The E2 Books Show

Killing Your Darlings

January 14, 2020 Craig A. Hart, S. J. Varengo Season 1 Episode 7
The E2 Books Show
Killing Your Darlings
Show Notes Transcript

Craig and Scott discuss the old literary adage, "Kill your darlings," including the popular idea that the quote originated with William Faulkner. Craig also confesses to embarking on a life of crime.

spk_0:   0:00
all right, get all of your grocery running about.

spk_1:   0:04
Done. Well, I got the order place. We do that thing where I do it on the phone and then drive over to Wal Mart and Park in one of those nifty orange parking spots. And some lady who probably should have retired in 1970 brings that out to me. And I feel horrible about the whole episode. Enjoy your weedy sonny,

spk_0:   0:24
thanks to store in the back for me.

spk_1:   0:27
And could you polish my fender while you're over there,

spk_0:   0:30
You're already back there. Take the hem of your address. If you don't mind there and take your wig off, maybe to get a little buff.

spk_1:   0:36
I hear the fibers are great on car. New bootleg Think Steve Martin. Neither is first or second comedy album back in the seventies, and at one point he's talking about how mad he is at his mother that he's like She calls me up and she asked if she could borrow $5 to buy some food. Ma, I'm not made on the money, but but she's working it off a hand, but I put my barbells in the attic thing too good sentences Podcast That's guaranteed to tickle your literary earhole and make you wish you'd listen to dear old mom when she said toe put down those lawn darts and learn how to read. And now here, your hosts, neither of whom listened to dear old mom. This is Craig A Heart and s J Baringo. Well, sort of Welcome back to the good sentences podcast. I'm Scott. And with me is

spk_0:   1:44
gray a log or something like that,

spk_1:   1:46
as it's supposed to be, always like to check to make sure the right person is on the other side.

spk_0:   1:50
You just never know.

spk_1:   1:51
Yeah, you never do. But that's what makes this so fun. So the last time you and I got together, we were talking about character development and specifically, character motivation. And we had a lovely, stimulating conversation with upwards of one person has listened to so far. So I'm pretty excited about at least one. Well, did you listen to it? Hell, no, I didn't either, So maybe none. I know I did listen to it because I always refreshing my mind before I write the block post to go along with the episode. So

spk_0:   2:22
yes, and I should say, If you don't listen to the episode, at least read Scott's block post because they are earlier.

spk_1:   2:27
At any rate, we thought we would continue in the character development vein, the kind of development we're talking about today might not really appeal to. Most characters were hearkening to a quote that is usually attributed to William Faulkner, who, Craig I have to add to our list of people whose profile pictures made me hate him immediately. So he's the Wikipedia picture they have for you. Look at it and you're like, Oh, he's a prick.

spk_0:   2:52
I was imminently punishable, and Hemingway would have loved to have done so

spk_1:   2:56
Yes, he would have, and I would have loved to watch it happen. But the funny thing is that this quote, which is in right and you must kill all your little darlings, probably wasn't originally his quote. After doing a little research on the old interweb, I found that it pointed to a fellow named Sir Arthur Conan. No, not at all. Arthur Quillin and Couch Over in England. They have lots of Sir Arthur's who are authors, apparently, But anyway, this guy was ah, author of such masterpieces as on the art of writing lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge, 1913 to 1914 which is a real page turner, I'm sure off, and he's the one who apparently originated that phrase. And in that same article where I learned of him, they're pretty adamant about the fact that he wasn't actually talking about murder of any kind, let alone of your characters, but rather of the author's responsibility to be brutal when revising their work. So in his mind, the little darlings are words themselves and to, ah, produce a polished, finished product. It's necessary to kill quite a few of them before all is said and done. So since we're talking about character and pretty much as logic dictates, you would think it would refer to the act of killing your characters. That's what we're gonna talk about, even though it has nothing to do with that reality. When I was preparing my ideas for this, I was trying to remember, you know, the first book I ever read where a character death deeply affected me. I think the honest answer would have to be probably in high school when I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy And when Gandalf, as we think at that point, falls to his death and it literally I remember where I was, I was in the art room because that's where he hung out most of the time. I don't know why, because I can't draw a straight line. But I was reading the book and that happened, and it felt like I'd been punched in the gut literally, you know, like Oh my God, Gandalf's dad Course token Hedge backed by bringing him back to life Spoiler alert. Sorry about that. Then there's there's another fantasy writer with way too many initials who is, Ah, little more recent and a little more in the in the news. And that's George R. R. Martin, who has no problem slaughtering everyone.

spk_0:   5:12
I'm pretty sure that's the only reason he right just creates a ton of characters just so he can kill them late,

spk_1:   5:20
right? I think he saw the quote and said, I'm in, and this is

spk_0:   5:25
what you mean. Yeah, we'll talk about your first experience in your in your case being again if I remember the first time I experienced. That was also the first time that I cried at the end of a book and it was Martin Eden by Jack London and at the end of the book against Boiler. Probably anybody else has ever even heard of the book. But at the end of it, the main character dies and I've gotten so invested and this character success because London did an amazing job of setting it all up. It was just put the book down. Hey, you know, and I I didn't get over that. I'm not sure I'm still quite over it. Trying to be honest, this was in many years ago. It is crazy how attached and connected we get with a fictional character on a page. And it is, I mean, that's a testament to how powerful literature is it

spk_1:   6:15
is. And as writers that connection ca NBI even more deep because, you know, we're dealing with characters of our own creation. We've talked in the past about how these people, kind of in my mind anyway, are just is real to me as say, You know, Facebook friend I never met, except I probably know more about the character than I do about my friend. With regard to your own writing. Are there any characters that you've killed off? Yeah, I'm trying having through your work, and I'm trying to remember

spk_0:   6:44
there was one. Well, I think there were a couple actually in in the serenity. Siri's Fritz was one. Um, it'll be his friend who was too dies on a horrific manner. Allowed what? That was kind of tough to write. And then, of course, in a spike. Oh, Siri's a prominent character that is killed off kind of Gandolfi in more than one way. You know what I mean? There, But yeah, they're definitely met a couple times, and it's never easy, like it's something that I always struggle with. And do I really have to like my? My tendency is to try to figure out a way around it, right? And I in the first few weeks, whatever trying way to argue

spk_1:   7:19
it, could I just give him really bad breath instead? How month

spk_0:   7:24
I'll just make him really itchy, Yes, or get him, get him, or is close to death as possible and then pull them back at the last second, that kind of thing. But at some point, you know it's rough it's it's no joke. And those of you who are listening where writers probably know exactly what we're talking about here.

spk_1:   7:40
Yeah, yeah, for sure. I got to believe that any serious writer at some point in their career is gonna have to deal with this at least once, You know from experience. I would recommend getting yourself mentally prepared before you sit down with the keyboard for that, because it can be pretty intense to the writer themselves in Two examples from my work that come to mind are both from the Sarah of Quatre Siri's The Fantasy Siri's and again, a little bit of a spoiler alert. But one of them is one of the I don't know, I would say, three or four top billed characters in the whole Siri's, whose death is foreshadowed in the first book and occurs in the third. And I hated myself as I was typing it, and I hated myself even more for foreshadowing in the first book so that I kind of had to, and they hated you too thin and then the other, the other character from there that dies, I'll go ahead and spill on this one is Sarah's older brother, Beru. And there was a tough one, too. Not as tough because I wasn't is invested in him as a character as I was in before mentioned nameless character. It may have been more important as a plot device because it happens essentially towards the end of Sarah's wizard draining. But before she's completely wrap her mind around her prophesized role in the whole planet's history, and that's pretty much the event that gets her where she needs to be.

spk_0:   9:09
Get some point. A character can live their usefulness in away. Okay, you're here. You've done what you're here to, dio, and now you can go right. I remember that death as being It was a lot easier to take. But it also felt Maur inevitable or something like I totally rubber stamped it. Oh, yes, this is This is okay with the other characters, like our God and both of those things. Events added to the book. You're absolutely right. A character death can affect both the reader and writer in different ways, even though they are just as important to the plot of the story. You don't necessarily have to hate yourself after the death of a character to have it be good for your story. But you just have to have a good a good enough grasp on the plot to know when to do it and to whom to mine it happened,

spk_1:   9:56
right? I mean, they're definitely if you're looking at it through the cold lens of the microscope. There's definitely some people who are essentially going to end up being fodder. And, you know, there are some people who their deaths are a shock to you as Muchas to the reader, hopefully at least as much. To the reader. It's like I was shocked. The reader didn't give a shit. But you know,

spk_0:   10:18
I did. Have you ever created a character with the sole purpose of killing them off? Later?

spk_1:   10:23
I did. In a short story. It's in my my book Welcome Home called The Hunters, Basically two high school best friends who end up, let's say, brutally estranged from one another throughout most of their adulthood. And I knew from the moment I sat down to write this story that one of these guys was gonna end up that it really ended up being the killer's story. The guy who was killed, obviously was crucial to the whole thing. But it was told from the other guy's point of view. And I knew, you know, because even with my short stories, I'm kind of a by the seat of the pants guy. A lot of the time. In fact, most of my novels started either. A short stories are just a stupid ideas while I was parked in front of Home Depot. But that particular one I'm like, I'm gonna write a story about two best friends, one of whom kills the other. So, yes, I do have to confess. I have done that.

spk_0:   11:16
I probably do that more than I do. Like Alright, create a guy. Hello, guy. Your name is Corpse,

spk_1:   11:22
right? Yeah. Now that you know, you said that I leave bodies all over the place and clean up crew. Right? You know, So there's obviously people I put in there. Yeah, this guy's going to get it real quick, you know, Or this guy's gonna put up a little bit of a fight, and then he's going to get it or whatever, but that's it. We're at the point now and clean up crew. Where if you meet someone unpleasant. Chances are they're gonna die.

spk_0:   11:48
Yeah, here's what I'm nervous about with cleanup crews that we're getting to the point in the Siri's Also where I'm not convinced of anybody's longevity. It's getting the boy now where anybody could Dio you know, he likes me a little nervous

spk_1:   12:01
I'd want me to

spk_0:   12:03
imagine so Oh, no. Your email from your music you don't wanna open If

spk_1:   12:08
you know anything marked from your meals It's just like, really delete.

spk_0:   12:13
I didn't get a Senate 20 times or you your muses like that Why haven't you been either answer me e mails to do when I told you You look well, I I didn't get any of the 20 ones you sent way. Damn it! That's

spk_1:   12:29
in that same vein of bringing the note to your principal. Signed My mom got is a good boy and did not do this Sign to my mom.

spk_0:   12:38
But maybe get that happens across genres to like you mentioned the fantasy stuff. But one of the premier influences on me early on was a writer by the name of Alistair MacLean, and he wrote thrillers. And one book I remember of his he did that. He killed off an important character who he had taken care course to make every every reader care about. And I was so upset in the book that I made up a new ending and pretended mine was the just the like. I rewrote the ending of the book in my head. I know this one to me shall not stand. It's probably like 10 or 11 years old.

spk_1:   13:14
It's good that you started asserting your authority at an early age in these.

spk_0:   13:18
That's one thing that I think every writer at some point has to come to grips with, whether it's actually killing characters or whether it's understanding that not every word that we write is gospel from on high. You trust your gut on things, right? And then that, of course, that Sixth Sense will develop over time, too, as you gain experience as a writer. But don't be afraid to take action. Take some drastic action. You play it safe and your books probably gonna be pretty boring. Yeah, be honest with you.

spk_1:   13:45
It may end up in the run of the mill folder

spk_0:   13:48
right yet? No, you're totally right. I think that's one of the things like the writer who is willing to make those difficult decisions. That is one thing that can set a mediocre book apart from a great book.

spk_1:   13:59
And you know another thing, too, I think for a writer who's towards the beginning of their career, I'm not going to say novice. But let's say someone who's got a few titles under their belt and has never really come up against you know that point in your career where all right, this character's is going to die. It makes you a different writer after you've done it for the first time, if you get where I'm going.

spk_0:   14:20
Well, the first time I killed somebody, yeah, wait, Luke started.

spk_1:   14:23
Let me rephrase that the second time I killed No, wait, no, that's good.

spk_0:   14:30
Live on the air here Re evaluating our life decisions.

spk_1:   14:33
The management does not endorse or condone anything. These two meaning exercise. It's

spk_0:   14:39
another good thing about not having a corporate sponsor way. Get away with us,

spk_1:   14:43
really. And you know it's funny, too, because I'm thinking again of the cleanup crews in Nicole's backstory, She goes through a lot of really horrible stuff before she gets to the point where she is mentally at that springboard point where she can start taking her revenge. And it's a point in her life where, I mean, obviously you cross a line that you can never go back. But for her it was almost like the natural next step for all the stuff she'd been through. But then you could just as easily have a character for whom you know that act, the act of killing another character would be so out of their character that the shock becomes doubled. Not only this other character now dead, but the person who did it, what you know,

spk_0:   15:32
and you mentioned something about being like the natural next step. To me, that's a sign of a good plot when things become not predictable but inevitable. And I think there's a difference between inevitability and predictability where something happens, and if it's inevitable, the readers, yes, okay, totally buy that like you don't want to be obvious and predictable but working inevitability as a sign of a good, tightly woven plot

spk_1:   15:55
harkening back to Nicole border again up until the moment she makes that decision. I don't think the reader is 100% sure she's going to survive. You know what I'm saying? She was in a situation that could have just as easily met her demise, and she just basically told herself, No, it's not gonna play out that way. It's gonna be this way. And Hardy Career was born for her,

spk_0:   16:19
right? Very lucrative emphasis. Or so they tell me. Well, I got to tell you so and I hate to admit this, but I have embarked on a life of crime. I have to be honest and admit that right here. But it is not through my own making. It's not something I did intentionally. Turns out my child one of them has been using me as a mule to shoplift. So one of things we do every now and then I take them to, ah local gas station here and they could get treats. We'll pick him up from school. We go over there, pick out like two or three things on, and it's just sort of a little fun outing. We do. Well, we did that a couple of days ago, so we check out. And while I had been there checking out, I noticed that Christopher had stuck his hand in my pocket on I just thought, you know, sometimes if my hands were busy and it can't hold my hand sometimes he will just stick his hand in my pocket. Sure, comfort. Whatever it is. I didn't pay any attention while I get home. And in my pocket is a piece of candy that I don't think we pay for. Good Pinky have gotten like, Oh, I think I want an extra piece and had stuck it in my pocket.

spk_1:   17:24
See the level of brilliance? They're always in Capri. Androgel. You didn't even try to

spk_0:   17:29
sneak it out himself,

spk_1:   17:31
right? Not only is he going to get what he wants, hopefully, but if he doesn't, you're the one going down. It's exactly You could just stand there and shake his head disapprovingly is like Then where did you go wrong? So angry. And I have done our best to raise me one look at you now.

spk_0:   17:49
So here I'm strong, like, should I go back? What do I d'oh? And the thing is, I only asked him like, did you give this to the guy to scan? Because here's the other thing. While he while the checkout guy was checking everything. I had gone to the counter immediately next to it and ordered fried chicken and stuff there too. So I got some chicken for lunch. So I wasn't there the entire time. And so I asked, like, did the scan this? And he's like, Yes, Daddy and I couldn't double check it because I didn't get a receipt. Like the guy said, Hey, you want a receipt? And I don't think it anymore because I don't need those little slips of paper all over the place, so I had no way to know. So I can't even double check. But I don't I'm pretty sure I don't. Now, let's get back on it. My respect for you. I think he used me

spk_1:   18:32
drone geometrically in the last. I like him anyway, but I'm a little in all of

spk_0:   18:38
our money. Three kids. Five. What is he gonna be doing? It? Seven is You're running con games like you know that book. Catch me if you can. He's going to be that guy.

spk_1:   18:50
Christopher, Where all those a k 40 sevens in your bedroom?

spk_0:   18:54
I don't know, Dad.

spk_1:   18:56
I'm holding them for their not mine. Oh, excuse me. I have to take this call. Yeah, Yeah, I can deliver two units.

spk_0:   19:04
Okay. So, yeah, it's It's getting real over here, people. That's all that's been going on in my world. I'm gonna try to get off this crime. Trained as soon as possible, but raising twin boys? I don't know, e. I just have to be go along for the ride,

spk_1:   19:17
right? And hope for the best hope that, you know, you're visiting them in jail and not the other way around. Probably the best you can hope for at this

spk_0:   19:26
point. One of us is going What is just good, good.