“Kill your darlings” is one of the most universally recognized quotes in the writing community. For so few words, it has resonated deeply with thousands of writers, who quote it often when their peers lament the process. William Faulkner was perhaps the first to coin that specific string of words, but Stephen King goes further in his book On Writing (which I haven’t actually read. Bad me.)
Not knowing the full context in which these words were written, I can only base my opinions of them on their quotation, but really, they’re a very interesting piece of advice. How do you define “darlings”? How do you define “kill”?
There is, of course, the most transparent reading. That which says “murder your beloved characters”… but even there, there is room for interpretation. Murder them in the story? Cut them out of the narrative entirely? Force bad things to happen and refuse to give that character you love so much a happy ending?
On a deeper level, I think it can also speak to writers who grow attached to their prose. In that case, “kill your darlings” becomes an anthem for editing: to cut words, sentences, and passages that aren’t essential. To remove full plots, even amazing plots, because they distract from the focus of the story.
So, how do you define “darlings”? How do you define “kill”?