Today I'm kicking off a new and somewhat (artistically) violent KatTales feature: My Murdered Darling. Every author has some favourite thing that didn't make it into their final story, whether that's a character, scene, subplot, or major story idea. The act of taking those items out is known as murdering your darlings. Here's Daniel M. Benson on how dinosaurs helped him off some cherished characters in GROOM OF THE TYRANNOSAUR QUEEN, and why that made the book better (dinosaurs always make books better).
Are everyone's novels built upon the bones of dead characters and deleted scenes? I haven't done any sort of survey, but mine certainly are. I'll start with a cool little scene or idea that's just so neat and nifty and I can't wait to expand it into novel—oops, I squished it. And that scene I wrote about the shark fight! Man what a shark fight that was! Nope, doesn't fit with the flow of the rest of the chapter. And that whole Pachycephalosaurus wrangling thing? No time. Had to go. Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen is a big, slimy, sprawling, epic that ended up a sleek little adventure story. But not without lots of carnage. Like the two whole Point-Of-View characters I had to kill off.
Tyrannosaur Queen is about a soldier from the 21st century who is captured by a nomad warlord from a lost time-colony. It's also about the use of power and the corrupting influence thereof, so I wanted to have the POV characters reflect different angles on power and how you can use or misuse it. You got your warlord with a big mystical sword, you got your modern soldier stripped of her modern weapons, you got your nerdy scientist who wasn't stripped, you got your spoiled bronze-age princess and all her daddy's soldiers. You also got your huge tyrannosaur who chases down and eats anything that gets close enough, but it doesn't get to narrate any scenes.
Originally, though, I was also going to have another scientist and her lover, the bronze-age priest. While the first scientist gives into the temptation to use his futuristic armor to force the natives to give him what he wants, the second one was supposed to realize that the natives were real people and try to lift them up to her level. But then I have a story about the differences between these two scientists, and what does the soldier have to do?
So I killed that scientist, I killed the native priest, and I used their deaths to drive the remaining scientist insane with paranoia. He uses his power to dig himself ever deeper into evil, while the soldier uses her relationship with her adopted tribe to achieve a deeper and more stable kind of power. Nice how that worked out.
Unfortunately for the title of this essay, I didn't actually murder those characters with dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are just animals and they just don't present the kind of danger that humans do. I killed the extra scientist with bronze-age soldiers, and the priest died when the other scientist freaked out, picked up the priest, and threw him through those same soldiers. Later on, there is a pissed Gallimimus and a hungry tyrannosaur—but no spoilers. If you want to see how the rest of the cast dies, you've got to read the book.
GROOM OF THE TYRANNOSAUR QUEEN is a time-travel romance with dinosaurs, available now as a Kindle book.
Former soldier Andrea Herrera isn’t happy with where her life’s taken her. Specifically, to Hell Creek, Montana, 65 million years before the present. As far as careers go, making sure the dinosaurs don’t eat her paleontologist clients comes in a pretty dismal second choice to serving her country. But when their time machine malfunctions, Andrea and her team are trapped in a timeline that shouldn’t exist with something a hell of a lot more dangerous than terrible lizards: other humans.