Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kill Your Darlings - A Movie Musical Analogy

I'm in the midst of serious revisions and feeling a little loopy, which is why this post is about revisions and one of my all time favorite things, random musical movie moments! And um, how those two things relate to each other.

We've all heard that saying "Kill your darlings." (Or murder them, whichever.) Essentially it's saying any time you have something you find especially clever or that's close to your heart DELETE IT because it probably doesn't fit with the rest of what you've written or even belong in your book. This is killing your darlings to the extreme, but you get the idea. I think it's easy when your book is about A, and all your scenes are focused on A, to slip off into tangent B and then think it's brilliant just because it's so different from the rest of the book.

It's at that point that you must stop and really look at the scene about B. Does it have anything to do with the plot of your book? Is it there just to be awesome? Will it stop readers in their tracks as they wonder when this dark thriller turned into a slapstick comedy?

How does this relate to my love for random spontaneous musical scenes in movies? I'll show you!

Take the 80s classic TEEN WITCH. (Shut up. It IS TOO a classic!)

This is the blurb for TEEN WITCH:
Louise is a shy misfit with a huge crush on and no chance of dating Brad, the hunky star of the high school football team. When Louise discovers on her 16th birthday that she's descended from Salem witches, she uses her newfound powers to become the most popular girl on campus! But when sparks fly between her and Brad, how can she be sure it's true love and that he's not simply spellbound?

You'll note that nowhere in the description is the movie called a musical. Yet, fairly early on, we're given this:

(Take a moment to recover from the 80s explosion. I'll wait.) I remember even as a kid, the first time I saw this I thought, WTF is this a musical? BUT IT WASN'T. It was just a movie with a scene where everyone broke out into a choreographed dance routine for NO REASON OTHER THAN THAT IT WOULD BE SHEER AWESOME. And as you can see, it was, but that's not the point.

The point is, as a first time viewer, I was confused. I kept waiting for more dance routines, but there really weren't any. And in the end I was sort of disappointed about that. And I wondered why that scene was in there anyway. Just to tease me with a glimpse at how awesome Teen Witch would've been as a real musical?

So as you can see, if Teen Witch was a book, as much as I love the random dance scene, because I love random dance scenes, that particular darling would have to go. It sticks out and it's distracting because it doesn't really belong.

Do you have a scene like this? So full of awesome it could be it's own book? So unrelated to what's actually happening in your plot? You might have to save it for a different project. Put it in a drawer and when you're sad, take it out and read it and know that it's proof of your magnificent talent.

And now, just in case I have thoroughly depressed you by telling you to take out your favorite scene, here's my all time favorite spontaneous musical scene. I SO wish this would happen while out at a restaurant in real life!


  1. Lol! I love this post. Such a perfect analogy. Now I'll be singing "I like boys" all day.

  2. Thanks Lacey! It's stuck in my head now too!

  3. I loved that scene from My Best Friend's Wedding! This is good advice and I'm keeping it in mind as I revise my new ms. :)

  4. Those 80's girls all had the same hair!

  5. I definitely had that hair--complete with my Sun-In streaked highlights. Yikes!


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