Don’t kill your darlings

Here’s a post by James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: Don’t Kill Your Darlings—Give Them a Fair Trial!

This caught my eye because frankly the “kill your darlings” tidbit of advice always struck me as weird. I mean . . . if it’s a darling, it should be good. Assuming your taste is good, and let’s assume that. Then if it’s good, you should probably see if you can find a way to keep it in your book, not leap upon it with a butcher knife, hacking and slashing.

Anyway, I see from this post that Bell, at least, interprets the phrase as one that encourages authors to get rid of overly ornate, hard-to-follow prose. His conclusion:

It pleases me greatly to write darlings. So I don’t immediately plot their demise. I let them sit, I look at them again, I have my wife render an opinion, and then I decide if they must go. They get a fair trial. And sometimes they are set free!

Bell is advocating overwriting — including more stuff about the characters’ emotional reactions and so on — and then editing that kind of thing down.

As always, your mileage may vary. For me, I nearly always go through and *add* more about the characters’ emotional reactions rather than taking that kind of thing out. But he makes a good point given the specific example he offers.

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1 thought on “Don’t kill your darlings”

  1. I still remember having a beta reader tell me that “The Lion and the Library” was too flowery, and looking at it, and thinking that that was just how things looked from Lena’s point of view.

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