So Let’s Define a “Darling”

It’s 3:50 on Tuesday afternoon, August 6, I have gone out and stocked up on Diet Coke (and bok choy and mushrooms, but that’s another story) and I still haven’t cut much from Act One because even though I know that complication sequence with the 8000 words must be cut back savagely, I like everything in it.  Well, I’m a big fan of my writing, so I would.  So accepting that I’m going to be cutting things I like, the next step is to winnow darlings, aka The Parts I Like That People Will Probably Skip.


A darling per William Faulkner is something in your story that you love that isn’t necessary.  (He also may have been thinking of those parts where you went overboard at the Great Writer thing and should have slapped yourself for being pretentious and annoying, but for the purposes of this blog post, it’s about what’s necessary.). As writers, we tend to feel that anything we love is necessary, but this is unfortunately not true.  So at this point, we’re down to “What’s necessary?”  And there is necessary stuff in this ginormous sequence, it’s just necessary for me to set-up the next three acts, not essential to the story in the now.  Which means it has to go and I’ll have to fold in that info somewhere else or do without.  So what’s in that sequence that I (think I) need?

The Mayor threatens Nick: The Mayor as a threat. and a block to the romance, the Mayor knows about demons, Nita’s mother is lethal, Nick’s going to see Nita again anyway.  

It’s important to keep hitting Nita’s mother as dangerous because the reveal in Act Two is so ridiculous.  I like the Mayor as a character, particularly as he functions in Nita’s father plot, but I’m not sure he’s utilized enough to get this scene.  OTOH, his knowing about demons adds another layer to the mystery, and this does strengthen the romance, albeit very slightly.  Argh.  Not sure about this.

• The Captain interrogates Button: Intros the Captain, Button’s loyalties are tested, somebody is sabotaging Nita

I need a Button PoV scene, but I got that in the car in the home invasion sequence.  I can intro the Captain in her scene with Nita.  Might be able to get a lot of this in the “Nita and Button confer” scene, which is also a Button PoV.  I think this has to go, although I do like the way Button sticks up for Nita here.  

• Nick asks Vinnie about Nita and her family:  Nick’s background, which s going to show up in the Nita and Button confer scene.  Nick’s feeling of pity for Vinnie, showing his shift to human.  Vinnie’s suit.  Nick’s conversation with Belia to set up what’s going on in Hell.  The Mr. Crome set-up.  Jimmy is missing set-up.

Yeah,  this is all over the place.   Nick’s just checking in before he goes out to investigate, so I can cut a lot of this.   Not sure how important Jimmy the ghost is here, so can probably cut that.  Mr. Crome disappears after Act One, but I like him; still, either find a function for him in the later acts or cut him (argh).  

• The Captain interrogates Nita: Sabotage, weird duty.

This is more pressure on Nita and has to be set-up; maybe up the conflict and get in the info that was in the Button scene?

• Nita and Button confer: Nick in history, Nita and Button working together.

This is important because of the Nita and Button working together bit, their part of the team forming.  And the history is the set-up for Act Three and it has to be in here although I can cut it back.  There must be a way to combine this with the Lily and Jason scene that comes later and cut most of one of them.

• Nick walks through Deville, sees the Municipal Building:

I can cut this back.  It’s just a fun list of business names ending with the Municipal Building that looks like the Pandemonium.  

• Nita and Button talk to Jason and Lily.

Yeah, move this up to the previous Button and Nita team scene.

• Nita interrogates Vinnie: She gets confirmation of Nick’s back story, invitation to lunch, his itinerary, and scares Rab when he realizes who she is.  

I can do all but “scares Rab” in a summary sentence.   I’ll lose stuff, but nothing crucial

• Nick talks to Marvella at the Historical Society: History of the island, the four demons who started it all, intro Marvella and Cecily, the book Nick takes to Hell . . .

Just cut this back.


And now I must get the garbage out before it starts to rain.  Also the dogs are full of cheeseburger and must be emptied.  One damn thing after another.

14 thoughts on “So Let’s Define a “Darling”

  1. I really hate to see you cut what you truly love. I know I am ready to love it with you.

    Maybe you hate JK Rowling. Hey, I mostly hate Dickens except for a Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist and those are the short ones. But I would be interested, using your criteria, to know what you would have cut from Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.
    Obviously, it’s too long but I and thousands of others adored every line.

    You are creating a world here. Maybe worldbuilding novels could be a little longer?
    I love your words so much. You have the best dialogue.

    1. Smooch.
      I think you have to ask, “What’s the reader interested in?” And generally, it’s not world building. World building is important, just as theater sets are crucial, but they’re not what the people come for. They come for character and story and if that’s not there, if there are long stretches of time when they’re just looking at the backdrop, they’re gonna get restless and go somewhere else.
      I can’t remember which Potter was which, but if Goblet of Fire was the one with the interminable quidditch game, I’d have started there.

      1. This particular reader, heavily into SFF, is very interested in world-building. I tend to say “No, no, never mind the plot, go on about the socioeconomics of this backwards planet!” God is in the details!

        1. The world has a bajillion romance readers and only a few of us SF readers. But even for us, the worldbuilding should be seamlessly integrated into the story. However, if there isn’t enough explanation for the world so the reader can’t understand what the heck is going on and why, then there’s a real problem in any genre.

      2. I read a lot of SSF and generally I skip the world building explanations. If it is well-done, most world building can be inferred by the actions and reactions. If I see paragraph after paragraph, then I move along to the next page or pages where I can see action or dialogue occurring. And every time I skip something, it takes me out of the story.

      3. World Building ability varies from author to author, and its importance varies from story to story. I’ve said nothing profound, just stated the obvious. The majority of my eLibrary is SFF. Some of my favorite authors spend time introducing the protagonist before you realize “we’re not in Kansas…”

        In Bujold’s Sharing Knife series, Fawn is trudging down what could be any wagon road in Iowa or Pennsylvania, unless one has looked at the map in the front of the book… which looks like a map of North America, with the names changed. And then she introduces Dag and The Lakewalkers, the black magic necromancers everyone is askeered of.

        Another series set in an alternate North America is Wrede’s Frontier Magic series, starting with Thirteenth Child. Wrede does serious world building right from the gitgo, to establish that some things are the same and some are different. Young Francine is a 13th child, so according to Pythagorian Numerance Magic Theory, she’s destined to Go Bad. Much of her family – aunts, uncles and cousins – are “primitive Pythagorians” and keep telling Eff’s parents it’s not too late to drown her. Eff’s father doesn’t hold with anything primitive. He moves the family from Helven Shores to a town on the Mammoth River (Mississippi River). Before they move, you will know that there are three main magical systems – Avrupan (European), Aphrican and Hijero-Cathayan (Chinese/Islamic).

        Another of Bujold’s series is the World of the Five Gods, which begins with The Curse of Chalion. It seems to parallel European history, when the kingdoms of Aragon and Castille were joined by marriage. One difference being that there are living gods who act through willing mortals. All the names have been changed, and I never caught on until I saw a “map” that had Spain flipped north for south and the kingdoms labeled. That world is fabulous.

        Wearing the Cape is the first of a series of superhero novels by Marion G. Harmon. Its world is much like our own until sometime in the late 90’s, when the Event created an alternate history. (The actual Divergence Point has to predate the Event; the Vice President on Event Day doesn’t correspond to anyone who’s actually held the office.) The Event was a worldwide sensory blackout that lasted 3.2 seconds; everyone experienced those brief seconds of sensory deprivation, and when the world came back they found that the Event had also triggered a temporary but worldwide loss of power (known as the Blackout). Most importantly, however, the Event changed The Rules.

        In the aftermath of the Event and the Blackout, as stalled and out-of-control cars and powerless planes turned freeways and cities into death-zones, a small percentage of people reacted to the trauma and danger by exhibiting superhuman powers. Called “breakthroughs”, many of them exhibited powers similar to those of traditional comic-book superheroes, though others were patterned after older myths and some were just plain weird. The first recorded breakthrough, a Superman-knockoff who took the codename “Atlas”, put on a jumpsuit and cape to do good in the days and weeks following the Event, setting the pattern for public-minded breakthroughs who followed. Much of the plot is driven by the separation between expectations and super-heroic reality as the main character, Hope Corrigan, gains superpowers and deals with all the changes in her life. Through her eyes, the reader sees the difference between media-driven stereotypes and the truth about the superhero profession.

        Harmon’s world builds throughout the series.

        I’ve said more than enough.

  2. I haven’t read any of Act One in a long time, but from your list above I’m with you on the Captain and Button scene. I do have a vague sense that it felt out of place before, probably mostly because I wanted to get back to Nick and Nita and wasn’t too worried about Button’s issues at the time. 🙂

    I’m guessing based on this list that Mort is dead (very bad pun intended) – that is, cut from the story? That makes me sad, but if you say he had to go, I’ll trust you.

    1. Mort is gone to a nice farm upstate. The key there was that he was extremely easy to cut from the book. Taking Button or Max or Jeo or Rab out would be damn near impossible, but Mort walked offstage without making a ripple in the book. Plus he was undercutting the “Nita is alone” theme big time since he was her twin and he loved her unconditionally. Great guy. He’s really enjoying the farm.

      I think the “wasn’t too worried” part is key. It’s not that Button and the Captain don’t have issues or that Button’s thoughts there were inessential. It’s that it’s a part people will skip.

      1. I haven’t been reading the actual versions for a bit, but I seem to recall that Button scene heavily setting up the Captain out to get Nita? Is that accurate? If so, is that conveyed elsewhere? I suppose when Nita confronts him later. I remember liking that section for setting Button’s character up…. I think. It’s been awhile.

        1. Yep. But I can do that someplace else. I think Button is a distraction at this point unless she’s with Nita. Same with Max. Once they meet in Act Two, their scenes carry their own weight.

          I just liked writing Button.

          1. If I remember Nita tells Button to get a new partner because the captain hate her and Button says no. Later on Nita asks Button if the captain asked her to spy on Nita and she says yes, but she’s Nita’s partner first and foremost. Isn’t that the crux of the scene with the Captain? Unless you have cut those conversations, you have already done it. Or am I remembering wrong?

          2. Nita tells Button to get a new partner in the first scene. Button tells Nita that the Captain asked her to keep a notebook on what Nita’s doing in the car scene. So all of that’s done before the Button vs. Captain scene.

  3. Scalpel, axe, and chainsaw, then?

    If nothing else, these blog posts and some exposition will make another book, like Crazy People and Crazy For You. Dead For You? I’d buy it.

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