When I’d last checked outside the stars were cloaking themselves in clouds to escape my mood. In my dim porch light’s blush the leaves were riding the blustery winds as if witches driven to madness, their tears coating the walk. Not a perfect night.
But a perfect night for a murder.
What time it happened I’m not certain, but midnight was near when I killed a darling. It had no name, nor did I care to give it one, but it died as swiftly as if I’d wielded an ax and returned home in blood.
If you’re a writer you’ll recognize my darling. It was nearly invisible to me for the longest time, and even though I made every effort to make it work, deep down I knew it couldn’t.
It was inevitable; it had to die.
It was neither believable, nor did it add to the story.
Yet, I’d kept trying … until a critique partner noted what my head already knew and it’s fate was certain. I was swift and merciless. There was so little need for the darling in the story that extricating it didn’t take long.
In the end, rather then tears for the one so long near to my heart, there was relief. The story, I knew, would be all the better for the darling’s removal. The darling, I realized, was no darling at all. Instead, it was a foul, hideous beast as slimy as a slug. It hissed and showed its fangs at the end, revealing its true self.
Darling hunters … I am one. Darlings use slow-acting poison to paralyze otherwise good fiction. Oh, they’re pretty, to be certain, painting their faces with lovely words and images that instill longing, but underneath they seethe with hatred for the very story they’re charged with holding dear. Their baby killers—your baby—and they inject their venom until the reader turns away, unable to suspend their disbelief.
Darling hunting isn’t a job for the meek or the timid, and more writers succumb to a darling’s charms than I care to consider. Still, each night I go out in search of another.
They must be stopped.