Killing A Darling

One of the more famous–and often abused but that’s for another posting–quotes on writing is from William Faulkner, who said that in writing you must “kill your darlings”.

As one who writes horror and thriller tales, I’ve certainly been known to subscribe to that advice (insert soundtrack of evil laugh here).

But today I did something for the first time as a writer, and thought it would be fun to share.

I always write from a loose outline. I like to begin the story creation process by outlining all the major (and even minor) events for my story, but without describing them in too much detail. Typically my outline is a bunch of index cards each with just a couple words on them, such as “hero meets woman”, “bad guy shows muscle”, and “bad guy fish-slaps hero” (fish-slap is my note for not only being defeated, but being humiliated too).

What I never include in my outlines, is death. Long ago I decided that I wanted all character deaths to reveal themselves to me during the actual writing process, then I often have to adjust the outline to account for them, but it’s nice to be surprised by them as a writer and I feel it helps keep my storytelling fresh and adventurous for   both me and readers.

However, while outlining my latest work today, I felt like I needed to include several character deaths in the outline to make it work the way I wanted, and since the no deaths in outline rule  is my own I was sure I could break it just this once.

And boy did I break it (again insert evil laugh soundtrack). Completing my outline I suddenly feel like George R.R. Martin, everybody who “shouldn’t” will die… readers will say “omg, no he didn’t”…

It’s very different for me to plan a character’s death rather than to just let it happen during the first draft. Normally, it seems natural and unavoidable. Out of my control in an odd way. But  to actually plan it, feels very close to playing God… and I like it! (insert final evil laugh soundtrack)

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