Hello. My name is Virginia and I’m a back story addict.
I admit it. I have a problem with giving my readers too much information. After reading not one but two posts by two different individuals on the topic of “killing the little darlings” (an idea taken from Stephen King’s On Writing) and too much back story I’ve finally come to terms with my addiction. So how do you go about ridding yourself of those scenes and characterizations you’ve grown so fond of?
You could do as Kristen Lamb suggests and ruthlessly delete them. That certainly “kills the little darlings.” Of course, if you’re like me, you probably have a hard copy or two hidden away you could resurrect them with. If you really want to get of rid of them for good, then you’ll also need to shred those documents. Better yet, give them a right good send off into the netherworld — burn them.
Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time letting go. (I’m an addict, remember?) I have a secret stash of dialog and scenes that are nothing but “little darlings” and back story. I keep them and revisit them from time to time as a reminder of who my characters are, what past events shaped them, which silent characters still greatly influence them. Keeping them doesn’t mean they’ll make it back into the story. They may, however, find their way into another, provided it moves the story forward. In the mean time they get to live their own quiet life in a document far removed from the one they originated in.
It’s a risky move. Those pieces of characterization could easily sneak off their island and invade my work in progress. Yet I think it’s worth it because hidden in the “dirt”, as Joe Konrath calls it, are some gems that could be useful later.
It’s important to remove all the “little darlings” and back story information that weighs your WIP down, but perhaps instead of killing them it is better to house them in a secret document located far, far away from The Road to Writing.
What do you think? Is it better to eradicate the “little darlings” or isolate them?