“Kill your darlings.” I’m not talking here about the 2013 movie starring Daniel Radcliff (forever Harry Potter in my mind), but rather a piece of writing advice.
Sometimes for the greater good of a manuscript, it’s necessary to let go off—heck, let’s just say it, to delete—a favorite scene. Something you as a writer have slaved over, fallen in love with, and think the world would be better for reading.
Except it doesn’t fit with the rest of your book. It doesn’t propel the action forward. It doesn’t relate to the plot. It’s off the subject. It’s wandering around in your novel, just hanging out. No matter how well-worded or clever this scene is, it doesn’t pull its weight.
Okay, all these vague “you” references should be in first person because I’m talking to myself here as I endeavor to delete a scene I only recently added to the original Ms. Dee Ann. Here’s what’s happening:
Baby Heather has been sick with a cold all week and now seems to be struggling for breath. As first-time parents, Dee Ann and Joe rush her to the emergency room, where the attending physician is a female of Indian descent who speaks English with a British accent.
It’s 1979, so female doctors are still rare, as are physicians of foreign birth. Dr. Patel diagnoses the croup: “It scares the parents, but it sounds much worse than it really is. When you took her outside to get in the car to come to hospital and she breathed cool air, then the coughing stopped, no?”
Joe has no faith in this female Indian doctor and is somewhat rude in asking for a second opinion. Once Dr. Patel leaves the room, Dee Ann calls him out on his prejudices.
“Joe Bulluck, what is the matter with you?” I hissed the minute the door closed. “What’s this business about a second opinion? …”
“Dee Ann, we just had a medical emergency with Heather,” said Joe. “In case you haven’t noticed, we are at THE hospital. Where this woman, who speaks a very funy version of English, sashays in and tells us, no big deal, this baby has the croup. Just stick her in the shower….
“Maybe that’s how the croup, if that’s what Heather has, is treated in a third-world country, but here in the USA, I’m sure there’s some antibiotic that can be prescribed.”
There’s more, and I think it’s good stuff, before Joe is grudgingly made to see that Dr. Patel, although a woman and of foreign birth, is fully qualified.
But does this scene do anything to advance the plot of Murder in Narrow Creek, my revision of Ms. Dee Ann? Sadly, no. Unless I can recast it somehow to drop in a clue or reference to the crime, I must kill this darling.