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Kill Your Darlings

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What is “Kill Your Darlings” in Screenwriting?

The phrase “Kill Your Darlings” in screenwriting refers to the act of removing or cutting out beloved scenes, characters, dialog, or exposition that may be unnecessary for the good of the overall story.

“Kill Your Darlings” is a simple tip for writers. This phrase asks writers to cut parts they love if these parts don’t help the story. The cuts could be anything – scenes, words, or even characters.

But it doesn’t mean cutting pretty or clever things just because they are cute. It’s all about making the writing better.

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The origin and meaning in the context of screenwriting

“Kill Your Darlings” is a phrase commonly used in screenwriting and editing. It was first attributed to writer William Faulkner, who advised writers to let go of their favorite parts of their writing in order to improve it.

In screenwriting, this means being willing to eliminate any unnecessary scenes, characters, or dialog that don’t contribute to the story. It’s about streamlining the plot and making tough editing decisions to improve storytelling and keep the audience engaged.

Killing one’s darlings is an important part of the revision process for screenwriters, as it allows them to balance creativity with practicality and create a stronger narrative for their script.

Why it is important for screenwriters

“Killing your darlings” is an important concept for screenwriters because it helps improve the quality of their writing. It means letting go of your favorite parts that may not contribute to the overall story.

This could include unnecessary scenes, characters, or even sentences that don’t move the plot forward. By being willing to make tough editing decisions and eliminate these “darlings,” screenwriters can create stronger storytelling and keep their audience engaged.

It’s all about finding a balance between creativity and practicality in order to create the best possible script.

How to Implement “Kill Your Darlings” in Screenwriting

Identify unnecessary scenes or characters, remove dialog that doesn’t contribute to the story, streamline the plot, and make tough editing decisions.

Identifying unnecessary scenes or characters

Unnecessary scenes or characters can detract from the overall quality of a screenplay. Here are some tips for identifying and removing them:

  1. Review the plot: Determine if a scene or character contributes to the main storyline. If it doesn’t advance the plot or develop the characters, it may be unnecessary.
  2. Consider pacing: Scenes that slow down the narrative or add little to the story’s progression can be cut. Look for moments where the audience’s interest may wane.
  3. Evaluate character relevance: Characters should have clear roles and purpose within the story. If a character does not impact the plot, consider removing them.
  4. Eliminate redundancy: Scenes or characters that provide redundant information or serve a similar purpose can be consolidated or removed altogether.
  5. Focus on impact: Assess whether a scene or character has a significant impact on the story’s emotional or thematic elements. If they don’t contribute meaningfully, they may need to be cut.

Removing dialog or exposition that doesn’t contribute to the story

Unnecessary dialog or exposition should be removed from the story. This helps to keep the focus on the main plot and prevent any unnecessary distractions. It allows the audience to stay engaged and follow along with the important elements of the story. By cutting out irrelevant dialog or exposition, screenwriters can streamline their script and make sure every scene serves a purpose. It’s important to be ruthless in editing and only keep what is necessary for storytelling.

Streamlining the plot

Streamlining the plot is an important aspect of “killing your darlings” in screenwriting. It involves removing unnecessary scenes, characters, and side plots that don’t contribute to the overall story. This helps to create a more focused and cohesive narrative. By streamlining the plot, writers can improve the pacing of the story and keep the audience engaged. It also allows for a stronger emphasis on character development and conflict resolution. Streamlining the plot requires making tough editing decisions and being willing to let go of favorite elements that may not serve the story’s purpose.

Making tough editing decisions

Making tough editing decisions is an essential part of the writing process. It involves carefully evaluating and deciding what to keep and what to remove from the screenplay. Here are some strategies for making these difficult choices:

  1. Identify unnecessary scenes or characters that do not contribute to the overall story.
  2. Remove dialog or exposition that does not add value or move the plot forward.
  3. Streamline the plot by eliminating any side plots that distract from the main storyline.
  4. Delete sentences or phrases that are repetitive or redundant.
  5. Omit any scenes or moments that do not serve a clear purpose in advancing the narrative.
  6. Revise darlings by critically analyzing their relevance to the story and audience engagement.

Benefits and Challenges of “Killing Your Darlings”

Killing your darlings in screenwriting has several benefits, such as improving storytelling and pacing, keeping the audience engaged, and balancing creativity with practicality. However, it also presents challenges in making tough editing decisions and letting go of favorite expressions or characters.

Improved storytelling and pacing

Improving storytelling and pacing is one of the benefits of killing your darlings in screenwriting. By cutting out unnecessary scenes, characters, or side plots that don’t contribute to the overall story, writers can create a more focused and engaging narrative.

Streamlining the plot helps to keep the audience engaged and interested in what’s happening on screen. It also allows for better character development and conflict resolution. Through ruthless editing and revision, writers can achieve a stronger emotional connection between the protagonist and the viewers/readers, making them root for the character even more.

Overall, killing your darlings leads to improved storytelling and pacing in screenplays.

Keeping the audience engaged

To keep the audience engaged, it is important for screenwriters to “kill their darlings” and remove any unnecessary scenes or characters that don’t contribute to the story. By streamlining the plot and making tough editing decisions, writers can improve storytelling and pacing.

This helps to balance creativity with practicality in order to create a stronger emotional attachment between the audience and the protagonist. Killing one’s darlings is a crucial part of the revision process for writers as they work towards creating compelling narratives that captivate viewers throughout the entire film or show.

Balancing creativity with practicality

To create a compelling screenplay, writers need to find a balance between creativity and practicality. While it’s important to let your imagination run wild, it’s equally vital to consider what will work best for the story.

This means making tough decisions and being willing to let go of ideas or scenes that may be personally cherished but don’t contribute effectively to the overall plot or character development.

By finding this balance, screenwriters can ensure that their creative choices still serve the purpose of engaging the audience and telling an impactful story.


In screenwriting, “Kill Your Darlings” means letting go of your favorite parts to improve the overall quality. It applies to characters, scenes, sentences, and side plots.

By eliminating these darlings, writers can create stronger emotional connections with their audience and improve storytelling. It’s a crucial part of the revision process that helps writers balance creativity with practicality in order to engage their readers effectively.

So remember, sometimes you have to be ruthless and cut out those beloved elements for the greater good of your screenplay!


What does “Kill Your Darlings” mean in screenwriting?

“Kill Your Darlings” is writing advice to remove favorite expressions, delete sentences, or eliminate characters that do not aid or advance the story.

Why should prospective authors kill their darlings?

Prospective authors must be open to ruthless revisions, like cutting prose and omitting side plots for better narrative pacing and effective cinematic techniques.

What could be some ‘darlings’ in my script?

‘Darlings’ can be your favorite phrases, tropes, or even scenes that you love, but they may slow down the story flow or distort the creative process.

Does killing your darlings make my script better?

Yes, by removing unnecessary cruft from your script, you will make your script more focused on serving its main purpose, which makes it better.

How do I go about the process of killing my darlings?

The first step is to perform a thorough script analysis and recognize what needs removal; then have the courage to revise.