Friday, June 11, 2010

kill your darlings

When you’re deep into a manuscript, maybe working through it the first time after the initial draft, there are scenes you love and points of character and plot that must change even though you don’t want them to. A first draft is going to be full of wrong turns.

What I found myself doing as I was reworking a manuscript, or I should say caught myself doing, was trying to keep something that happened to a character and that revealed character because I liked it. I think I knew, deep down, it was wrong but I wanted to keep it so I wrote another scene and another scene to justify its place in the manuscript. BUT all I was doing was taking myself further and further off-course.

So here’s my point: the old Faulkner advice, “Kill your darlings” is sometimes true. I think you have to pay attention to your feeling that a manuscript might be heading in the wrong direction or that a scene you really love might be distorting some aspect of a story and even leading you in the wrong direction. A novel, to get where it’s going, needs to be heading down the right roads. I don’t know that I would agree with Faulkner but I would, at least, say BE AWARE or BEWARE of your darlings.

Or so I think today.


Jeff Hirsch said...

Definitely. I've always been uncomfortable with the "kill your darlings" thing. It's sounds cool and tough and all but I think "beware your darlings" is more helpful.

I can think of plenty of times when a scene I liked wasn't working and it wasn't because it needed to be cut, but it was because I hadn't adequately set it up 20 pages back, or it was just happening in the wrong place. And of course there were times when it just need to be cut. The awareness is all....

Brian Yansky said...

Yeah. Be aware. Sometimes it feels like writing a novel is such a specific activity, each with its own specific problems, that all generalizations are suspect. But you do have to give it to F. Even if it has a tough-guy Hemmingway ring to it, "Kill your darlings" does sound cool.

Michalea said...

Sometimes it is a kill thing, sadly, says someone who is in the process of killing a few darlings. :-(

But the results are good :-)

Brian Yansky said...

Well, as long as the results are good:)