Sunday, February 5, 2012
Killing Your Darlings
When William Faulkner said, “Kill your darlings,” he meant to take out the wonderful sentences, the sparkling paragraphs, the powerful descriptions that do absolutely nothing to advance your plot. If you love it beyond reason, it doesn't belong.
While acknowledging this admonition, I am using it in another sense. I mean, literally killing your characters.
It wasn't hard to kill the villain in my unpublished historical novel. He was a bully and a rapist, an opportunist and a cheat, and he deserved what he got.
It was a lot more difficult to kill off one of my characters in "Angels Unware." But someone had to die to show just how precarious Kat's (the heroine) position was. I had created them, I had grown fond of them, and now I had to kill one of them. But which? The young mother, Mindy; Barbara, who finally followed her dream; or Reva, who found her love late in life?
It wasn't an easy decision.
Then there is the method. Sometimes the answer is in the story and the death, while unforeseen, is a logical outcome. Or it can come as a shock. In "A Question of Boundaries," one villain's death is unexpected and jarring. This death is immediately followed by another equally shocking -- not by its timing, but by the method.
Or maybe not, if you recall the hero's special gift.
I don't have to kill any of my characters in "The Lunch Club" (coming soon!) although there is one in particular I would have liked to have done away with.
How about you? Do you find it brings you to the point of tears when you realize that one of your beloved characters must leave? And when you make the decision, how do you decide the manner in which he will make his departure? Sweet and poignant or sudden and brutal?
Let us know -- we're wondering.