First, Find Some Darlings

There’s a popular phrase among writers:

“Kill your darlings.”

knife stabbing book with black blood

Sounds harsh, right? It basically means to cut out those lengthy, unnecessary, or self-indulgent passages to improve your work. This bibliocidal-sounding advice is credited, to the best of our knowledge, to Arthur Quiller-Couch, who lectured at Cambridge during the early 20th century. He actually said, “Murder your darlings,” which sounds even more menacing to me!

As an urban fantasy writer with a mean streak myself, I may end up taking this advice a little too literally. I’m writing about some characters who, down the line, I’m know I’m going to do awful things to: injure them, scare them, make them face their worst fears, maybe even kill them off. I’m not giving anything away! But man, these poor kids are sure going to have their hands full.


Now maybe I’m a masochist but I kind of like torturing my characters. Throwing them through the physical and emotional wringer really brings out their raw, frightening, or sometimes even courageous and amazing characteristics. My favorite scene in Book 1 of my series is one that pushes the protagonist, Red, to her emotional breaking point. It shows us a frightening side of a highly flawed character and it makes me proud that I’ve created someone on the page who is complex enough to have these kinds of hidden layers. This same scene is also the favorite of several of my beta readers, so it’s good to know that it works.

So yes, I do plan to murder my darlings. And I suspect I’ll enjoy every minute of it.


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