#TuesdayTips Harden Your Heart and Kill Your Darlings (Part Three)
Kill your Darlings! The chances are, that if you are interested in writing, then you have probably heard this refrain. But what does it mean, and how can you tell which darlings need to be killed?
All books are jam-packed with interesting characters, fun scenes, interesting research and hilarious occurrences. I’m sure that your first draft is full of all these and more. But have they earned their place? Every book is different, every writer is different and every reader is different. But one thing is the same: there are things that belong in your book, and things that need to be chopped.
In the previous two blog posts I have made suggestions about how to identify some of these darlings and how to decide if they stay or go, today I want to suggest a few more.
Speed it up or slow it down? One of the most common reasons to cut material is to control the pace- cut things to make the narrative flow faster. But don’t just assume that faster is always better. Think about what you want your readers to be doing. Some novels hit the ground at a sprint and don’t let up until the last page. For others, you may want to give the reader time to catch their breath and think about what you’ve written. Perhaps a less kinetic section with more details or character interactions is needed every so often.
No, they’d never do that! It’s very easy to get carried away when writing fun scenes, but sometimes it doesn’t fit the character’s personality or established skill-set. If you’ve spent all book (or series!) having your character grumbling about how unprofessional their work colleagues are, you’d better have a really good justification for retaining that amusing scene where they get drunk and sing Dancing Queen at the office Christmas karaoke.
Should that character be made redundant? We've all done it; that amazing character that comes fully-formed into our heads and just has to be written about. But do they need to be there? In books, the reader has to remember all the characters in a scene after you've told them they are present. It's not like TV or film, where you can see everyone in the room, even if they aren't speaking or doing anything. Does a character need to be in that scene, or could they be omitted, with their lines and actions plausibly handed over to someone else? Does that character even need to exist in that book?
Thanks for reading. Next week I will be suggesting what to do with those newly massacred darlings, so please pop back or browse the archives for more tips. Please feel free to comment either here or on social media. Paul