“kill your darlings”


Oh, this vegetable garden has been a large writing metaphor, revealing insights about planning/outlining, revision, and messy surprises. There’s a gopher in my garden. He’s eating everything. He pops up randomly. He leaves desire unfulfilled. He preys upon beauty. He is the villain (every novel needs one).

I’ve let him be, I’ve shared more than half my garden with him. I imagine a fat, contented creature, down in the depths below, having dined on French tarragon and pea shoots and all the other finery of my vegetable garden. I didn’t have the heart to meddle with him. Let him be, I thought. I’d just had my share of death and sickness in life, and I walked the road of pacifism.


This year alone (and the growing season has just started, mind you), he has taken three tomato plants (do you SEE the dark hole in the center of the tomato cage on the right, where a tomato plant once lived?!), two broccoflower plants, and several pea plants down into his epicurean den. I have different aspirations for my garden this year–it’s no longer solely a therapeutic project, but one I expect to deliver edibles. I am no longer wallowing in a sentimental state, thinking everything in this world must live.

And so, my villain must go. Battle must be waged. I set a gopher trap today right after I got home from work and found two more plants gone. Poof. Chomp, chomp. Poof.

In writing, I must kill my darlings. And so too, in my vegetable garden.



Filed under Inspiring, Life, Writing

8 responses to ““kill your darlings”

  1. wonderful post. sorry about the gophers — for as much as it pains me, i’ll spare you the “caddyshack” jokes. though you came awfully close to sounding like bill murray.

    do you think it’s easier to kill off your villain, hero, or just some beautiful writing that has no place in a story? it’s always lopping off the passages i love (characters aside) that’s a killer (no pun intended).

  2. The villain is as much a part of my creation as a beautiful digression about a hill or flower that has no relevance to the story as a beautiful hero or heroine. You kill the darlings because your story asks for it, because after awhile, the story takes on a life of its own and separates from your own will.

    And so–the gopher must go (and the story is probably now just as much about my battle with the gopher as it is about the garden itself). 😛

  3. oh! and to answer your questions: nope, it’s never easier.

  4. hyunjini

    I’m sure finding another vegetable disappeared is no fun discovery, but your writing sure makes it seem like an adventure every gardener should want!

  5. anonwupfan

    You mentioned a fence before. Admit it: you knew it would come to this.

    A small 1/4″ hardware cloth barrier (any opening larger than a rodent’s skull will let them squeeze their body through–and they WILL squeeze through) with the bottom buried ~1′ and flared ~18″ out in an “L” shape with keep most critters out. They hit the fence and try to dig straight down and under, only to find more screen. It’s hard work to make and not particularly cheap, but infinitely more effective than becoming an amateur trapper.

    If you want to be successful, you need a realistic strategy before you go into battle, e.g. Iraq. If you make it tough, your gopher will probably give up and go somewhere where the pickins come easy. If it persists–as in Caddyshack–well, then we’ve got some drama on our hands–as in Caddyshack.

    As in a novel, if your villain has put itself through sufficient trials to reveal its character–in this case, digging under and around your well-designed fence–it will have earned your interest and respect (and your pea shoots :-))

  6. hyunjini: victory shall be MINE! but yes, I’m your typical writer–if tragedy can be salvaged into a good story, well–then that’s not so bad. 🙂

    anonwupfan: I know–but I don’t want to dig up the entire bed. So I bought some anti-gopher wire baskets!

  7. anonwupfan

    I worry about your baskets–the gaps in the chicken wire look too big for gophers to be excluded to me. Hopefully, it will be enough of a hassle to get them to move on. If not, you can lay your fence deep along the border of your plot.

    Good luck, I’ve got seed stealing, sprout munching squirrels over here. The AWUPF household has no prayer of keeping those SOBs out (the ninjas of the rodent world?) All I can do here is hope that the neighbor’s stuff looks better!

  8. anonwupfan: it’s my laziness–i am loathe to dig up my entire garden (now half in progress) and hence, the wire baskets. but so far, so good–there is no sign of a gopher. the gopher trap is uneventful.

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