William Faulkner coined that phrase almost a century ago and it still rings true for writers today. We love these little scenes; we’ve invested such time and attention into crafting them. They are vignettes of character and mood, comedy or pathos and we love them. Sometimes even, the writing is surprisingly brilliant. So what if they have to go? What do we do with them? Can we really kill them, as Faulkner urges? Doesn’t that diminish our author’s voice, that intuitive stamp of individuality that marks our work as different from someone else’s? Are we really so callous as to highlight and delete something that may have consumed hours, if not days of our lives?
I can’t. Not yet, anyway. Hence my Little Folder of Love. My agent, Jennifer Udden, suggested it to me during a phone conversation regarding the editing process. Set up a folder to house all the scenes because you may never know when they might work somewhere else. Perhaps they will become a little novelette of their own, after the original has taken off. Imagine little snippets of story from the world of Harry Potter – scenes of Hermione and Ron agonizing over textbooks, or Hagrid feeding a happy hungry griffon, or Harry bonding with Sirius Black over tea and treacle. I could release a collection of such scenes later or on my website as little extras, or bonus material, or teasers.
So I did it. I made that Little Folder of Love and it contains scenes now from all three Upper Kingdom books as well as Cold Stone & Ivy 1 & 2. (Those I’m beginning to call the Empire of Steam, because I have many series that can/will take place in that ‘verse. It makes my world-building brain very happy.) It also came in very handy during the writing of CS&I 2: The Crown Prince, because I could move scenes where they needed to go, pick and choose snippets of conversation and manipulate the story arc in a way that made me very proud. I am growing up and so is my technique. Stephen King would be proud too. I don't know yet about Faulkner.
But sometimes I just go and look into that Little Folder. It makes me happy. I can read scenes and the characters talk to me all over again, tell me why they need to live and how I am the only one who can give them life. It makes me wonder if someday, there will be fanfic written of Kerris and Fallon the same way it’s written of Hermione and Ron. Will there be Kirah’s? (Shippers of Kirin and Sherah?) Or what about shippers of Ivy and Christien instead of Ivy and Sebastien? Will they begin to have adventures in other people’s minds and take on lives of their very own, lives that I will ultimately have no control over? Will someone be bold enough to connect the Upper Kingdom with the Empire of Steam and write something that blows even my world-building mind apart at the seams? What a Pandora’s Box this folder has become!
That’s why Faulkner killed them. He didn’t have laptops or folders other than the paper kind. He couldn’t afford the real estate that would be required to house those scenes. Easier to draw a red line through them and move on. And there are times when I have done it – highlighted an entire paragraph and hesitated a moment before clicking Delete. Then you gasp, release a deep cleansing breath and move on. It really is the best way to go, when all is said and done. But I’m not there, not yet. There is still too much residual emotion. The brain still wars with the heart.
So for now, the Little Folder sits in the top left hand corner of the screen, filled with scenes that I’m glad are still there. I can see Faulkner rolling his eyes, I can hear his long-suffering sigh but louder than these are the laughing/fighting/cursing of those characters in that folder, those extraneous scenes, those useless Darlings of my literary mind. I don’t have it in me to kill them just yet.
I may need to call on Major Ursa for that.