Did you know that frogs, like birds, have migratory patterns? It’s true. Each year, as summer gives way to autumn, frogs travel north. Sometimes for business meetings, and other times for academic conferences and awards ceremonies and predatory debt collecting and spas and definitely-not-extra-marital-affairs. Did you hear that, Diane? Definitely. Not. Extra. Marital. Affairs. You’re being ridiculous. Call the hotel.
What does it mean to kill your darlings? Well, first, what is a darling? A darling is something that interferes with the relationship between you and your audience. It’s a part of your writing (could be a line in a poem, a paragraph in a story, or an entire chapter in a novel) that doesn’t do the work it needs to do but, despite this, you love it and refuse to edit it out.
All writers are guilty of harboring darlings. It’s the line that someone told you had such a nice ring to it. It’s the character trait that is pulled from someone you know in your own life. It’s the pop culture reference that only you and your friends “get.” As fun as it is for us writers to read and re-read these darlings, as much as they make us smile, we have to remember the writing is not for us, not unless it’s a diary. And if the writing is for someone else, an audience, we must be attentive to its purpose, what effect it is designed to have on the reader. Does the passage advance the plot, does it build the character, does it enhance the reader’s sense of setting? No matter how long the work is, every line in it has to “do” something. If you’re not sure what the line is “doing” but you just like the way it sounds, it might be a darling. And as fun as they are for us to read, they fall flat for our audience and thus interfere with whatever else we are trying to communicate to them. Good writers become “good” by being ruthless in their determination of what really “works” on the page and what doesn’t.
But isn’t writing supposed to be fun? Do we have to be ruthless all the time? Darlings persist when there is ambivalence on the author’s part about who a piece of writing is for. If the story is akin to a diary entry, if it will only ever be read by you, then you can have as many darlings as you want. But if it’s for anyone else, then you have a duty as a writer to consider your audience’s expectations (often based on genre) and their desire for entertainment (this cuts across all genres.) As authors we certainly don’t want to pander to audiences, but we can’t afford to ignore them either. Your writing is the machinery that delivers your dreams, your ideas. Darlings are the pretty little flowers that get stuck between the gears.
Click here to read more about weeding out your darlings. This author has suggestions for how you can preserve them, to some degree, if you can’t quite bear to kill them entirely.
Have you ever killed a darling? How did it feel?
This post was contributed by Jeff Sanger, one of GCC’s English and CRW faculty. In addition to periodically contributing thoughtful posts like this, he is also planning to facilitate our first Saturday Morning Workshop for Fall 2018. That workshop will take place this weekend, September 8th, from 10AM to Noon on GCC Main. Read more about it here: Who Are Your Characters?
Goodbyes are always hard, but never as much as when you’re stuck trying to write the perfect ending. Whether a short story, poem, news article, or essay, that satisfying ending can seem ever-elusive. You can’t always kill off your main character, right? Right? Come join us in exploring methods of closing your creative pieces with clever, captivating, and gratifying endings that do not involve character suicide and can easily be adapted to suit your unique writing style. Take home a few writing “hacks” that will help you break through the final chapter jitters and end your piece with panache.
As always, our Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Entirely unimpressive refreshments might be provided, but you’ll need to serve yourself.
What & Who: How to Make the Fat Lady Sing: Strategies for Creative Endings, with Jayme Cook.
When: Saturday, February 10th from 9:30AM to 11:30AM
Don’t forget that tonight is our annual Poetry & Prose Slam. It’s a free and open competition to the public. Bring and read any of your short creative work–poems, flash fiction, song lyrics, whatever you have! There are monetary prizes for the top three performers/readers, as determined by a panel of judges. Either print out the registration form from our site, or show up a little early and fill a form out at the event.
What: The Annual Poetry & Prose Slam
When: Wednesday, November 15th from 7:00 to 9:00PM
When: Wednesday, November 15th from 7:00 to 9:00PM
Where: GCC Main Campus, Room SU-104
The final GCC CRW event for Fall 2017 draws near, and with it comes money. As we do every year, we’re concluding our event schedule with the Poetry & Prose Slam. Unlike our open mic events, the Slam is a competition, and as a competition, there will be prizes. Prizes, as in, money. We do not promise big, floppy checks, but we do promise letter-sized envelopes filled with prize money for the top three performers. Via a highly complex algorithm involving quality of writing and quality of performance, our illustrious judges will select these winners. Competitors can enter short stories, poetry, drama, essays, song lyrics, creative nonfiction, or any other kind of creative writing so long as you can read/perform it in three minutes or fewer! Time permitting, interested parties will be able to enter up to three separate pieces of writing.
In order to participate, you’ll need to fill out a simple entry form that you can download and print right here: Registration Form. Or, pick up a copy on campus from the English Department office in the 05 building. If you forget to grab a form, we’ll have extra entry forms available before the event begins.
So, come read, come perform, come listen, come get paid!