Okay so I didn’t actually kill off any of my characters, not yet at least. But they do get hurt. What we really need to focus on is not letting your personal goals, agenda, or outline mess up what your characters are really like or would really do.
Just because you have a favorite part doesn’t make it untouchable.
It was recently pointed out to me by my beta readers that my main character came off as a real jerk. What? That’s not what I wrote… she’s just driven and needs to get stuff done. Just like me in my personal life. Oh no- My own life trap manifested itself in my character. I don’t want to be a jerk and I certainly don’t want my readers to suffer through that in a book- out it goes. Was it hard to rework a main character? Incredibly, but now I know my character that much more. It forced me to go deeper than I had bothered to in the past and the story is better for it.
Your characters are not you. You may want them to be or wish for their life. They may even have little bits of you inside them. But they are there own and deserve to be treated as such.
This applies beyond your characters and into your story line. If that twist or detail that reads so beautifully doesn’t move the story forward should it be there at all? Odds are no. By adding in things that don’t advance the plot you waste reader’s time. Yes, it may read like a sparkling ruby of untold value but it’s pointless because it goes nowhere.
Ask yourself these questions when it comes to revising for inclusion or exclusion:
- Does this move the plot forward?
- Does it reveal something new about your characters?
- Does it set the scene in a way that effects the plot/scene/characters?
Think about it this way. If that scene or paragraph or description you’ve been working on to get right for hours (or days) doesn’t move the story forward your editor will take it out. All that time is wasted when you could’ve revised a scene that needs to stay and could be better.
For your own sanity and time- take out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there before you edit it to death.