How to Survive Deleting a Character From Your Story #Writer #AmWriting


Writing the death of a much-loved character can be demanding and can leave you inconsolable.

There is, however, another literary situation which can be just as challenging and it can cast a nasty gloom over your writing day – deleting a character from your story.

I am not talking about deleting a random minor character; someone who you created one day after too much coffee, inserted into the middle of your novel, just to beef it out (technical literary term) and then deleted them the following day after realising your stupidity. Sigh!

No – I am talking about when you make major changes to your draft and you decide to get rid of a key character. They will be a fictional person who has been with you since the start of your story and someone who you have history with. The awful thing is that you know a change like this needs to happen and..dare you say it..your story will be better without them.

This situation can play havoc with your emotions as you have to ERASE this fictional character from your story and then act like they NEVER existed!

You don’t know about literary heart-break until you have experienced severing all ties with a fictional character.

So, if you are an emotional writer like me, you will find deleting an existing character tough going.

Here are some useful tips on how to survive this dark literary time:

  1. Once you have made the decision to delete them from memory don’t spend hours deliberating. If your gut is saying ‘delete them!’ – do it!
  2. Save a copy of your draft with them playing a part in your story. You may need this when you wake in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, clutching your loved one and whispering “I shouldn’t have deleted [enter character name of choice]”.
  3. Perform your delete swiftly and humanely. They won’t feel a thing! Ask your ‘find’ button for some much-needed support with this.
  4. Prepare yourself in advance for a tough clean up operation post deletion. This will involve, what we in the trade like to call, some quick and dirty editing. Adjusting those scenes involving another character having a heated conversation with your now deleted character or where a character was in the middle of a romantic embrace with the one you have just cruelly deleted. The latter scenes are the hardest to mop up in this situation.
  5. Things will feel a bit different for a while after the deletion. You might feel a bit raw / needy for a few days. For noting: if your loved one is unsympathetic with you after a character death, don’t expect ANYTHING from them post a character deletion. The best you will get is an eye roll! You are on your own with this one.
  6. Tell yourself that your deleted character’s time will come again. Don’t dwell on the fact that you erased them from this story because they were dull / weak / surplus to requirements or replaced by a better looking character. Reassure yourself with a comforting phrase like square peg in a round hole!
  7. Prepare to hear your deleted character’s name in real life conversations after the deletion. Bite your bottom lip, steady yourself and go make yourself a nice sugary cup of tea.
  8. Talk your feelings through with a sympathetic writer friend.

Take it easy readers!

Have a great day!

Photo: Upsplash

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Lucy Mitchell lives in South Wales with her husband, her two teenage daughters, a giant labrador and a gang of unruly cats. Lucy is the author of the award winning blog, BlondeWriteMore and was a Featured Romance Author on Wattpad. When she’s not working or writing, Lucy can be found listening to audiobooks in a muddy field with her dog or sat outside her local pub in the sunshine enjoying a glass of wine. Her debut novel Instructions Falling In Love Again is OUT now and already pulling in some fabulous reviews ❤️

36 thoughts on “How to Survive Deleting a Character From Your Story #Writer #AmWriting

      1. I don’t even discuss ‘writer-motions’ with anyone here… they don’t understand!
        At least my daughter is gearing up to be a writer… but at 8, I may have a few years before I can discuss the ups and downs of literary creativity with her in any sensible way!!!

  1. I am trying to turn my book into a play and find one character completely redundant. He adds to the drama but needs a different setting. If it is on stage I just can’t give him room. Sorry, tall, dark and handsome! ( and wicked!)

  2. I put them in a file marked for laters! Then I can ressurect them for another story. But evenso there is a lump in my theoat and I sometimes just feel so guilty as if I leased out my child … other outsiders will never feel that pain… 😢😇

  3. I know, Lucy, and I haven’t even written a novel or longer situation where I felt the deletion was needed. I have a hard-enough time in short stories deleting some of my ‘darlings’ (that is, phrasings). I’m kind of the type of writer who I have a loose idea of where the story’s going, but sometimes the characters take me elsewhere. The ss I’m working on now, in fact! I actually made an outline of sorts for it, to keep up with and know the characters better, but I had to chop it down and it didn’t end up where I expected it to. Hopefully everyone’s able to ultimately ‘go with the flow’ when deleting a (key) character! 🙂

  4. No, just no!! Have some decency woman, just kill them in the story…. at least then we can mourn!! How cruel!!! I’m calling the cops on you as we speak, you shameless she-devil!!! 😛

  5. Alas, I have been here. I had to delete three characters from a draft. That was tough. Sometimes, the story just gets far too crowded… Sigh.

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