Killing Your Darlings

May 12, 2008 at 10:39 am | Posted in character, Jessica, life, writing | 2 Comments

Last week, I finally accepted the death of one of my friendships — something I had been resisting for a very long time. Fortunately, the person is alive and well, but my bestowed opinion, emotional attachment, and deep care and concern for this person, which had been challenged off and on for that very long time, have reached their final resting place. From the moment I made the conscious decision to lop the head off that proverbial snake, I have felt an incredible lightness of being – more healthy, more peaceful, more hopeful . . . as though I lost about 200 pounds of unnecessary and dead weight.

It took me a long time to endure the relationship ups and downs and reach this personal breaking point — the point where I felt that for my own personal story I needed to metaphorically kill this darling or have it somehow kill me. It strikes me how the agony, deliberation, and emotional stress in ending this relationship is very similar to making the decision to kill a beloved fictional character in our stories. After all, whether in writing or in ‘real’ life, we tend to get attached and grow a vested interest in the people whom we let inhabit our worlds. But despite the attachment and at times iron-clad heart strings, sometimes a character just has to go. Whether for the growth of the main protagonist, a turning point that moves the story forward, or a black moment that could make or break a story’s outcome, we are often faced with a hard yet necessary decision to eliminate a character from the story.

And despite the pain and suffering that characterizes the act of killing your darlings, aren’t our stories stronger for the painful exercise? Speaking personally, both as a writer and a friend, I must say yes. Either way, there is good that can come from the bad . . . making us better storytellers and better individuals for having endured the process.

So my goal this week is to keep putting on the big-girl pants each morning, one leg at a time, move on from my loss, and embrace my new lightness. A new twist in my story awaits!

RIP, my once and past darling! I wish you no ill will, but I am so happy to be moving onward and upward.




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  1. Decisions like this always stink, Jess. In life and in fiction. We hate to let go.

    We have a saying – it’s called Feng Shui-ing your life. Sometimes you have to rearrange the energy in your world and get rid of the clutter that’s holding you back, be it a person or a manuscript that won’t die.

    I predict this will be the beginning of a new, energized period for you. Good luck!

  2. Thank you for your support, Barb! I agree – it’s never easy to leave behind something you care about or have invested time in, but there comes a point where the bad energy it creates is prohibitive. I love the thought of feng shui-ing your life. I just purchased a book entitled, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. There is lots of ‘stuff’ I want to move with the hope of beginning that new, energized period you predicted. Please know how much I appreciate your putting such positive thoughts out into the universe for me!

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