I told the children in one of the classrooms where I made an author visit that a memoir written by my grandfather’s little sister Alma had given me the idea to write my novel, Lost on the Prairie.
A girl named Julia put up her hand and asked me why I hadn’t put that little sister Alma into my book. I told Julia I originally did have Alma as well as the rest of my grandfather’s nine siblings in the book.
However, during the editing process, it became clear there were way too many characters to juggle in my novel and I had to get rid of some. That meant six of my grandfather’s siblings had to exit the book. It hurt me to do that. Writers refer to the process of eliminating characters from your novel as “killing my little darlings.”
Each character a writer develops becomes real to them. As they write about the character they get to know them and love them, The characters become the writer’s ‘little darlings.’ So when a writer is forced to axe characters from their manuscript they sometimes say, “I’m killing my little darlings.”
In my next novel, which will be coming out in the spring, one of the main characters had two sets of grandparents. While working on the manuscript my editor and I agreed two sets of grandparents were too confusing for readers. That meant I had to axe one set of grandparents from the manuscript. I hated to “kill my little darlings’ even though I knew why it was necessary.
Of course there is always the possibility that a writer could include one of the ‘darlings’ they’ve been forced to kill in a future manuscript or project and thus bring them to life again.