I stumbled across Jane Austen at the end of spring term my sophomore year in college. During finals week, I devoured every Austen I could lay my hands on–which may partly explain why I missed by a hair making Phi Beta Kappa. But that is not the point here.
Over the years I have, at irregular intervals, reread her novels. In the midst of the current Jane Austen Mania, I am in the midst of another of those periods–the first since I started writing fiction. And so I find myself reading Austen with a different eye, one focused on identifying the components of her genius, her methods of revealing human nature and human relationships that make us recognize commonalities between people then and people now.
At the moment I am reading one of her less well known books, Lady Susan, an epistolary novel involving multiple letter-writers. Although not a popular form today, it still can be found in novels such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. As an aspiring writer, you might want to read one or both of these books with an eye to noticing character development in the absence of the usual devices.