Guest Author Day with Jennifer Young
Killing Your Darlings
It’s a piece of advice given to all authors. Kill your darlings. Sometimes you might hear a variation on it, such as murder your children, but no matter; it’s the same thing.
It’s sound advice and it really means that a writer should turn ruthless and get rid of those bits of the story that you absolutely adore yet which don’t move the story on. (Sometimes it feels like hacking off an arm.) But in my most novel it took on a new meaning for me. I killed off a character I loved.
I’m not a natural born killer, by any means. Maybe I feel it’s tempting Fate, that if I visit some awful accident on a fictional character the same thing, or at least something similar, might happen to me.
In my first book no-one got hurt, except (of course) emotionally. In ongoing drafts people have fallen ill but survived. My most villainous act to date as a writer has been to do away with a beloved old tabby cat, victim of my heroine’s vengeful rival. But in No Time Like Now I crossed the rubicon and consigned one of my characters to a sudden and violent death.
Because the genre is romantic suspense, it’s near-impossible to write without violence, or at the very least the over-riding threat of it, so that the minute I embraced on a plot adorned with increasingly-desperate villains and sent my hero and heroine closer and closer to secrets they really didn’t want to know, I knew that at some point I would end up with blood on my pen. Someone was always going to die.
But there was one character I never intended to kill. I won’t tell you who it was (that would spoil the story) but I will tell you that it was someone I liked and who truly deserved a happy ever after. But unfortunately for them, as I was writing the novel they stepped out of line. They did things I didn’t want to do. They threatened my carefully-constructed plot — and so they had to go.
I’m not altogether sure how I felt when I’d done it. A vicious sense of satisfaction - that’ll teach you to challenge my plot? Or a sense of deep sadness, because out of all the characters in the book this one, I felt, deserved a happy ever after.
Either way, I’ve embraced violence. And now I know that as a writer, no character, however hard they plead, is safe from the vicious excesses of my imagination.
Want to know who died? Read the book…
After about a quarter of a mile the path dropped steeply to a small cove, and from there — if you were nimble enough, which I was — you could scramble along the rocks and sit on the point, which commanded views along a whole swathe of the island’s inhospitable north coast. I scrambled my way out and sat for a while watching the boats drifting along the coast against the capricious breeze, until their slow progress lost my attention. I took out the old family photo I used as a bookmark (more and more dog-eared, it was a faded snapshot of the three of us on my sixteenth birthday; before it all went wrong) opened the book and started to read It is a truth universally acknowledged…
About No Time Like Now
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