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Fiction focus: Kill your darlings

Killing off characters can be cathartic and creatively helpful, but don’t wield the axe indiscriminately, says Margaret James

Most of the novelists I know seem to be happy in their work. But I’m sure even the happiest of novelists must have bad times?

I certainly do.

Once in a thankfully-not-toofrequent while, I reach that ghastly stage in a work-in-non-progress when I feel as if I’m running a marathon in boots full of cement. I don’t know what emotions my characters ought to be feeling. The action seems to have stagnated to the point of standstill. I realise that very soon I’ll need to liven things up a bit. Or even a lot.

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The UK's bestselling writing magazine • Beat writer's block: Busting the myth and dealing with the reality • Revealed: WM's books of the year • Star interview: Stef Penney – intimate emotions, epic landscapes • 20 packed pages of Writers' News: win £50,588 in writing prizes; opportunities to get published; insider know-how and much more...

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