I threw a beloved child off the boat yesterday.
Let me back up. In October, my husband and I took a trip to the Dakota Black Hills. We drove the Needles Highway and stopped to hike the Little Devil's Trail. All the way along the trail were flecks of mica, glistening in the sun.
The sparkles captured me. What a great image! My WIP involves a road trip out West -- this would be great to include! Out came the maps to redraw the main character's route. The problem was, I couldn't find a good reason to route Evvie through Custer State Park.
Did that stop me? Of course not. I brainstormed reasons why she would end up on that road, see that mica and have a stunning revelation about life. I wedged it into that story. With a hammer. And a mallet. And a crowbar.
And my story fell apart.
Yesterday it dawned on me:
- The scene, wonderful as it was, was throwing a monkey wrench (or crowbar) into the plot.
- Evvie had no reason to go to South Dakota.
- What I was going to have her do there was totally out of character.
Maybe Evvie whispered in my ear that she didn't want to go there. I don't know. I'm no longer going to try to force her to. It's not as if this image will go away -- oh, no. It goes back into the idea arsenal for another time, another story, another character.
I see a lot of revision advice on cutting dead weight. Sometimes the parts that seem nearest to our hearts are not just dead weight: they're actively getting in the way. So is your story not working? Take a look at the parts you love best. See who you can throw overboard. If they're strong enough, they'll swim back to shore and you can take them out on the waters another trip.