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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Murdering darlings

Sometimes a character or plot idea doesn't fit the story, but we love it so much we hate to lose it. How do you deal with murdering a particularly good idea you are really attached to?

This question is lifted from author Sahar Sabati's informative Ask an Author series, which ran from 2015-2016 and included responses and reflections from English-speaking authors from around the globe. Since I'm often asked these questions by readers, I have republished my answers here with Sahar's kind permission.

Every two weeks I have my writing critiqued by a group of four talented writers. We meet at the library café over coffee and eggs, and dissect each other’s writing for its strengths and weaknesses. Sounds civilised, right? Not on your life. These writers hack and carve at my work until it is a shiny as a scalpel. Like precision surgeons, they incise tumorous phrases and suction away the putrefaction. They’re not deliberately invasive — like doctors, their first mandate is to do no harm — but inevitably their treatment leaves my work looking pinker, healthier. In short, if my team think a character or plot idea doesn’t fit the story, then I tend to trust them.

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