Happy Wednesday! I still don’t quite know my regular blog post day. But it will be during the week… Today’s blog is about “Killing Your Darlings.” I’ve heard many a time that it was Hemingway and Faulkner who came up with this phrase. The phrase actually started as “Murder Your Darlings” from the British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.
I admit that I like “Murder…” since it sounds so final. And that is exactly what I need to do with this script. It’s that I finished writing my TV pilot that is meant to be an hour-long show. My Advisor Sean Reycraft said that the sweet spot is around 53 pages for a story like this. If it’s much shorter, it suggests that you don’t have a strong enough story. I’m glad that I don’t have this problem since my script came is at 63 pages.
This means that I should cut off roughly ten pages. I find this easy enough when I’ve been working on a script for a while. It’s because I know both the story and the character. But this isn’t the case for this story. I talked about how this story came about my “What is Your Question?” blog. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I essentially realized my original idea that I was developing in class wasn’t a TV series. My idea was more of a feature idea since I could ask the burning question it posed.
Fine and great… I know… But what does that have to do with my current story? I had been chewing on my current story for a short while. It’s just that I hadn’t had a chance to really develop it much before I started writing pages in class. As a result, I don’t know my characters very well. The good news is that I know the world pretty well since I based it in South Central where I live in Los Angeles. (I’ll never be politically correct enough to sanitize my neighborhood with its new gentrified name “South Los Angeles” or “#SOLA for short. This rebranding name is a load of crap as far as I’m concerned.) A thing about not knowing my characters makes it difficult to cut pages since I don’t have my writing “sea legs” for this story yet.
If I did have them, I would be able to cut without a backward glance. An example is that I cut five pages off the most draft of a feature. This is actually a low number for me since my usual numbers are around ten pages or so. And I’ll also be honest that I love cutting off pages. It’s such an exciting process for I read my question with the question… “How can I say this in fewer words?” and “Why use seven words when three will suffice?” These then usually leads me to this question… “Do I really need this?”
The answers to my final question always vary. However, I love asking all of those questions since they often lead me to cut fat along with thinking of better ways to tell my story. Here’s the thing though… I don’t know what to cut from this story because I keep coming back to me not knowing it well enough. So what is my plan? I took yesterday off my script to have a break since I finished writing it on Monday. My next step for today is to boil all of my scenes down to their major plot point. They will either be revised or cut if I can’t find one. I’m sure that this will help me get rid of some scenes.
Another step will be to recheck the dialogue to ensure that it serves the story. I know I have some filler “thanks” and those kinds of lines. People say those kinds of things in real life rather than in movies and TV so much. It’s that TV, movies and other forms of entertainment provide a hyper-reality rather than actual reality since I’m writing a narrative story instead of non-fiction. And it’s in writing that previous sentence that will help me rework my pages. How?
It’s that I think that I’m hung up on the fact that my story is set in my neighborhood. This is very real thing to me. I also used to train law enforcement officers and other first responders before I moved to Los Angeles. This is also very real to me. So I have a vice grip on these “reality” based things. It’s my hope that in writing this blog that I get to let go of the reality holding me to my current page count.
I have no clue if any of this will work except it was good to put these thoughts on the page. They seem more action-oriented as well as my task does not feel so daunting now that I’ve gotten them on a page. Okay. Maybe that’s a bit of a fib since I do still feel a bit overwhelmed except I have a thought that helps me make my cuts: Nothing on the page is sacred. And it’s time to embrace this and pull out the “knife” to murder my darlings…
Have a great day! How about your writing? Any secrets to cutting?