Last year I played Mary Bennett and Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice adapted by Jon Jory (I liked playing Charlotte but I LOVED playing Mary). Jory’s adaptation really moves the story along, which means characters like Mary and Charlotte get short shrift. His cursory treatment, however, gave me lots of room to create a wonderfully nerdy Mary with a slight adenoid problem who, if she were around today, would be playing Dungeons and Dragons, collecting Magic the Gathering cards, and writing fan fiction about Star Trek.
Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. A few days ago I decided to write a story about Mary Bennett that takes place after the book / play ends (like P.D. James except there is no mystery). Since I am currently indulging my love for fantasy fiction in my writing, I gave Mary’s story a recognizably fantasy slant. Mary, unbeknownst to her family, has become an accomplished witch, secretly reading spell books in her room (when she isn’t reading Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.) When I started writing the story I thought maybe she would discover a way into a magical, Narnia-esque world and have adventures of the kind that brainy plain girls don’t usually get to have in Jane Austen books. Instead, the story took a decidedly erotic twist when Mary recognized the new Vicar, who was visiting for tea, as a master magician whose books she cherished. He, as any good magician-pretending-to-be-the-local-clergy will do, also recognized her as a fellow spell caster. That plot twist led me to write a steamy , bodice-ripping sex scene that left me a little spent and kind of embarrassed. Not with the whole story–I’m actually pretty pleased with the story, and I think that with a little more work it could be good. But I’m embarrassed to post it to my blog because of this bodice-ripping sex scene.
Before Mary and the Vicar, I didn’t think I could even bring myself to write a sex scene, as I told Emily about a week ago (Emily, I hope you don’t mind being a recurring figure in my blog posts). It’s not that I’m a prude or afraid of sex. And I have no trouble performing sex scenes or being nude on stage (to be honest as long as there is no mirror, I can be nude pretty much anywhere). I’m not sure exactly what it is about writing a sex scene that is so embarrassing to me. While I worry what people will think of me and wonder how I could have such things on my mind, I don’t think that is the explanation. I think it is me at my most vulnerable, writing something incredibly intimate and opening a window into a part of myself that I ordinarily keep very private–except, you might point out, for when I share it onstage. But there is an important difference between acting and writing a sex scene: on stage I am performing someone else’s sex scene. It does not originate in my imagination, so it feels a lot less intimate and I feel a lot less vulnerable.
If it is a matter of vulnerability, then I have a great chance to push my boundaries with my decidedly un-Jane Austen story about Mary Bennett. I pride myself on being fearless as an actor, so why not as a writer? And I guess that is my answer. Why not? So I will revisit the draft of Mary’s sexy story, work on it, and publish it to my blog. I imagine my heart will be pounding as I go to hit that publish button, like Mary’s heart when the Vicar, well, you know.