Murder Your Darlings

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it -- whole-heartedly -- and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings."
Sir Arthur Quiller-CouchOn the Art of Writing (1916), Chapter 12

Murder Your Darlings (or sometimes Kill Your Darlings) is a phrase used in editing—particularly self-editing. The idea is that a writer may have some aspect of a story, typically a scene, that she is irrationally attached to. The editing process needs to be merciless though—if a scene does not work to serve the greater story, no matter how awesome it is it needs to be cut. A good writer has the ability to murder her darlings.

Common editing victims include Narm and Purple Prose, though many tropes from the Bad Writing Index could apply. And remember writers, it's never bad to write these kinds of text—the creative impulse should always be followed—leaving them untouched by editing is the sin.

For good essays on the topic, see James Patrick Kelly's Murder Your Darlings at the SFWA website, or the Trope Namer itself, linked in the quote above.

This phrase is the source of the movie title Kill Your Darlings.