Killing Your Darlings

Why the scary-sounding practice of “murdering your words” makes for clearer, better, more on-message content


Let’s paint a picture for you. Three of our team members were cooped up in our podcasting studio, working on an introduction for a client podcast. The producer had selected two opening quotations from the guest, and everyone was unanimous in liking the first one more than the second – it showcased the guest’s rebellious streak. The introduction wasn’t so unanimous. The team struggled with it, twisting and turning the language of the intro to suit the quotation. Nothing fit. Exhausted, the producer swapped out the quotation for the second – one about overcoming hurt.

Suddenly, everything clicked into place. The introduction was finalized in five minutes (and the team went home).

This real-life anecdote isn’t a humble-brag about how we work hard to get the story right. It’s a helpful reminder that sometimes, we have to “murder our words” to save the story. 


“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” 

–Stephen King


Why such violent language? As storytellers, we grow attached to the things we write – scripts, blog posts, Tweets, you name it. You spend time writing, but the practice of finding les mots justes and delicate turns of phrase is really creating. Sometimes, those sentences or dialogue are perfect – they move the message along and resonate with the audience. Other times, they just get in the way, and keeping them is your ego telling you it’s more important than telling a good, cohesive, story.

We say “murder your words” at MediaFace because it’s our acknowledgement that someone worked hard and created something great, but it has to go in the interest of something bigger. We could have used a nicer term to get our message across on this one… but we’re not quite ready to kill that darling.

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