• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
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  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
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  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Letting Go

http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/andrew-mitchell-525x... 525w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/andrew-mitchell-600x... 600w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/andrew-mitchell.jpg 640w" sizes="(max-width: 525px) 100vw, 525px" />http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/andrew-mitchell-525x... 525w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/andrew-mitchell-600x... 600w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/andrew-mitchell.jpg 640w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" />Flickr Creative Commons: Andrew Mitchell
It may be time to kill one of your characters. I don’t mean giving them a sudden heart attack or a misstep in front of a bus. I mean if you’re stuck, really stuck, on a scene or plot point and have been for a while, it may be that one of your characters just doesn’t belong in this book, and needs to be written out.
Maybe you’re thinking, but I love him/her. That’s what I thought a few years ago, when I wrote a beloved youngest child out of my second novel (and my protagonist’s life). Or maybe you’re thinking, Thank God. I really have no idea who this character is anyway, which is what I thought last week when I wrote my protagonist’s current husband out of my novel. Or maybe you’re thinking, Hmm. How do I know? which is what I think several times a day when I’m in the early stages of a book.
“Killing your darlings” doesn’t always mean killing beloved sentences and paragraphs, or doing away with brilliant plot twists that go off-track. Sometimes, it means letting go of a character you’ve thought about and written about and crafted for months. I have done this with every novel, and in every case it’s made the book better—tighter, more focused, richer. But how do you know if and when a character has to go?
When writing dialogue for that character feels like a chore. I don’t know about you, but for me, writing dialogue flows pretty freely. When I write dialogue I often feel as though I’m transcribing the words to a conversation I’m witnessing—only the conversation is taking place in my head. One character wouldn’t be caught dead swearing; another can barely get through three sentences without tossing in a swear word. One character talks in short, staccato rhythm; another tends to over-explain. One character interrupts often; another is fond of long silences between statements. I know when I get stuck writing dialogue, it’s because I can’t hear a character’s voice distinctly, and if I can’t do that, there’s a problem.
When your story still works even if that character isn’t in it. Look at your outline or—if you’re a pantser like me—look at wherever your plot has brought you thus far. Do all your main characters play an important role in the story? How would the story be different if you cut out that character? How would your protagonist be different if that person wasn’t in his/her life? If the answer is “not much,” try writing through a chapter or two without that character. Cutting extraneous characters forces you to focus more intensely on the characters you do have in the story, to make each one of them richly alive. The characters surrounding your protagonist are there to reveal who your protagonist is (both to the reader and to herself), to support, antagonize, love, hate, push, pull, follow, and otherwise interact with your protagonist in the same ways the important people in your life interact with you. But each and every one of them still deserves to be a fully fleshed out individual.
If you can’t feel at least some of what he/she is feeling. I’m a middle-aged woman. But I’ve written from the point of view of an 80-year-old woman, a 10-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl, a 39-year-old woman, etc. But even if I can’t relate to a character’s age, occupation, gender, looks, or personality, I can relate to feeling grief-stricken, or anxious, or over-joyed, or terrified. I’ve never been an 80-year-old botanist and world explorer, but I created one in my second novel that’s one of the most memorable and believable characters I’ve ever written. I knew that character because I know what it’s like to feel impatient with people who don’t say what they mean, or to love someone fiercely and be furious with them at the same time. If you can’t imagine what your character is thinking and feeling in a scene, you may want to rethink your character. It doesn’t even matter if your character is human. In Lauren Groff’s novel The Monsters of Templeton, she writes about a Loch Ness-like monster that lives in a lake in upstate New York. In the final chapter, she writes from the monster’s point of view, whenever it finds someone who has drowned in the lake: “and how the monster loves them, those pretty unmoving people, takes them and strokes their hair like moss and holds their smoothness to its chest…” I like that monster. I know that monster; I’ve felt that protective urge toward vulnerable creatures, too.
Do you know all your characters? Do they all belong in your book?

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About Kathleen McClearyKathleen McCleary is the author of three novels—House and Home, A Simple Thing, and Leaving Haven—and has worked as a bookseller, bartender, and barista (all great jobs for gathering material for fiction). A Simple Thing (HarperCollins 2012) was nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Awards. She was a journalist for many years before turning to fiction, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, and USA Weekend, as well as HGTV.com, where she was a regular columnist. She taught writing as an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and teaches creative writing to kids ages 8-18 as an instructor with Writopia Labs, a non-profit. She also offers college essay coaching (http://thenobleapp.com), because she believes that life is stressful enough and telling stories of any kind should be exciting and fun. When she's not writing or coaching writing, she looks for any excuse to get out into the woods or mountains or onto a lake. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two daughters and Jinx the cat.Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

"Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. You may read selections to sensible women, -- if young the better."
A. Bronson Alcott

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