Slaughtering the Sacred Cow

I get caught on this all the time. You look at a scene, a character, a culture, and you think, “I can’t mess with that. It took me five years to create that, it’s perfect.” Then something goes wrong in your story. Everything refuses to mesh up. But you skirt around your sacred cow, fat and ready for slaughter. It must be character x, the new kid on the block. Maybe it’s plot point y, which I created last month. It has to go. Yet you can’t. Everything you want to get rid of is an obvious pillar for the narrative, and of course you haven’t checked if it’s time to eat the five year old cow.

Whenever we have something we refuse to delete or alter, it’s usually what started everything. There is some special tie to it that we refuse to sever, something entirely emotional and irrational. I created a character based on an ex. She had a wonderful back story and it was time to write about her. I ended up having a princess, Cherry Blossom, in this far off capital city in the mountains. It was the way the woman had to be portrayed because it was the most accurate to the muse (which is to say cold and distant). Then I created another princess, Melna, at the foot of the mountains, part of another culture, but they would still interact. Yet something felt wrong.

I went so long trying to force Cherry Blossom and Melna to exist simultaneously. They were required. Blossom saw different parts of the story than Melna. But I realized that they could not coexist. Blossom’s story was out of place and weak. Melna was powerful, tragic, beautiful in her way. Despite these differences, they were also ultimately the same character. I felt close to Melna, and for that I slaughtered Cherry Blossom. Or more so gave Melna permission to subsume her.

After I did that the story flowed quickly and beautifully. The words were easy to put on the page. A story far better than the original formed. All because I got away from what started the story, from what I assumed was a required view point. The story nearly became my first novel. However, at this point it will be novel number two.

If your story is having trouble, make sure to overturn every stone. Be willing to sacrifice anything, big and small. It will allow you more freedom, and it will let the true story come out of you.

Randomness of the day:

Heard this last night on Pandora. Beautiful song. The past few days I’ve recalled just how wonderful a job Square does on making beautiful music for their majestic games. Final Fantasy XIV is no longer in beta for PS4. I will miss it. For G’desh, the story I’m working on getting published July/August, I’m using more and more Final Fantasy for inspiration. We’ll see where that leads (air ships, summons, swords the size of its wielder, magic spells like blizzaga).

16 Comments on “Slaughtering the Sacred Cow

  1. It’s rather interesting that you discuss slaughtering a character that was based on an ex-girlfriend.
    However, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

    • Haha. Now I feel bad. We actually get along pretty well right now. But yes, without destruction we can’t gain new life for our stories.

  2. Great song. 😀

    I hear about “killing your darlings” quite often, but I think I like “slaughtering the sacred cow” better. … but having said that, no woman likes to be called a cow. Maybe that was on purpose? 😉

    I’ve had to pull some scenes out of my book – not because they didn’t fit, necessarily, more that they didn’t move the story along. Characters? There’s only one I think I can do without. He’ll be essential though if I decide to write a prequel, so I’m torn.

    Glad you had a good experience with your chopping of cow.

    • I was always told to write as if it was the only book. So chop him. I’m sure other opportunities will come up.

      As for the ex, no. She was good looking. Way above who I’d expect to date. 😀 I’m a charmer.

  3. Glad you figured out the way forward, despite having to destroy a character dear to your heart. Ruthlessness is required of authors when it comes to proof-reading and editing.

    However, killing darlings has become cliche thanks to a particular author. It’s a twist to not kill them =P

    • I know! He set everyone else up as suspense because of his slaughterings! Just had a dream that Baelish killed Joff and Varys. Weird.

      • Yeah, I’m a fan of Littlefinger. Beating the best at their own game of politics =)

        Do you watch the series, read the books, both? Where you up to?

      • Reading I’m at the end of Clash of Kings. Show I just finished season three. Since I don’t have HBO, and a half month of cable including HBO is the price of a season on Bluray, I just wait until they come out and get them then. So unfortunately season four does not start for me in four weeks 😦 Yourself?

      • Watched Season 1 (sister bought for me as birthday present), read all the books.

        Yeah, the cost seems a bit steep. You don’t have friends constantly on spoiler alert when you chat with them? =P

      • I blame an English professor, but I’m good with spoilers. He always taught us to read the last chapter first, that way when reading the rest of the book, you can spot all the references to how the book ends. While I don’t actually read the last chapter first, I am okay with knowing ahead of time. Granted, I was following a lot of GoT character profiles on FB, and leading up to the Red Wedding, it was just splattered. I’m like, I get you’re not just saying what it means, but I’m not stupid.

      • Well, the professor’s method would certainly take less time than re-reading the novel to find the subtle references, especially with GRRM’s books.

        Keeping RW under wraps was bloody hard. But it was a good laugh at how indignant non-readers got at what happened in Season 1. Quite a validation the series watchers reacted the same way the readers originally did =)

      • I watched RW with a friend. I knew it was coming. When it happened his eyes went wide and he was just silent for the rest of the night. All, “I’m never watching this again. I hate you so much. So so much.” It was great.

      • Is he still annoyed at you about it?

        The book was bad enough, but supposedly the series when super gory with it. I don’t think I could watch it even if given the chance =S

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