Whenever I write a first draft, my main character is totally selfish. It’s all about him, him, him (since I tend to write about boys). Oh sure, he has friends, family, maybe even a love interest. But in that first draft, my MC thinks solely of himself and his problems. But in that second draft, secondary characters have to steal a little thunder, and the layering begins.
As I work through that second draft, I begin to listen more to what the secondary characters have to say. They’ve got goals to fill and problems to solve, too. Sometimes the MC knows about them, sometime he doesn’t. But they always affect the emotional arc of the story. Each important character should touch the MC in a meaningful way.
In that delirious first draft rush, I sometimes create characters that must be killed off in the second draft. They really aren’t needed to tell the story. But why did that first draft mindset kick them into the story at all? While I never regret deleting a character, I do often take their main character trait and add a dash of it to another character. Maybe the character wasn’t necessary, but something about her was.
I’m currently working on a YA and I’ve killed off a number of darlings. The original idea for the novel began with a kid working his first job. As I revise, the job is still there, but is not as important as it was originally. So I’ve killed off a number of customers. The creepy customer plot thread is completely gone. But the boss absorbed a bit of the creepiness. The eccentric old lady kicked the bucket. But the girlfriend now has a grandmother with some eccentric qualities. And Dad? Well, he was in a lot of scenes in draft number one. In draft number two, I shipped him off to Italy.
We’ve all had a hard time killing a darling or two. So tell me, for whom do you still pine? Have you killed off a character that you swear will rise from the ashes of your computer and morph into a new manuscript? Have you written anything with a saved darling?