you are not the one, my dear Jane, who has to deal with constant correspondence from your reading public demanding to know “if Fitzwilliam Darcy fucks.”
Yours in devotion and professionalism,
Bonnie, a real historical person and not a time traveller