1. naruzeldamaster

    naruzeldamaster Senior Member

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    What does 'Don't be afraid to kill your darlings' mean?

    Discussion in 'Revision and Editing' started by naruzeldamaster, Mar 5, 2021.

    I see this advice tossed around a lot and all the times I've seen it, it's always left at just that, with no context whatsoever.

    Is it meant to be taken literally or something else?
     
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  2. Malisky

    Malisky Malkatorean Contributor

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    I take it to mean, "don't hesitate to kill the characters you've created and which might be your favorites as a writer, when you've thought of a suitable plot point where they eventually die." Some of our beloved characters have to die, hopefully meaningful deaths. That's how I perceive this saying at least.

    Don't literally kill anyone. Won't be excused. "Literally"... huh! Funny.
     
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    It means don't get too attached to particular things in your stories, be ready to throw out anything and everything when it becomes necessary. If you're not that blunt and tough on yourself, you won't be able to get rid of that one scene that you really really like but it's screwing up the flow and killing the whole story.
     
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  4. B.E. Nugent

    B.E. Nugent Contributor Contributor

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    If you have darlings in your life, it's most certainly NOT to be taken literally.

    What the others have said. Sometimes the bit you like best just doesn't work and that edit can be painful.
     
  5. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I always see it as more of a sentence-level issue. You have a line or phrase that's super clever, and you just can't delete it, even though it's obnoxious. The point is: edit like an assassin.
     
  6. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    Yeah, broadly speaking, 'Kill your Darlings' is advice meant to warn writers against not changing or removing a part of your writing even when everyone is telling you that project would be better without that part.

    Writing is very personal. Our stories and ideas mean a lot to us and we easily get attached to characters, plotlines, scenes, even small things like individual paragraphs or lines. It's difficult for most creators to locate such 'darlings' in their own work, even if those darlings are actively making that thing worse. When we receive feedback that tells us, "I didn't like this thing, the writing is weaker as long as this thing is here", we need to be willing to consider that point of view, and try to imagine what that piece of writing would look like without that darling. Because sometimes, we end up liking that version more than the one we actually wrote.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Samuel Pepys said something to the effect that ' if on rereading your work you find a piece you consider especially fine, that part should be deleted without mercy'... i can't remember his exact words, but it has the same import as darlings... don't get overly emotionally attached to facets of the story whether plot, character, or setting that you are unable to delete them to improve the story.. often the thing you thing is supremely clever/witty/or whatever is in fact tedious, dull and a mill stone on your story
     
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  8. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    In business school (university) the prof had two bits of advice he said repeatedly: there's no free lunch and don't fall in love with your assets.

    It's very easy to love something in your writing be it a character, a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter. It's akin to missing the forest for all those darling little trees you love so much. Sometimes they just have to go.

    I cut my darling paragraphs or chapters out by sending them to a 'not using now' file. It's so much less painful than sending them to the trash. After a bit of time you forget all about those little darlings and your work looks so much better for it.
     
  9. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    My reaction is that I shouldn't be afraid to edit and cut away parts of the story that, though I personally enjoy, but doesn't do anything for the story overall.
     
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  10. alw86

    alw86 Active Member

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    This is how I understand it, too. Like, in my current project, originally the murder victim's mistress was a character. She had a whole backstory, detailed personality and a few darkly funny lines. I really liked her, as did my alpha reader. Ultimately, though, her character just didn't fit into the story and her role in the plot could easily be managed in tighter ways which would improve the story as a whole, so she had to go. Sorry, Ellie!
     
  11. Thomas Larmore

    Thomas Larmore Senior Member

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    I had a section of my book dedicated to a girl, the daughter of my main villain, going to boarding school in Switzerland and her adventures when she traveled with her friends to California for Christmas.

    But the story wasn't going anywhere, so I cut the whole thing out.
     
  12. arkadia

    arkadia Member

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    There is an editing book called "Murder your darlings", written by Roy Peter Clark. It explained where the quote comes from (a 20th century author, don't remember who).
     
  13. Rake

    Rake Member

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    My impression is that, in writing, if you have found a particular element of your story, that you have worked hard on and become attached to, is not contributing to or helping the overall piece you would employ the practice of 'killing your darlings' to make it better.
     
  14. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    I just realized that I have to completely rewrite my story with a bunch of new concepts that I plan to introduce. But it's okay. I'm actually really excited because I love these characters but as the story is now, it doesn't have enough in it to make it interesting.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I think it means if your kids keep interrupting you so that you can’t finish your story, you gotta do what you gotta do.
     
  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Um... give up on the story, right? :eek:
     
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  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yes, that’s also an option. :D
     
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  18. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Guardian-eating, tofu-reading dormivitus Supporter Contributor

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