Sunday, August 06, 2006

If you love them, let them go

I’ve had a D’OH! moment.

I’ve been struggling with a scene, at the computer and in my head, for a week or two now. In the process of revision I’ve axed a secondary character – a clichéd and irrelevant secondary character, no less: I hang my head in shame – who was a plot device in the scene I’ve been wrestling with.

Unfortunately removing him left sentences and actions dangling, and I got completely hung up on trying to find a new reason for the heroine to utter a particular line. I’ve been back and forth in her motivation and goals, trying to see if I could bring something forward in the story. I’ve looked at his actions, trying to see if I could make give him some more self-awareness earlier in the story. I’ve been weaving both their arcs into different tapestries, desperately trying to fathom out what he could say that would make her react this way... until it finally clicked.

Under the influence of coffee and Rob Dougan, a combination that works every time – Every. Damn. Time. – I realised I don’t need to justify that line. I don’t need that line.

At all.


We’ve all heard of “kill your darlings” but it wasn’t even as if I was defending this line because I thought it was marvellous. It was just... there. It simply never occurred to me to let it go.

Is there any hope for me?


At 4:43 am, Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Ah, Anna. Welcome to the club. Congrats on seeing you don't need the line. But don't entertain false hopes that you will know next time the same thing happens. Chances are you won't -- until you've suffered sufficient anguish. Ain't writing fun?

At 8:03 am, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

It's mad, isn't it? I KNOW this stuff, truly I do!

But it still catches me out... *rolling eyes*

At 8:22 am, Blogger Jessica Raymond said...

Yes, of course there is! The hope would be less if you'd contrived a way to get that line in, no matter what. But you *realized* you didn't have to, and therein lies the difference :)

At 2:26 pm, Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

At least you recognized it now instead of later. :-)

I always hate it when I have to cut a scene that I really love, but it just doesn't work. But I'm weird - I keep a file of everything I delete in case I want to use it in another story.

At 2:51 pm, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

Bless you, Jessica! Thank you. :-) Yes, it was much better late than never!

I have a Keep and Restore file, Melissa, but I don't always put everything in it - just those snippets I don't want to lose.

But I do find that in the final cut, only about 10% of that file makes it back into the book.

Just goes to show how little we need to keep, sometimes.

At 6:40 am, Blogger Liz Fielding said...

Congratulations on getting to that point, Anna Lucia, although like the great Anne McA, I'm here to tell you that this is not something that you ever learn to instantly recognise.

I was there myself only last week ( on book 49), but suspect a lot of it is to do with other things that your writing brain has to catch up with. Just part of the process.

At 1:27 pm, Blogger Edie said...

Anna, I hate cutting my babies too, but I'm learning to be ruthless. Like you, I have a file that I call "bits and pieces", where I keep my discarded gems. I rarely use them later, but it makes it easier to cut.


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