Closing Chapters (aka – Killing your darlings)

In life, and in writing, it is a challenge…

The last few months I have had to refocus on writing my manuscript, I have had to restructure the opening of the book. Decide on the tense – yep, stuck with first person, and, (gasp), I have had to “kill my darlings”. Yes that is a writing term, I don’t know who I need to reference there, but in the biz, culling characters that don’t fit with the overall theme of your project, is sometimes referred to as “killing your darlings”. Equally, making changes to scene, deleting favourite catch phrases, and removing fun, but unnecessary character traits are also referred to as killing your darlings.

Now, there were quite a few scenes, monologues and even the odd (quite odd) character I had to cull in my manuscript, there was the lascivious Lauren, the antagonists real (but dead) Mum, and boring old Geoff, he is still in it, but his role is much diminished. Rightly so, as he is a vehicle, not literally, but in a literary sense.

The emotion behind this is not inconsistent with the real life, from time to time in your life you may have to say goodbye to people, places, things and a good bit of stuff.

It sure isn’t easy. We all love a good catch phrase, an amusing character, or a good ghost, but the best thing to do is find a reliable, if not overly sympathetic pal, and ask them if it’s too much, too little, or just right. Then, and this is the hardest thing of all, take their advice… Remove and reboot.

Even then, it’s not that simple. You may still have to work through the five stages of grief to get past your loss. It might feel really real because you created something, and you have to excise it, from your life, and your novel. No longer will you see it shining forth from the page for your enjoyment.

Same in real life, knowing that, for death, distance or departure, people you shared laughs and love with are no longer available to you is a sad loss. Sometimes it’s not even people you miss. Sometimes it’s a pair of shorts, or your Scrubs DVD series that you lent out and never got back. Whatever the loss, it is real and needs to be worked through. Give it some sunshine, some good old UV disinfection. Airing it out is the best way to move past things. The great thing about that, too, is that you get to say your experience of the situation and how it did, or didn’t, impact you.

Stay strong, and move on

Probably the worst part of it is, sometimes they won’t let go. They don’t want to die, they don’t want to be deleted. They didn’t sign the DNR form, they want oxygen. They pop up in your head, they exude through your fingers, touch typing their conversations and concepts into your writing before you remember they are gone. Like that sexy bad boyfriend that was really good looking, but super ditzy, you have to stay strong, and not keep falling for their appealing, but short term, charm.

Oddly enough…

It’s not all black and white, well actually it is, I mean book paper isn’t really white, and you can select colour on your kindle now, so anyway, that’s not what I meant. Just that it’s not an exact science. Once in while, in a complete Bridget Jones’ miracle, you might need to resuscitate the odd one. The odd character, the really odd one that makes you laugh just thinking about them. But generally speaking, you know when it is right to let go.






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