Peggy Bechko Wants Us to Kill Our Darlings

by Peggy Bechko

killkillWe’re all writers. Whether of scripts or novels, right? So, how many times have you heard it? Variations of Stephen King’s classic advice: “Kill your darlings.”

Let’s roll that phrase around in our minds again. “Kill your darlings.”

Meaning, rip a scene or scenes from a script or novel that you just loved creating and think reads fantastically, but just doesn’t fit into the book. Doesn’t keep the story in the script moving forward. Doesn’t contribute much except a bit of writer’s dazzle.

Oh, you were aware of it, probably almost from the moment you completed the writing of that precious scene. It’s great. It’s perfect. It’s fantastic. It just doesn’t work in the story as written. Ahhhhhhh!

We’ve all heard it many times and I suspect we’ve all tried at one time or another to dodge the issue. I mean, it’s such a great scene. It’s so well written. There has to be some way to keep it in the story and show the world how great I write. Right? Maybe I can rewrite parts of the story to make it fit in better. Perhaps I can tweak the scene itself to make that square peg fit better into the round hole.

Sigh, well no. I’m here to tell you, yet again, no matter how glitteringly well written, if the scene doesn’t move the story forward, if it’s no more than a sample of some of your best writing out of space and time, then it has to go.

And, I’m here to tell you, that’s not the only place you’re in danger of losing a darling; to your own teeth-grinding, screaming edit. Nope, once the novel/script is done there’s the next hurdle. The editor/reader/producer/whoever, who’s going to slide in when you least expect it. An editor may suggest scenes be removed from a novel. Even after a script has been produced and a movie filmed, scenes can end up on ‘the cutting room floor’ though in the age of digital I wonder if it’s called that any more. Still, a rose by any other name and all that. It’s a scene you fought for, managed to keep in the final script. And after all that, the final edit hits and before it’s released that prized scene is dropped. Novel, script, whatever, there you go, another ‘darling’ bites the dust.

Squirm and whine. Swear and whistle. So now what?

You can do what some writers do. Save that scene in a file against the possibility of some future use (the written version, not the filmed one as I doubt you’d be able to get the editor to give you that scrap of historic film). But, and I have to be honest here, I haven’t yet heard of a writer finding that other use for an outted scene and I haven’t myself been able to put to use any of the scenes I’ve loved and had to remove. But still, I save them, because I love them.

Good thing there are such large memory sticks available these days. Good luck and keep writing!

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™.  Learn more about her HERE. And don’t forget to visit her sensational blog, where this post was first published.