Stephen King said it was always important to kill your darlings. Now he didn’t just mean killing a character off. Writing consists of many darlings, from a piece of prose that really tickles the writing bone to a favorite scene that means a lot to you but carries the plot or characters nowhere.
He also didn’t mean literally killing these things. Sometimes they just have to be cut. This week, in the midst of planning the sixth draft of my first fantasy book, I lost a darling.
I think I knew this was coming for a while. Like a relative that just got a bad diagnosis, I didn’t really want to believe it. ‘No. I can still make this work. I’ll figure some stuff for her to do in order to keep things moving.’ Deep down however I knew the character had become but a piece of set dressing.
That character was Saar’Jya.
Saar’Jya is supposed to have been the first true dragon to appear in this universe, and as such has become a deity. As outlined in the article on this universe’s dragons, current dragons owe a lot to the Matriarch. She’s also a very fun character as she’s quite snarky.
She swears, has a dirty sense of humor, and is all around…interesting to deal with. Basically she’s Dr. Cox from Scrubs if he was a dragon and female. I lovingly dubbed the graceful creature as ‘The Deity of Snark.’
Saar’Jya was the first character designed for this story, and the work our artist did is still among his best. As the character was the first true dragon, the concept artist decided to incorporate more primitive looking elements in her appearance. He linked the wings to a dimetrodon like sail, gave her a very serpent like body, and kept her features very simple. We added an iridescent shine to make her scales as opals, and she was finished. The work was beautiful.
Still, though the design gorgeous and the work impressive, in this story there was no real place for her. She just showed up for a couple of scenes, spouted some exposition and was never heard from again. Her functions could be very easily filled by the other characters. In that case, why shouldn’t they? To cut her would save valuable page space that could now be used to enhance the others. That seemed the wise thing to do, painful though the decision was.
But that was just this particular entry in this series. There are at least three more books planned set in the magic land of Haiden. Not every character was introduced in the first book of the Harry Potter or Lord of the Ring series. Professor Lupin and Sirius Black may be great, but we had to wait three books to meet them.
I’ve got the funny feeling this will not be the last we see of the Deity of Snark. The main hero of this story was originally but a supporting player, but he forced his way to the front and hasn’t been dethroned since. If that taught me one thing about my characters, it’s that no matter how timid they appear on the page, they’re very stubborn.
If I know Saar’Jya, she’ll find some way to get back in. When she does, the Deity of Snark won’t get any complaints from me.