Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Kill Your Darlings" Deleted Scene #amwriting

Some times writing is sad. Particularly when we must kill the parts of our story we love most simply because they do not fit--the official term I learned for this in college is "kill your darlings". For example, as I push through the final edits of Dying for Her, I still have to make cuts for the sake of the book. Take this beauty for example.

In this scene Brinkley has learned he is going to die 40 weeks from now. He drives to the ocean, something he did a lot as a kid with his family and has a reflective moment:
40 Weeks
        I can’t sleep, so I get in the Impala and start driving. It is dark when I head east and it stays dark until I cross the South Carolina border five hours later. I watch the horizon heal like a bruise, lighten from black to purple to red and yellow. I play the bluegrass and rustic soul music of my youth because it just seems like that kind of drive. I won’t see the old trees I grew up with, like the live oak sagging with Spanish moss. Myrtle Beach is too touristy for that. Even in December it is too sterile and commercial to really take me home. But it will have the water and that’s enough.
        I park the Impala in a hotel parking lot. After locking her up, I cut through the lobby, giving a little wave to the concierge, and cut through the back toward the ocean. I follow the wooden boardwalk, made smooth with the sand and wind coming off the water. At the first break in the rails, I step down into the sand. Boots are not the kind of thing you wear on a beach. So I sit down, treating the boardwalk like a seat and unlace one cracked boot, then the other. I take off my white socks and stuff them down into the neck of my boot, the way we used to in high school gym.
        I walk to the water and feel the sand shift like a snake underfoot. Safely out of the water’s reach, I sit in the sand and gaze out over the waves. It reminds me of the Arabian Gulf stretching out from Bahrain. The melodic slapping of waves takes me back--to Charlie, and his betrayal--to Afghanistan and the boy I shot and killed.
How can I blame Charlie for what's happened? I'm not to be trusted either. After all, I lied about what happened in those mountains.

I never told him there was a second boy.

Apart from the last two lines, this scene does NOTHING to further the development of my story, so it had to go. It was sad, but that is what happens when you want to do right by your book. It's OK though. I ate away the pain (gelato, chocolate AND potato chips) and I'm ready to move through the rest of editing.

"Kill your darlings" is also about realizing that each character is different. Because Brinkley is very low key, his story has been tighter, more direct. It's very different from Jesse's voice, who loves the attention of an audience and who makes jokes and such to keep you entertained--and on the page. And that is a different kind of page hogging than Ally does--with her introspection and tendency to overanalyze everything. So Brinkley's "style" has also determined what can/can't stay in the book.

So part of killing your darlings is asking yourself if it serves the narrative, but another part is about the voice of the character. 

Look at that! Brinkley is schooling me. ;) 

But I am better off for the lesson.

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