Posted by: penpatience | November 1, 2015


SI Exif

WRITERS WORDS: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug if for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott, Writer

“A LADY OF THE LIGHT,” my non-fiction article, is now published and available for reading in the November-December 2015 issue of the Lighthouse Digest –






Writers have their “faves” as I like to call them. Phrases, sentences, scenes and actions that are included in work projects often to our detriment. Unfortunately, as we immerse ourselves in story development many of us are loathe to deleting or changing our “darlings” as Stephen King refers to these inclusions in his wonderful book for writers, “On Writing.” A brief excerpt:

“Try any goddam thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it even if you love it. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once said,” Murder your darlings” and he was right.”

I recently wrote a short 150 word, flash fiction story as a contest entry. No, I didn’t win, but I console myself with the knowledge two past contest entries  were chosen as winning entries before. However, no writer can rest on past laurels. Although this particular story was not a winner, I hated to give up on this particular piece (a story-darling?) and decided to rewrite it for a literary publication that accepts very short fiction up to 250 words.

This was the “darling” phrase within the story –“but Paul died—too young, too soon.” I thought it was a poignant and emotional statement that, at the time, was right. However, as I continued to write I realized I was “telling” the readers directly that Paul died. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted readers to surmise Paul was deceased at the end of the story.  I reworked sentences before and after my “darling” phrase many times refusing to let this special phrase go. After reading the manuscript aloud four more times and realized the disconnect still was apparent, a swift sweep of the edit pen removed my “darling” Paul phrase snuffing it out—forever.

Sound familiar? Paul was not my first “darling” and he might not be my last. I love to bury dead bodies in the Florida Everglades (a past darling), my female protagonists all too often are pondering, plotting, crying, lying, or conniving over coffee, tea, or booze in their kitchens (another darling!) But over time and more writing experience less “darlings” have squeaked through. How did that happen? I became hardened and merciless and killed them. It had to be done.

Upon further speculation I realized I never liked the male name, Paul, but felt guilty snuffing him out. After giving the name more thought, I realized Paul could become a new character who potentially could become a nefarious or just plain nasty character in a future writing endeavor. I took out the edit pen again and deleted the word– forever. Who knows? Paul could live again in a different way and in another story. Sometimes it’s difficult to give up our “darlings” entirely……



  1. Oh, Frances, you’re really growing as a writer! Good for you!


    • Mary, Thank you. You made my day today!


  2. This really resonated with me. I have too many ‘darlings’ and am prone to trite and tired phrases. Now I will harden my heart and murder away!!


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