All My Darlings

It occurred to me when I was having a chai latte with my editor, that in the new book I'm writing, I have too many bad guys. Actuallly, this had occurred to my agent a few days before, and when he told me, I decided he was wrong, because I really liked all these bad guys — they were deliciously rotten of the boo hiss variety. But now, with the bad guys laid out before me on a table at Starbucks, I see that one of them has to go or at the very least be toned down.  There is no doubt who will be the one to get axed, and this means that some funny moments will have to be cut. Cutting a funny moment is excruciatingly hard for me.  I mean, losing a joke — that's serious.

William Faulkner proclaimed the curse, "In writing, you must kill all your darlings." He's mostly right. I've been writing long enough to know that when we fall in love with the little moments we're heading down a dangerous path. We look for places to put them in, keep them safe, keep them alive with an IV, if necessary. We've fallen in love with them because they are just so fun and delightful.  But do they really add to the story? If they don't, they must go. Nothing will exhaust a good tale more quickly than getting stuck in unnecessary stuff. Ernest Hemingway insisted, "When in doubt, take it out."  All right.  All right.  But I'm putting my bad guy in a file marked "Darlings".  I'm hoping there will be another story where he can jump to life in wretched despicableness and get what's coming to him.  I will cling to that. 


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