It is usually assumed that Faulkner was talking about killing off favorite characters or even just making their lives miserable. In fact, he was also referring to the necessity of cutting scenes/dialogues/characters that the author loves – but which do not necessarily add to the work.
Which one is harder for you?
I find it easier to cut my own words – to give up scenes or bits of dialogue I love – than to do mean things to my characters. Hey, I can always write another clever scene. But writing scenes that cause real pain to my characters? That’s hard.
(Yes, I know my characters are not real. I discussed that last week. But they hurt all the same, and I know this because I have to write their hurt.)
Some great characters in We Hear the Dead die, and I hated it – but I was writing a true story, and what happened had already happened a long time ago. In works where I have greater authority over the fate of my characters, I find it a lot harder to bring down the axe. I don’t like to make them miserable even when I know it’s going to work out for them in the end. One time, after I poisoned my favorite character, I stayed up all night writing the subsequent chapter, unable to sleep until I’d made certain he was going to survive the ordeal.
I bring this up because – as I contemplate the upcoming events in my WIP – I think I’m going to have to hurt some people. In fact, I think I’m going to have to break somebody’s heart — and I’m going to have to shoot someone. And I’m not going to like it one bit.
For the other writers out there – which would you rather do: Cut your favorite scene? Or hurt your favorite character?