Killing Your Darlings
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
You ever wonder about the whole "kill your darlings" scenarios that most writers go through? Well now you can see the things that I decided to cut out. Sometimes killing your darlings truly is the best thing for your writing, but I will never forget reading Saga, a graphic novel by Brian K Vaughan and getting that cathartic experience when reading this quote:
"Why teach young writers to edit out whatever it is they feel most passionate about? Better to kill everything in their writing they DON'T love as much. Until only the darlings remain."
So with that being said, if you're a writer struggling with which darlings you need to kill, read it without it! Honestly, writing should be fun! You shouldn't write for other people, you should be writing for yourself. So if someone is telling you to kill those darlings, but deep in your heart you just can't, then don't! There is someone out there that will love that part just as much as you do.
So which darlings did I kill??
In the original It Starts With Me first draft (oh my, I don't even want to THINK about it!), I had a whole scene in which Sarge pretends to get hit by a car in order to distract the driver from seeing Amity. At the time, I thought it was so clever, but thinking back on it now, it makes me cringe every time! It was one of those scenes that I was being stubborn about for no reason and I realized that I had to kill that darling real fast and that's when the attack scene showed up. Getting rid of my very first darling resulted in something ten times better and it could be the same for you!
Seven's a Crowd
I also had a plan to have another runaway in the group named Jackson "Jax" Bullard. He was going to be the evil one. I struggled a lot with keeping him in or tossing him aside. It wasn't until getting to chapter twenty or so that I realized I couldn't continue if I kept him in. Really, I was trying to justify keeping him in to be the pawn that Amity has to kill, fully completing her understanding of desperation. However, once I decided to cut him out and put Zach in that place, I realized how much more powerful it could all be. On a more superficial level, it's definitely easier to deal with less characters.
A Triggering Moment
Similar to the above, I had a very triggering "almost" rape scene in which Jackson was going to attempt to force Amity into an uncomfortable encounter. As much as I really, truly loved the scene and wanted to explore the emotions Amity would have afterwards to try and bring to light the feelings that others might deal with on a day to day basis when handling such trauma, I decided that it might be too much of a trigger in the long run and once I decided to fully cut Jackson, so went the scene.
These were just some of the cuts I remember. Sometimes I would spend hours writing a whole scene, cleaning it up, perfecting it, and then I would immediately turn around and cut it right out. But the one thing that I want to be absolutely clear from all of this is that your writing is exactly that: YOURS. Take advice from others, get feedback, but if deep in your heart, that darling is just too much to lose, then hold on to it tight!