Killing Your Darlings

One of the most painful things writers must do it killing the darlings. The scenes they worked to perfection. They may be inspired, beautiful, full of meaning. They may be the greatest prose you ever wrote. But no matter how special they are, if they don’t serve the story, they must die.

Under the Black Sand was originally written as an Icelandic screenplay. After the financial crash in 2008, little money was available for unknown filmmakers. A filmmaking friend suggested I write it up as a novel. It would be a work in its own right, unlike a screenplay, and if successfully executed, a producer might show interest and an open wallet.

The novel was written in English. It wasn’t just a straightforward translation though. It became an English story, rooted in Victorian Great Britain. It merged the Viking roots and the industrialism of modern England and Scotland.

I was pretty satisfied with the story. Happy enough to have five copies printed as paperbacks and read by people I trusted would not hesitate to tell me if it was shite.
The reviews were positive. The story was strong and worthy of publishing. One comment bothered me though. Why did I change the story from the original idea? Why have it take place in the UK, rather than Iceland? What is wrong with the Nordic countries and Scandinavia?

Under the Black Sand
Under the Black Sand

After thinking about it long and hard, I decided to rewrite the whole thing. Move it back to it’s roots. Back to Iceland. It will delay the completion considerably, but so be it. The modern scenes will be fairly simple. Both countries are modern societies and the changes will be subtle. The nineteenth century scenes will be vastly different. There were no railroads in Iceland. Very few mansions. Industrialists were unheard of. It was a rural society.

Scenes like the one below will have to be completely turned on their heads or cut completely. But that is the reality of writing. No matter what you think of the scene, if it has to go, it goes.

And so this scene will not be in the final version.

~ 1866 ~

The new railway station was making a real progress. It would be the most glorious thing he had ever created. He would be a hero to the common man. It was his crowning achievement. Peter Wollard, industrialist. Pioneer. Yet, it was the last thing on his mind. A vanity project, designed to make the humble man feel like he had conquered nature, that he had finally beaten the world into submission. Their new home was also coming along nicely. Only the roof needed to be fitted and the interior was being designed to their specifications. And yet it was no more than a hollow shell, a place to shelter them from the rain and wind. Any house would have done, but they had decided to build themselves a palace. A glorious place without a soul. Or so it felt, now that she was gone.
‘We will name the house in her honour’, he had said and Emily had squeezed his hand.
Their projects were the envy of all that had seen them. The two people standing here were the symbols of the new world. The rare breed that had made immense wealth, and still earned the respect of the people that worked for them. But nobody was working today. The hammers lay unused, the machinery was silent and the men were lined orderly behind the two people. The workers shared their pain.

The funeral was beautiful, but it paled when compared to the child that lay in the small coffin. They had known. It was inevitable. All the money in the world couldn’t prevent what would happen. They blamed themselves. They had used the stones, they had seen it coming. A few weeks after her first birthday, they had found the stones and little Florence was doomed. They had played with her, taught her to walk and talk and pretended that she would use her newly learned skills someday, that they would see her grow up to be a beautiful young woman. Peter would give his daughter away to a handsome young man and enjoy being a grandfather. She would never grow to be a woman and every day would remind them. Every time they saw her, ever smile, every tear could be her last.
She was doomed and they knew it. The light drizzle falling on his shiny hat could have been burning sun or pouring rain. They wouldn’t have noticed. All they saw was the small coffin as it disappeared into the grave. The man and the woman had brought her into this world and sentenced her to death.

Now they wished they’d never found the stones. How could they have known? How could destiny be so cruel?

Florence Woollard

1864-1866

Eternity lasts but a moment

This post, originally from 23 July 2012, was recreated on 6 January 2016, after my site got deleted as explained here.

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