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So back when I was in high school, a writing teacher once told me to "Murder your darling."  And she explained it as taking your absolute favorite part of a story or chapter, whether it be a phrase or a scene, or even your favorite character and axing it.  She told me it was a surefire way to normally get a better story out of it.  The way I see it, it's like Stone Soup.  You start with the stone, but then after adding all the other ingredients, you really don't want to leave the stone in.  No matter how appetizing it looks, or how the stone was what started the soup in the first place.  I've stuck through this device quite faithfully over the years, and so far, it really has never steered me wrong. I've found that my 'darling' is typically the start of my inspiration, a word a sentence, something that starts it all.  But that one sentence or phrase, by the time I'm done with the story, just doesn't fit anymore.  It's the raw, unharnessed version of all the words that follow.  Like, a neanderthal in 3155.

 

But at the same time, it's incredibly difficult to look at that brilliant piece of raw inspiration and decide that it has to go.  So I guess I'm wondering if other people do this, or if they think this is a necessary convention.  Certainly no one would want to bite into a rock when eating soup, but it feels like such a piece of my soul, you know?

 

Just something to get the creative juices flowing! :)

 

MYIEGE

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I've never done that, and don't think I ever could.

 

I've done some really cruel and sadistic things to my 'darlings' (and liked it  :devil: ) but I could never cut them out of a story.  I guess that's their punishment for staying in the story.

 

**cackles evilly, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and to the sound of darlings begging for mercy**

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Lol, that's great.  The one darling that I've murdered that I can actually remember was this one perfect sentence describing the decay of modern civilization.  It was PERFECT.  But it didn't fit the rest of the tone of the story, so I axed it, and cried as I dug it a shallow unmarked grave.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't think there is a rule for "your story WILL be better if you do this". along with that whole only-8-plots-ever crap, i'm sure these are tricks propounded by people with less talent to make the rest of us feel crappy. apologies to Myiege's writing tutor. *shrug*

 

if i love it and i wrote it, then it can't be too bad, and generally i think that the first inspiration is often the best one.

 

like soup. you start with a good stock and add all the other things to it. if you remove the stock you started with, all the good flavours fall apart and there is nothing to link them.

 

i love food analogies. 

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I see your point.  I've been so entrenched though, that normally if I find a darling, I kill it.  I've always looked at the stone soup analogy myself, and I find that it appeals to my stomach.  No one would want to munch on a rock lol.

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  • Site Administrator

I'm never so involved with my writing that I get emotional about cutting something if it needs to go. I attempt to remain on point to an idea throughout a story but I'm also willing to change things if they don't work from my original plan. The entire story is 'my darling', and no single element is more important than the whole being well formed.

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I sort of do that with what is my pre-roughdraft.  I start with an initial idea and write it out then start over after I played it out.  Its sort of a mental exercise for me.  Considering I mostly write sci-fi I pretty much have to write a pre-roughdraft in order to get a good solid feel for the world I'm trying to create.  I could also see killing it  being useful for murder mysteries.

Edited by JMH
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I'm never so involved with my writing that I get emotional about cutting something if it needs to go. I attempt to remain on point to an idea throughout a story but I'm also willing to change things if they don't work from my original plan. The entire story is 'my darling', and no single element is more important than the whole being well formed.

 

You mean there's never that perfect sentence that just makes your heart swell?  The one sentence that captures all the feeling you've been trying to put into words?  Wow, I guess I have a long way to go!  ^-^

 

 

 

I sort of do that with what is my pre-roughdraft.  I start with an initial idea and write it out then start over after I played it out.  Its sort of a mental exercise for me.  Considering I mostly write sci-fi I pretty much have to write a pre-roughdraft in order to get a good solid feel for the world I'm trying to create.  I could also see killing it  being useful for murder mysteries.

 

That seems like a good idea to do , but I could honestly never write sci-fi.  Props to you!

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Nope, I'm not emotional about my writing like so many authors I know where they feel the story and write the emotion they're in, or need the emotion present to write it for the characters. I plot, and write, deliberately with intent. I chose each element in the story to incite a reaction from the reader, from tears to laughter. From my plot scenes, my character's personalities and appearances, to every single word in the story ... they are all chosen for a reason-even if the reader doesn't know it. If something is unnecessary, or doesn't work, or simply has no place ... it goes.

 

Honestly, the best qualities I think an author can have are flexibility and a certain sense of detachment. I do not feel the need to be emotional about it if I've not quite reached the idea version of my story with my first try. No one ever does, imo. Editing is vital to catch flaws  before stories get to the reader. It's easier for others to see that, and give you objective feedback, than it is to do for yourself. That is why I always advocate using a team that you trust to give you the input your need, even if it's to cut, cut, cut.

 

Every author I've worked with I've warned; I will tell them exactly what I think, down to what needs to go, ruthlessly, if necessary. I accept the same from anyone that betas, edits, or even reviews my work. I try to accept all feedback at face value. Only then will I get better as a writer.

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You are officially my hero.  I wish I had that emotional detachement you talk of.  But everything is just so close to my heart.  While I wholeheartedly agree about cutting and ruthlessly cutting, that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt a little bit, lol.  But I totally agree, if the story would be better without it, then it needs to go, no matter how much kicking and screaming it takes.

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I have done this several times in my stories, although possibly "murder" is a bit strong for what I actually do. I tend to orphan them. The only difference is that rather than actually getting rid of them completely, I uproot these scenes, characters and ideas and add them to another file, which I put into my "Bad Ideas Graveyard", a folder on my PC which hosts all the ghosts of stories and scenes which never worked. Occasionally I return to this archive looking for ideas and put a fresh twist on something in there which didn't work in its original setting. I am a great fan of recycling story lines and if I can see a place where an existing line would fit, I will insert it and link it in.

Edited by RobsWriting
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After finishing the first draft, I put the story aside until I don't feel attached to it anymore. Then I start editing and I cut out - without regret - all the parts that do not work. But I also have an archive where I keep some of the cut-out pieces.

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