Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Week of Darlings

My Dear Reader,

In my very first college writing class, my teacher gave me some very specific instructions: kill your darlings. It's a term that writers use to say that when there's a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or etc. that is good in and of itself, but doesn't work in the greater scheme of things, you have to edit it out, no matter how much you may like it. I've come to think of "darlings" in this sense as really great lines that don't really have a home, but maybe could find one in the future. I don't like to lose hope on my darlings.

Now, the more I've gotten into creative writing, the more I find that I can't stop doing it. I get tempted to scribble things down anytime I have a piece of paper in front of me. I do it regularly in the margins of my notes in class, and sometimes I can't even restrain myself from doing character sketches on the program while I'm sitting in church. I just can't stand the thought that anything I come up with might not make it to paper, so I put it there as soon a I can. Sometimes I get lucky and I get an idea for a novel, and sometimes I figure things out about the characters that are constantly running around in my head. But most of the time, I just get an idea for a really great line, and while sometimes I know the setting and the character that it comes from, sometimes I just save it in my notebook and hope that at some time I can use it. As a little treat, and to give you a little insight into my writing process, I'd like to share with you the darlings I came up with last week. That's right; just a seven-day period. And here they are:

"Age requires context to have meaning. A potato can age a hundred years and find itself completely worthless."

"There will be many professors here at the Academy who will ask you for assignments that initially appear to be similar to mine. Don't make the mistake of confusing them. The other professors think of you as young, confused post-children, and they will take pity on you and accept your sub-standard material. I won't. I know that you are new to the game, and I know that you might be a little confused, but I know that with enough pressure, you can turn into the best that this institution has ever seen. I don't care if you hate the work. I don't care if you hate me. You will do the work, or you will fail the course, and it's as simple as that." (This one is reserved for a character that I am developing named Angus Chapman.)

"People who fear try to dominate, in the vain hope that their perceived strength will hide their primal weaknesses."

"A successful writer needs a careful amount of humble egotism."

"You can beat a dog to get him to do what you want. You can hit him and hit him until he's too afraid to disobey you. You can break him; it's an easy thing to do. But before you beat the dog, first be aware that every hit, every punch, every strike plants a seed of hatred in his heart which will fester and breed for years behind that defeated face. Because the day will come when you have grown old and feeble, and you will turn to the dog for tenderness and comfort in your last days. It is then that he will take his chance to feed his secret rage with one angry strike."

So there you have it: yet another glimpse into the mind of Cecily. These darlings are fairly sporadic, and they're not incredibly clever or funny, but each of them represent a hundred other little sentences that I have tucked away, waiting patiently for their chance to shine in the sun. Maybe I'll share some more in a future post, but for now, I think I've accomplished what I wanted to do for the week.

Regards, best wishes, and thoughts,

-Cecily Jane


Molly&Charles said...

darling, I love it!

Anonymous said...

I wish I had such great darlings in my head. mjh

~Stappsters~ said...

Does Angus represent one of your professors? She ain't no darling if you ask me!

Cecily Jane said...

Molly & Charles,

Thank you!


Some of my darlings come from when I can't think of anything good to say at the time, and then later I come up with a great but useless comeback. I think most people go through the same process.


Actually, I do have a professor who is a great source of inspiration for the character, but I created Angus a long time before I met her. You can't love all of your professors, I guess.