Thursday, April 13, 2017

Kill Your Darlings!

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This quote by William Faulkner urges the writer to edit out phrases, characters, scenes, paragraphs or sentences that are their darlings when they don't serve a purpose.

 Stephen King uses this quote in his book ‘On Writing’ to emphasize this major editing technique.

Writers often fall in love with their creation. Many of us consider our books as our babies.

 When an editor asks you to cut some of your favorite scenes, you might raise a hue and cry. It is one terrible thing to do. 

You might even be tempted to look for another opinion.

 But the reality is that removing our darlings from the manuscript often strengthens our characters and plot.

 It also tightens the prose thus improving the overall quality of our writing.

What are the darlings you can edit out without much thought from your manuscript?

  • Put on your thinking cap and weed out the weak characters, irrelevant plot lines, flowery metaphors, and similes.
  • Check whether the many backstories actually matter.
  •  Would your story work fine if you cut your prologue?
  • Are there pointless scenes in your book that isn’t interesting at all?
  • Is your first chapter relevant? Read through your first chapter.  By the time you finish your manuscript, the first chapter might require a thorough revamp as the story might have changed from what you initially had in mind.

While you kill off your darlings, make sure you are doing it in a separate copy of your manuscript.

 You never know, you might want to revive a few of your darlings later on.

Another way authors kill their darlings is by killing off one of their strong characters. 

Seems bizarre, right?

For example, author George R R Martin kills off many of his stronger and well-loved characters in his international bestselling series of epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, adapted by HBO into the dramatic series Game of Thrones.

JK Rowling kills at least one character off in each of her Harry Potter books.

 I died a little when Dumbledore died. 

The deaths of Sirius, Mad eyed moody, Hedwig, Dobby, Tonks and Lupin, Snape, Fred and many other characters make the books so much poignant and un-putdownable. We empathize with the loss faced by our favorites. 

By killing off these darlings, J.K Rowling ensured they will live in our hearts forever.

And not to forget, don’t we all love Romeo and Juliet?

Now the big question! Will you be ready to kill your darlings?

During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.
The Letter of the day is H

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  J ?


  1. I really know how difficult it is to kill the darlings we have weaved with so much heart. Thank you so much for bringing this up> I will bear this in mind.

  2. Glad you found it useful Roma! Thank you for reading.

  3. Love the quote. Cutting out favourite scenes because they're not moving the plot forward always brings tears to my eyes, though I know it's necessary. Happy A-to-Z-ing.

  4. Hahahahaa, I love that quote. But what needs to be done, has to be done. Detaching from your writing helps swift killing :)


    1. Exactly. We have to invoke the ruthless editor in us.

  5. I think kearning to let go of you darlings is one of the hardest thing to do for a writer, one that we learn last. But once we learn it, our writing becomes so much stronger :-)

    The Old Shelter - 1940s Film Noir

    1. Yes! We learn to write better when our 'darlings' quit. :)

  6. Ooh, this is one of the very hardest parts of the editing process! It's so tough to fall in love with a scene, a character, or even an in-depth description, and then have to rip it out. But I second your advice to keep 'the darlings' in a different file. You never know when you might be able to add them back in!

    1. It feels like ripping our heart out. But it needs to be done. Thank you fir reading :)

  7. The killing of Sirius, Dumbledore, Hedwig were really significant, because it allowed Harry to develop in each book. He had to stop relying on people that he loved and trusted, and had to use his own skill to face off with Lord Voldemort. If JKR had to keep all the characters until the very end, readers would not have credited Harry with the glory he deserved. It was a 'kill your darlings' move executed perfectly!