Kill your darlings, was, I think, Stephen King’s advice to budding writers….Well, this gone-to-seed writer has been doing just that over the last couple of days…
In particular I was hand-murdering a particular darling that I had been rather taken with. The fact is, King is not telling us we need to cut out the bits we don’t like. That would be one thing! (And maybe even then not too easy). But he was telling us to slaughter the darlings that we do like, if they’ve wandered into the wrong story.
My particular darling was about a pool of blood, which I wanted to describe as ‘a crimson lake, its surface shiny as a freshly painted steam engine.’ Eagle-eyed (or buzzard, I don’t mind
which) readers of the blog, and of my other writing, will have noticed a tendency to include steam engines whenever I can, and I’m not going to try to sell you the idea that this particular description is a great piece of writing, but I do confess, I did like it.
The reason, of course, that I did, was nothing to do with the story I had dragged it into. It was the fact that ‘Crimson Lake’ was the official name of the colour that some L.M.S. steam engines were painted, in the days when they were painted what you or I might call maroon! I rather liked slipping that hidden little snippet into the story – but the story wasn’t about L.M.S. engines. It wasn’t even set in that part of the country. It wasn’t about any engines, anywhere! And besides, as was pointed out to me, it wasn’t the sort of thing my first person narrator would have said.
That narrator was a carpet fitter – who might have had an interest in steam engines, but didn’t so far as the story was concerned – and he wasn’t a carpet fitter who seemed to be interested in metaphorical comparisons. I’m sure there are such carpet fitters. Here’s my writing buddy and mentor, Kurt Tidmore’s take on just what sort of carpet fitter he would have needed to be:
Kurt never lets me down! One dead darling later!
If you want steam engines, you could look in my novella, A Penny Spitfire where a few do turn up, and belong in the story too. You can buy it here.