kill your darlings
February 12, 2013 2 Comments
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. His book On Writing is well worth picking up if you’re a writer, yourself. His fiction is consistently good, and occasionally great. How many authors can you say that about? And he’s managed to live the writer’s dream, making a comfortable living while doing something he enjoys. All in all, there’s a lot there to admire.
The gem of wisdom above is priceless advice from a man who clearly knows a thing or two about writing.
It’s dangerous to become too attached to the elements in your fiction, whether we’re talking about characters, relationships, settings or hoped-for outcomes. I believe strongly that a writer’s job is to let the story tell itself, rather like a gardener allows a flower to bloom. You may tend to it, trim it, feed it and protect it, but in the end, you can’t dictate how each petal will fall. You can only watch as it reveals itself to you, and then turn and share it with the world.
I know, I know–everyone doesn’t think this way about fiction. Some would say the writer is like God, creating and destroying at will. I disagree. I believe the story has a will of its own, and the writer should always work with this in mind.
Getting back to King’s advice, stories of all genres include elements of tragedy. Something will almost always die. Be bold in your commitment to the story, allowing for loss instead of protectively guarding your babies. It will hurt at times, recording the death of a character you’ve come to admire and even love, but fiction that is true to life includes adversity as well as triumph.
Write it all.
And know this: you’re a writer. There will be more characters to fall in love with in the future. Like life, the story will go on, even if some of your darlings don’t survive to see it.