A Ball at Pemberley came into being after Adam Spunberg and famed author Lynn Shepherd conceived of an idea: What if Jane Austen lovers from around the world could tweet a Jane Austen sequel in turns? Later on, Savanna New would also join the admin team and together, tens of people from six continents would go on to write a 100,000-word novel!
Purchase Lynn’s wonderful novel, Murder at Mansfield Park!
It all began with this message, which Adam and Lynn sent out in December of 2010:
This has to be a first for Twitter! We’re planning a completely new experiment in creative collaboration, and would love you to get involved. The idea is to work together to write a whole new Jane Austen-style story, with a plot chosen on Twitter, developed on Twitter, and published on Twitter.
We plan to run a storytelling session one day every week for about three months next year. Each week’s chapter will be posted online and on www.AustenAuthors.com on Sunday. You don’t have to be a published writer to join in — you just have to love your Jane!
So what happens next? Throughout January, we’ll be inviting you to come up with the basic set-up for a new Austen story. We’d like you to use characters from the original books (so we all know who they are), though you can mix and match them from different novels as much as you like. You can also include up to two new characters of your own, as long as you tell us a bit about them.
We’ve included our own sample story below, so you can see the sort of thing we’re looking for. The key is that you should set the story up, but not finish it, as we’d like scope for it to be developed by everyone else once it goes live on Twitter. You might want to tell us, for example, what issues the story will need to resolve, or some of the relationships that already exist between the characters. But please — no mash-ups — this is a conventional Austen story, not science fiction!
Just email your outline to firstname.lastname@example.org before January 20 to take part, and we’ll then run a poll in which we’ll be inviting people to vote for the story idea they like best. If your story idea wins you’ll get to kick it off when we go live!
So start thinking now, and feel free to be as imaginative as you like. As Miss Austen might say, everyone is most welcome!
The Bennets’ Baronetage
After losing three of their daughters to matrimony, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet receive an invitation to Bath from an old acquaintance, Lady Russell, and decide to take Kitty and Mary on a holiday/vacation there. Also frequenting Bath at the same time are Mr. and Mrs. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her sickly daughter Anne, and a charming, mysterious widower named Willoughby. High drama ensues as Mr. Willoughby and Colonel Fitzwilliam — a friend of the Darcys — vie for Kitty’s affections, while Mary and Anne seek solace in the brooding poetry of a mourning (he has lost a loved one for the second time), Captain James Benwick. At the same time, Lady Catherine spars with the exalted Lady Dalrymple for superiority in the Bath social circle.
May make an appearance: Darcy and Elizabeth, Bingley and Jane, Captain Wentworth and wife Anne, Mr. Yates, Sir Walter Elliot.
How it will work in practice:
We’ll be going live with the winning story on February 8, 2011. This will be the “first Tuesday” of storytelling, and it will run every Tuesday after that. Each day will be divided into 15 minute slots from 9am UK time, to 9pm Pacific Standard Time, to allow as many people as possible to take part.
You can book your slots through a shared Google document, which we’ll release once we start gathering contributors.
During your slot you are free to take the story forward in whatever way you like — within reason. Please don’t introduce major new characters that aren’t in the original cast (though “extras” are OK — for example, guests at a ball). Likewise don’t take the story into un-Austenesque territory by introducing alien life forms or anything similar! We all need to keep to the original scenario, and then develop it naturally as we go along!
You can tweet as much or as little as you like during your slot, and if you miss it, don’t worry. Please make sure you put the hashtag #A4T (i.e. “Austen for Twitter”) at the end of every tweet, or other people won’t be able to find you and the story will go off the rails!
It would be nice if the style of the story had an Austen feel to it, but the most important thing is to make it interesting and enjoyable for everyone reading it and writing it!
Every Sunday, that week’s “chapter” will be posted in full on the Austen Project website and on www.AustenAuthors.com. Sunday would also be a good day to post any thoughts on Twitter about how the story is developing, so we can all have a good chat about it before the Tuesday story session.
The final story session will be Tuesday, May 3, so we will need to have reached a conclusion by then! We’ve chosen this date so the whole story can be posted online on May 4, which is the anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park.
Jane Austen Twitter Project
(@GhostingAusten & @AdamSpunberg)