“Killing your darlings”, as opposed to “What I want my reader to read”.
The general rule is – If it doesn’t further the story, strike it out.
My rule is – This is what I want my reader to read.
Here’s a darling from Alex in Wonderland –
Taylor’s Forty-fourth Street Tavern is an American, cultural, social, community, neighborhood institution. That’s what Taylor calls it. Like the ancient ale halls from way before Beowulf, the neighborhood bar came into being when neighborhoods were villages. Where there used to be poets and storytellers to pass an otherwise dreary evening around the hearth, there is now television and the juke box. Over hundreds of years the hearth has given way to large screen sports and cable entertainment. But the people’s love for good food and ale and for the company of their neighbors is only slightly askance from their centuries-past counterparts. Taylor will tell you.
Taylor’s is neither well-heated or air-conditioned, and Annie lets Taylor know about it every night. “I ain’t never cold enough to be dead, or warm enough to be alive,” she says. And Taylor says, “That’s why I married you, sweetheart.”
All Reggie Taylor ever wanted to do was hang out with the guys. So he bought a bar, and now that’s all he does. All Annie ever wanted was Reggie. Annie and ReggieTaylor are the innkeepers. They’ve always been in love and they live upstairs.
At Taylor’s Forty-fourth Street Tavern Annie makes the best sausage sandwiches in a hundred miles, and that includes Chicago. The tourists who know about it get off the interstate just to drive down to Forty-fourth Street and get a sandwich. She cuts the meat off the bones, adds her own spices, grinds it all up, and then she starts filling the sausage casings. When she puts them in the oven, whole neighborhoods downwind begin to think about warm bread, grilled onions and bell peppers, and sausage, all in one bite. And there’s fish on Friday. “You can bring your family,” Annie says. And they do. And they eat fish and French fries and Annie’s tartar sauce, and talk about their families, and their crabgrass, and getting part-time hours at WalMart. Every weekend the surround sound and the big high definition screen and the aromas from Annie’s kitchen bring them in. If there’s a game, Taylor’s is busy, and with cable, there’s always a game.
Taylor will tell you why his bar belongs in the Smithsonian. It has the inner character of generations of success, and the moisture of voices on the walls. The only thing that changes is the songs on the juke box. Annie likes the usual Italians, and Presley’s ballads, and Reba. Annie loves Reba. You can’t get more American than Taylor’s Forty-fourth Street Tavern without wearing a uniform and carrying a flag. A good neighborhood bar is a beautiful thing to see.
It is indeed a darling. It does not further the plot or the story line, but it is what I want my reader to read.
Here’s another from Alex in Wonderland. It in no way furthers the plot, or the story, but it is what I want my reader to read.
By late October the skies over the northern heartland are dark well before the six o’clock news. Chimneys smoke. Suburban windows glow golden. The screens should be put away, the storm windows up. Piercing winter winds blow over weeks old mounds of shoveled snow, and fashion has given way to utility. And when there is no wind the air stands crisp and frozen. The eye becomes accustomed to a grayed palette while the plant kingdom dreams in Technicolor. The tracings of tree limbs reach over the porch swing now in silhouette rather than shade, and every day ticks by in a frozen single file of quiet winter tedium.
Another darling from Robert’s Choice.
“Russo Varangian’s cordial smile revealed white, even teeth under a Stalinesque mustache. His dark eyes were peaceful and moist from the cold. His was not a face easily forgotten. It was angelic.
“The little man could see that Russo Varangian was not of the usual run of real estate people. He saw Italian, ox blood shoes, a brown, three piece suit, surely of Scottish wool, and a camel hair coat with a silk scarf. And to top it all off, an excellent Prussian Homburg hat. Russo Varangian was already successful. He dressed for respect.
Too much description? I don’t care. Every descriptive word is carefully chosen. This is what I want my reader to read about Russo Varangian, and it is written in the way I want it to be read. Is he a loving father? Yes. Is he a terrible, deceitful murderer? Yes. These characteristics and others are revealed in the rest of the first chapter.
There is no good reason to write, walking on egg shells, in fear of an editor or of bending the rules. Write what you want written and in the way you want it to be read.