Friday, 15 July 2011

Killing Darlings

The 'Kill Your Darlings' advice attributed to both William Faulkner and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch is generally interpreted as telling writers to be objective about their editing. It recognises that writers need to be particularly brutal with those passages that they have fallen in love with in the first draft; chances are those will be the passages they will indulge far beyond their usefulness to the story.

I've been doing this a lot recently. Heck, I may even be turning into a serial killer. The fact that, whilst I'm slicing bits of text off salami fashion from one end of this draft, I'm sneakily scribbling new scenes  elsewhere, is neither here nor there. I'll wait for the third draft before I start hacking those down to size.

But in the meantime, I thought it might be good to share some of these lost souls of novelistic fancy. Summon them up from digital purgatory and allow them a few brief moments of freedom before they fade from existence.

This one is simply called The Duck Dream, I'll give it no further qualification that that.

Is this part of it? No, I think it's now; I'm sitting on a bench in a trim English park with ornamental trees, the sun is warm and I can smell the grass. In front of me is a path that circles a big ornamental pond. On the pond are ducks, lots of ducks. At the other end of the bench sits an old lady, feeding the ducks bread from a big brown paper bag. One of the ducks, a large ugly looking black and white brute, with wrinkles of puffy red flesh about its eyes and beak, peers up at me with that hopeful look that animals have when they think someone might feed them. I look back at it.
'Sorry,' I say, 'I don't have any bread, go to the lady at the end, she'll feed you.'
The duck carries on looking at me for a bit, then opens its beak
  'you have a bag, is there nothing in there?' it says.
'No that's to cover me, I'm different.'
'Seems like a waste of a good bag to me. Why are you trying to do what everyone expects you to, why don't you accept what you are?'
'What do you mean?'
'Look, you wear a bag because everyone else expects you to, they have assigned a place to you in society, you conform to that because you want to fit in and be accepted.'
'Well, yes, I guess so.'
'So, you are effectively letting your own kind down by trying to fit in to the society of the normals, trying to behave like one of them.'
'What? You hardly seem qualified, you've got to be the ugliest duck on this pond and you are behaving just like the others. Apart from the talking bit.'
A passing pug being walked on a long extendible leash trots up some meters ahead of its owner scattering the ducks in all directions.
'Ignore the duck, he's got it all wrong,' the pug says, looking at me with divergent eyes; 'if you want to get anywhere in this world you've got to integrate, be like them, fit into their expectations, if you can't be normal, behave the way they expect you to as a diff. Show them gratitude if they offer help even if you don't need it, laugh at their ignorant jokes, respond to their awkward questions, and pretend you're stupid, there's no point in fighting it.'

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