Kill your darlings, said Bill Faulkner--who, we should note, left quite a few of his own darlings unkilled. This rule is grossly misunderstood and generally insisted on by those who don't have many darlings to kill. But, like most rules that will not go away, it contains more than a kernel of truth. Which brings me to my darling...
I'd been wanting to use a particular quip that had remained in my Pink Book of A-Lines. And I' d decided, do or die, I really had to fit it in the book I'm writing with Brad Strickland. With a shoehorn, if I had to. But luckily, so I thought, I chanced on the just-perfect place: a short scene between hero Boss and his young lover Mai Lin. Boss is more often away than he's not, so he's not completely up to speed on certain changes in her life. The scene begins with him soaking in the tub while he helps Mai Lin with her American slang.
The sweet spot, or so I thought: Mai Lin suddenly asks what it means when a boy tells a girl 'Put your mouth where my mind is and let's have some fun.' Boss is furious and demands to know who said that to her. She tells him, "No one. Some boy on the street." Boss calms down, explains the phrase...then spies what appears to be a bruise on her arm, one she tries to hide from him.
Mai Lin has been sexually assaulted--the heart of the scene, instinct told me. But instincts also told me--repeatedly, though I resisted--that in a short scene, such as this, the two incidents weakened each other. Plus, Mai Lin may be depritved of sympathetic light if she's seen as attracting lewd remarks as well as sexual hardball. Grumble, grumble, grumble: surely I could keep the remark by having it turn out to be something the guy who assaulted her said? Grumble, grumble, grumble: No, if he'd said it, he'd have done it--and she'd know what it meant.
Solution: Boss is still in the tub soaking, helping Mai Lin with her slang. But she seems distracted...and then he spies the bruising on her arm. This works. It's simpler, faster and even dramatically purer.
Say hello to my dead darling, if you decide to repeat her. And think kindly of poor Reb MacRath, who had to put her to pasture.