Anna-Leena Harkonen



Dina Belenko/Alamy


Kill Your Darlings

When writing a script, I focus on the dialogue after I have finished the outline and synopsis. How do these people talk? What are they saying?

First I use my imagination, then my collection of lines: about a hundred pages of lines that I have heard or come up with—lines that I now need to match to characters.

DRAMATISTS OFTEN SAY that words are meaningless, that only actions matter.
I disagree. In my opinion, what people are saying is immensely important. Or perhaps the dramatists are referring to one of the basic principles of drama: people may as well be lying. I don’t believe in basic principles.

One of the most misunderstood is the directive to “kill your darlings.”

Many take it to mean that writers should remove the parts they love the most. The problem is that, when finalizing a manuscript, writers have already grown to love every single part the most. If you remove them all, you have nothing.

Manuscripts need to be edited in places, made more concise. In the process, writers lose sentences that are important to them. That is what “kill your darlings” means.

MOST SOLUTIONS are sheer accidents anyway: dead tired, the writer adds a sentence somewhere, and suddenly it belongs there. It always has.

Readers find hidden meanings and a masterfully devised multilayered structure. Writers do nothing to correct this misunderstanding, of course.

Anna-Leena Harkonen

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