This afternoon in South Central Iowa is a cool 48 degrees complete with a gusty wind blowing constant rain against the window panes. A perfect afternoon for staying warm and dry indoors enjoying a movie from my Jane Austen library. Today’s pick is Persuasion, the BBC edition starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones. I love everything about this show from the architecture of the buildings to the colors of sky and sea, to the austere yet warm and witty Captain Wentworth.
But regardless how dreamy the characters might appear, or how classy the era, the real marvel of Persuasion or any other Jane Austen story is her ability to tell a story that today, 200 years later, still captures the attention and touches the heart.
Jane and other authors like her present today’s writer with a standard that, depending on how you look at it, encourages as much as it challenges. On the encouraging side, Jane’s enduring stories tells us that it is possible to share as a man or woman of your times, writing what you know during the era of history in which you live. Our contemporaries enjoy these stories. The discerning author is capable of gleaning truth from his or her experiences in the world, and of creating characters with universal appeal who relate to each other with grace, respect, and honor.
On the challenging side, Jane’s example presses me to continually ask myself the question if I am writing material with high enough quality to last. Two hundred years like Jane Austen, or five hundred years like the Reformers Calvin and Luther, or longer like the early church fathers would definitely count as a blessing. But even if my words become obscure to following generations, I must still hold my work up alongside these trusted voices to check for quality, for truth, for grace, for honor and respect.
And while I write, I must ask for the wisdom to create characters that model these qualities. Captain Wentworth is timeless, so is Anne Elliot, Elizabeth Bennett, and Colonel Brandon. I trust that Reverend Logan De Witt, Karen Millerson, Paul Ellenbroek, and Margaret Millierson from my own stories are genuine enough to convey sincere truths and grace that will capture attention and touch hearts for many readers in the generations still to come.
Michelle De Bruin is a worship leader and spiritual services provider. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two teenage sons. A romantic at heart, Michelle is always on the lookout for glimpses of God’s love through the window of a good story.
Michelle is the author of “Hope for Tomorrow.” For more information about her writing or about Michelle, visit her website or follow her on social media.