Kill Your Darlings, Part II: Author Intrusion

Understanding Writer Lingo

I wrote this post while waiting for my flight to Colorado Springs where I’m attending the Superstars Writing Seminar.

Just in the first day, I’ve met and learned from many fantastic writers. But, that’s for my newsletter. This post is about darlings and when to kill them.

Specifically, this post covers killing the characters I mentioned in my previous post and how they obstructed my novel, DEAD GODS.

There’s a lot to this, but I’ll refrain from detail.

I loved these five characters. I loved their tragic past, their anger, their love, their flaws, how they spoke, how they looked. I developed them well. I wrote character sketches, short stories, scenes, and even chapters that were meant for DEAD GODS. But, they had no place in the story. They were never meant to take the wheel and drive the narrative.

It took me a while to realize I needed to kill these darlings, but when I did, my pace writing DEAD GODS took off. I had a clear understanding of how these secondary and tertiary characters—these darlings I killed—still drove the narrative, but as backseat drivers. They gave the town, Saint Andrews, life, and they had their own agendas that influenced the two primary characters: Rhea and Eddie.

These POV characters knew too much about this haunted Midwestern town. The readers would have asked why they didn’t reveal more whether in their thoughts or dialogue. The author, I, would have intruded, and the reader would have been fully aware of that.

And, really, killing your darlings has everything to do with author intrusion, where the reader can feel the writer behind the words, know the author is there rather than focusing on the story and narrative, suspending their disbelief in a way.

Keats knew this well and attempted to erase or negate himself from his narrative. He termed this “negative capability.” James Wood in his book How Fiction Works termed this aestheticism and antiaestheticism where authors “[…] evoke a debased language [and are] willing to represent that mangled language in [their] text, and perhaps thoroughly ‘debase’ [their] own language.”

This was something I had to come to terms with, and it was a difficult step to take, but my writing has benefited from it. Like Keat’s negative capability, it’s impossible to completely negate the author from their writing; however, there’s a balance, and it’s up to the reader to accept or deny the author’s presence—whatever level that is—within the narrative.

In my next posts, I’ll be continuing with killing darlings while focusing on debasing language and the use of metaphors.

Author: Chuck Lang

Chuck Lang is a writer of science fiction and horror. Influenced by his years as a carpenter, four years serving in the US Navy, and his fifteen years teaching literature, he holds an MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Lindenwood University. After completing his first manuscript, the supernatural horror novel DEAD GODS, in 2019, he has begun work on its two sequels, DEAD GODS: INHERITANCE and DEAD GODS: RESOLUTION. He is currently developing two additional projects, an urban fantasy horror novel and a military science fiction novel. He lives and writes near the frequently flooded Red River in Fargo, ND with his wife and two redhead sons.

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