Advancing The Plot; or, When Darlings Have To Die

(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)

(Pretend this is last week. I got busy getting ready to go on vacation and never quite got around to posting this until now. Sorry!)

I had to kill some of my darlings last week.

No, not characters. But in the process of editing Book 1 of “The Daughters of August Winterbourne”, a couple of my favorite scenes had to die.

One scene was particularly painful to cut. It involved having my characters go to a concert conducted by Johann Strauss II, and, because my lead character, Celia Winterbourne, is somewhat famous in her own right, they all get invited back stage afterward to meet the composer, who has written a piece in honor of Celia and her sisters.

One reason it was painful to cut this scene was because I had put a fair amount of research into it. While there is no evidence that Strauss came to Oxford in 1873, he did tour England that year, before going off to America to give a series of concerts there. And it appears that he did tend to compose waltzes almost “on the fly,” as it were, in honor of the places he visited. I’d also worked hard on his accent, trying to give the flavor of an Austrian accent without going too far overboard on it. The scene also had some very nice interaction between Celia and her sisters, and between Celia and her suitor, Nicholas Fletcher.

But in the end, despite all that, when I went back and re-read the story, I concluded that the scene did not advance the plot one iota. And so, with greatest reluctance, I deleted it from the story.

I console myself with the fact that it still exists in the saved file of the first draft, and if I ever want to go back and visit it, I can. And perhaps someday, if this story ever gets published, I’ll put it (and a few other deleted scenes) out on a web page somewhere for people to read and laugh at and say, “Yep, you’re right. That really didn’t advance the plot at all, did it?”

Has anyone else ever had to kill a “darling”? Have you read stories where you found yourself thinking, “Okay, that was fun, but what did it have to do with the plot?”


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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