Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Killing Him (From April's Cruelty Theme by Jody Feldman)

They say, “Kill your darlings.”
They are usually referring to those phrases or sentences or paragraphs that while smart or beautiful or otherwise brilliant have no real place in the bigger view of your story.
But I had to kill Danny.

Danny had been Gil’s only friend the year before the Gollywhopper Games. Danny had helped Gil keep his sanity. Danny was Gil’s soft place to fall when his parents were working or otherwise involved with residual fall-out from The Incident, the mis-arrest of Gil’s father.
And yet, Danny had to die.

Not that I needed to give Danny a terrible disease or have a piano fall on him. His fate was the Delete key. In a rejection letter, one wonderful editor offered a page of editorial notes which, in part, expressed concern on several levels about a 22-year-old MBA student becoming so close to his 12-year-old next door neighbor. And anyway, couldn’t I assign Danny’s essential roles to an existing character? (Yes; to Gil’s dad.)
So Danny disappeared.

That was hard for me. I really, really liked the guy. I liked his cool assurance, his easy-going manner. I liked how he helped Gil gain confidence. I liked his own twist at the end. I was so sorry to let him go. But maybe the cruelest part of this was that I needed to hurt Gil. I needed to yank away his one friend and make him flounder for a year in extra loneliness. It didn’t matter that the brunt of the loneliness took place in backstory and was more fully planted in my mind than on the pages of the book.
Hurt my character, hurt me.

But all’s well that ends well, right?
I am happy to report that even though Danny never became Gil’s next door neighbor or his  brother-by-happenstance, Danny *did* move to Orchard Heights. Danny and Gil *did* meet. Danny has turned up as an intern at Golly Toy and Game Company. And together, he and Gil help solve a mini-mystery within the greater context of the  Gollywhopper Games #2 and #3.
Once again, Danny lives.

6 comments:

  1. Wouldn't it be fun to write a story populated by rejected characters? Your original Gil could meet up with Marcia's Ely (from yesterday's post) and could time-travel to the Viking settlement I abandoned writing about . . . The possibilities are endless!

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  2. Sounds like an idea for a progressive anthology if ever I heard one!

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  3. It's an amazing thing to let go of characters and have them return to have their day. I'm always grateful for their tenacity.

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  4. You and me both, Sheila. I'd tried to bring him back in a totally different book, but he wasn't right there. So glad I found a place for him.

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