Kill Your Dragons (Temporarily)

Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Grackeltine… Time to die.

Dragon Killing, Talker 25 Style

I’m sure many of you have heard that adage about darlings and murder. I’ve found that I’m not so good at saying the fancy stuff, so this is not a big issue for me; however, early on in the revision process for TALKER 25, I did have to drop the ax on my favorite non-MC (the favorite of many of my early readers, too).

Grackel was my Gandalf/Dumbledore in dragon form.


Old School. 

Lot’s of pain there. I mean, this ornery Red kicked some major writing tuchus, in my not so humble opinion. Took me a couple gos to realize she didn’t kick it the right way.

Monday, Laurie discussed how stories allow us to connect with ideas and people, how they afford us the chance to broaden our scope of understanding. Emotional truth conveyed by your characters is the heart of the book. The plot’s the skeleton that moves you toward discovery of that truth. Grackel was the lungs to my heart, but she was also a third leg who wanted to walk the opposite direction. We ended up going in this pretty little circle.

The question is, how do you know when to kill your dragons? For me, it came down to screen time. In my first draft, Grackel played a heavy component in the latter half, but that’s the half that needed changing. I’d established her character early on, but her awesomeness lost relevance given the course correct on the back side.

Don’t waste your awesome characters. Hold ’em like X’s in Words With Friends until you can double up on a Triple Letter. Maybe they fit into the next story. Maybe they get their own somewhere down the road. Maybe they make it into your epilogue and come shining through in the TALKER 25 sequel (where she’s even awesomer than before).

Have you ever had to eliminate a favorite character? What convinced you to do it? How did you cope?


Filed under Editing and Revising

10 responses to “Kill Your Dragons (Temporarily)

  1. In my novel RADIO GIRL, the main character started out with two grownup aunts. One was religious, the other a wise-cracking party girl. Had to nix the latter since she was getting in the way — and she took some of my funniest lines with her. I was able to salvage some of that aunt’s personality by transferring it to the main character’s bf, but still I grieve. Then there was the antagonist’s conniving brother from Ukraine . . . Must use him in some other book. And then there’s . . .


    • Joshua McCune

      As a conniving brother, I would definitely enjoy more books with conniving brothers. And, yeah, my limited humor is one of the first things to go in my editing…regrettably. Often the funnest stuff to write. Can only imagine the grief of nixing an entire source of fun lines.


  2. Oh, how this post comes in such a timely manner…I’m grappling with exactly this problem…It’s so hard being the knife-wielding b…witch when such a lovable character needs to be bumped-off. Thanks for the affirmation…


    • Joshua McCune

      Donna, it does feel a bit evil, doesn’t it? As Carol mentioned, one option is transferring characteristics to another character. Not always possible, but helps with the mourning if you can work it.


  3. Nice post, Josh! I sure hope we get to see Grackel in all her glory in a future book. You just made me want to read the sequel… when I haven’t even seen book one! By the way, where did that awesome TALKER 25 art come from?


    • Joshua McCune

      I made that pic courtesy of GIMP using a bunch of the filter features. Tons of fun … And, yeah, Grackel will be a critical character in book 2. But will she make it to 3…. Dun dun dun 🙂


  4. I’ve killed whole chapters and wonderful side stories. And oh it hurts. I keep them in a computer file called Stuff Cut Out. and occasionally I check it to see if there is anything woth resuscitating


  5. Great question. I’ve got a fantasy novel in which the protagonist rescues 5 child slaves. In the first draft there were 17 child slaves. I loved them all, but a bunch of them simply needed to go. What was I thinking, trying to introduce 18 characters in chapter one? Oy. It took me a couple of years to finally face the music and do them in. It wasn’t easy.


  6. Great post and question.
    I’ve really been struggling with the first draft of a new novel. I didn’t know what was wrong, the words weren’t flowing like the last novel, and I actually found myself procrastinating from working on it. Not good. I read your post a few days ago and I guess what you said had been marinading in my mind. When I was driving home from work today it hit me and I knew why I was having so much trouble with this draft. It turns out I had an unnecessary secondary character in my novel that I was trying to create scenes for, trying to find a way to work into the plot. I cut him out and now everything just feels right and I think I can finally move forward with finishing this draft. So thank you!


  7. I had to kill a character in my first book because he wasn’t important enough to the story. I brought him back in book 2. That felt satisfying. Maybe your dragon gets resurrected.


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