The Darling Blog Of May

Darling Day 17. Kill Your Darlings

It’s a phrase that makes my arm hairs stand up every time I say it, every time I think it. Kill your Darlings. Who would do such a thing? Who would even think up such a horrid plan? Well…writers, that’s who. And today— on this most darling day seventeen— I thought it might be nice to chat a little bit about what it means to Kill your Darlings.

I really could not tell you where the phrase Kill your Darlings came from. If I’m to believe the darling brain-dump that is the internet, then, apparently, the phrase was coined by American writer, William Faulkner, who said, ‘In writing, you must kill your darlings.’

Now, you might be thinking: Gee whizz, Brooke. That was a man with some real anger issues. Well…yeah. You may be right (because you know how much I love words, and who on earth would put the words ‘kill’ and ‘darling’ in the same sentence! Omg. I can’t even.)

But. The whole idea behind his grizzly phrase— I totally get it. And it really is a necessary evil when it comes to crafting a story that will make both writers and readers all shiny and jolly inside.

Traditionally, the phrase Kill your Darlings means that, in order to make your work great, you will need to leave your ego at the door. Ego is a me thing, after all, not a we thing (and books and stories should be all about we things, don’t you think?) That means smothering the ego. Deleting any sentences, paragraphs or words that make you smile but probably no one else.

When I’m writing, my little ego minions often step in with a standing ovation, a spirit-fed stoke of my writerly fire. And these tiny little ego minions…well, I kind of think they’re awesome. Because when they do come at me with their sweet words of encouragement—their little yellow arms waving giant pom-poms to celebrate all my wonderful— that’s when I know: this little ego fed darling just may need to meet the trash can. I flag it. And then, more often than not, I kill it.

I also have a wider idea of what the phrase Kill your Darlings might mean.  Yes, I absolutely agree that the ego fed darlings of my work must be killed from time-to-time, particularly if they jar with the story, character or voice. But I also think the phrase is a good one to remember during the overall editing process—the finished draft is done and now, like Dumbledore’s Phoenix, it must die to become beautiful, once again. Unnecessary words must be cut and ego fed sentences must be well and truly buried, because in writing…less really does seem to be more.

I know, I know. Why would you do something so vicious to one of your darlings? How could killing it possibly make things better? Well. Here’s where I admit the truth. I don’t know how that magic works. All I know is that whenever I Kill my Darlings…they become better.

Now, where is that red pen of mine?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The darling blog of May

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The Darling Blog Of May

Darling Day 3. What’s in a word?

Let’s talk about words.

I adore words. I wrote about them here and I will, no doubt, write about them again on this blog because… I’m a little bit nerdy, like that.

I love writing words.

I love reading them, hearing them, thinking them. But most of all: I love feeling them.

Writing is one of those feeling things, for me. Reading also. And even though books have been a huge presence in my life for quite some time, it wasn’t until studying creative writing at university that I really started to think about words, and how they function in our lives.

Truly. I was stunned. How was it that something as simple as word choice could completely change the meaning of a sentence? And did you know that removing a word could enhance a sentence, rather than detract from it? I mean. What magic is that!

And so. I thought— why not dissect a word during the darling blog of May? Pick a word; play with it. Search for the magic hidden in its guts and sprinkle that magic around so all of you can share some too. Wouldn’t that be darling?

Yes! Let’s do it! And, in honour of the darling blog of May, the lucky word that will be chopped in half and gutted will be…

Darling. (Ha! I bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

Dar-ling.

The start of the word is a little bit ugly, isn’t it? (My Australian accent thinks so, anyway). To me, DAR drops off the tongue like a rock that’s just been lobbed into the ocean. It’s clunky. And not at all graceful.

But.

If we look at the end of the word—the LING sound—can you hear how it flings itself off the tongue? Isn’t-that-cool? It sounds like a lovely little handbell on a hotel countertop, one you could ring and ring all day just to hear the tinkling goodness of its song.

To me, it’s the LING part of darling that makes the word chime. It’s the LING that makes the word sing.

Darling.

Darling.

See? Pretty, isn’t it?

Then there’s the deeper stuff of words, the emotions that naturally rise from a word because of how we’ve heard it used before. Take darling, for example. We’ve all heard it said a thousand times, and usually, it’s said with a deep puff of love. It makes sense that when we hear the word darling, we will feel nice.

Of course, the word darling doesn’t always bring in all the good feels. Mums? Dads? I’ll bet you’ll agree. The word darling can be something of a double-edged sword when it comes to using it on our precious little cherubs. At least, it is in my house.

Example 1. ‘Darling. Please. Get down off the TOP rung of the ladder. For the HUNDRETH time.’

Example 2. ‘Darling. You are so many different kinds of lovely. Never change.’

How epic is that. ONE word. So many meanings.

So! We come to the end of my little nerd fest. I hope you forgive me for putting you through all that, especially if you’re not a big reader or writer. Then again, it is all a part of this little darling month of mine—pushing the boundaries of darling, seeing just how much this little word has to give.

I think it gives an awful lot. I so hope you agree. xx

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The darling blog of May

Nerdy Party, Writing

An Audience With My Writerly Self

Hello Writerly Me,

It’s good to see you! Thanks for coming, by the way. No one else will be attending the party, sadly. Some were too shy to come. The rest: burning the candle at both ends, they said. Too busy for a party, they said. So that leaves…you. And me.

But, hey, that’s okay! When I really think about it I’m thrilled no one else is coming. I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Now seems like the perfect time. (Wait, do I hear crickets?)

Oh, sorry! How rude of me, please: take a seat.

Now. Writerly Me. I’ll start with a little story about how the two of us met.

When I first began writing creatively— you were there, humming away under my skin; a cute little engine you were, pumping ideas through me and onto those frightening white pages. So, yes. I knew you were there.

But I didn’t really know you then, did I? I didn’t recognise you, or the role you played in my writing. Luckily, that didn’t matter because you knew me. And you knew I needed your help to write. So, you kept coming back. Thank goodness.

The more stories I wrote, the clearer your voice became. You spoke for me: all I had to do was turn up at the desk and write what you told me to. In fact, you insisted.

‘Please,’ you said to me. ‘Just turn up. Write. Do nothing else.’ Remember that? You were pretty adamant about that part. (How’s your bum feeling, by the way? Sorry. These chairs are not okay.)

Anyway, you told me to stop thinking so much. Thinking does not belong in the world of pure imagination, you said. This was something I’d learnt the hard way. So much staring at the blank page; so much sifting through words, choosing only those that were pretty, or important, or…right.

Writerly Me, I think I finally get it. There is no right, is there? I will never know what kind of books Tom, or Jenny, or Joe Reader like. But I do know what kind of books I like. It’s quite simple, really. If the words that land on my page feel like warm chocolate milk to me, chances are those very words will feel like warm chocolate milk to someone else. (What? No, you can’t have a warm chocolate milk! This is still a party, you know.)

Trust that the magic will happen. You gave me those words, didn’t you? Yes. I thought so. You were spot on, there. Writing—creating anything, for that matter—is a kind of magic. So when I’m scared to face that blank page again, or when I wonder if all my previous stories were just one great big fluke, I think of you. I think of that magic wand of yours, how you flap it about and magic up a story, how you help me sprinkle that same magic all over the page.

Thank you, Writerly Self. No, really. Thank you. For coming to the party. For reminding me to trust in your magic. All writers are different, you taught me that. And although thinking and planning may belong at some other writer’s desk…they don’t belong at mine.

Magic belongs at mine.

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Writing

The Power of Words

The word peach makes me feel like summer.

I love that.

Maybe it’s the colour: dappled orangey, yellowy, red—to me, that colour sings. Just like summer.

Summer sings.

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It could also be the many hundreds of peaches I’ve slurped down over my thirty-something summers that give the word peach that summer feeling. Sticky fingers and dribbles down the chin—loving every minute, hating every minute, too.

No wonder those classic summer fruits have chiseled a feeling into my bones.

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The word peach; the visual peach; the feeling…

Peach.

 Surely it’s not just me that feels it.

It’s the power of words, right?

Fascinating, isn’t it, that when we know a language so well we barely even think about the words that come tumbling out of us, and yet they paint our whole world.

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Lately I’ve been wondering: why do certain books make me feel down to the very core, whilst others just make me smile?

I think I know one reason.

Words.

And the magic they puff up, and around, and all over us.

Peach.

Cocktail by the pool, anyone?