Swoon Author Dee Garretson's Editing Update: Sometimes Characters Just Have to Go
“Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.” The author’s refrain plays through the heads of all of us in editing mode, and one of the most difficult parts of editing is cutting out a character completely. While editing All Is Fair, we ended up cutting three characters, including the Mr. Lowden mentioned above, and combining another two into one.
It’s fun to populate stories with a variety of secondary characters, but once the story is done and the serious editing commences, it becomes time to evaluate why each character is in the story. Secondary characters are often there as part of subplots. It’s a tricky balancing act first to figure out if you need the subplot itself, and second, if you don’t use the subplot, to decide if a character remain important for the main plot.
It’s also dependent on the type of book you are writing. In YA, word count can become an issue, and sometimes to keep the word count down, subplots and secondary characters have to go. As hard as it is to lose a character, it’s much better to cut them rather than to keep them if what remains is an undeveloped character no one will remember.
When I cut a character, I console myself that I can use a similar character in another story. After all, there are endless stories to be written and characters to fill them. Some form of Poor Foxface Lowden will find a home in one of them.