I’ve been thinking about the idea of murdering pretties a lot lately — mostly because I’ve been murdering a bunch of them in my novel. On one level, this works well for me. I’ve cut some scenes because I recognized that while I was personally attached to writing and the feel of the scenes, they weren’t actually doing anything to serve the book.
But when I think about it, most of my best stories have actually come not from murdering pretties, but from identifying them… and then allowing them to murder everything else.
In my short story “The Fluted Girl,” the fluted girls were actually just background to the main story I was writing, window dressing and nothing else. When I brought them to the fore, that’s when the story worked. With “The Calorie Man,” I had been working on another story entirely, and part way into it I realized that the most interesting things about the story were the calorie companies and the spring-wound energy systems. I took those ideas and then crafted a story that allowed those ideas to dominate. And finally, when one of my supporting characters in a novel I was working on turned out to be more interesting than the main character, I focused in on that supporting character and wrote a story about him, and ended up with “Yellow Card Man.”
This is actually worrying to me as I continue to work on my current novel; I can identify a number of excellent ideas and themes and characters inside the book, all of whom seem worth spinning out and developing individually. But instead of allowing them to run wild on their own, they’re enslaved to the central premise.