kill one's darlings

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From a reported remark by William Faulkner (1897-1962), advising prospective authors that they must kill their "darlings", i.e. suppress overuse of their favorite expressions, tropes, characters, etc.


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kill one's darlings

  1. (idiomatic) To destroy, especially with conflicted motives, things or persons of which one is fond.
    • 1965, Raymond Léopold Bruckerger, The History of Jesus Christ, page 161:
      Someone asked William Faulkner what the supreme law of art was, and he replied in three words: "Kill your darlings!"
    • 2008 January 20, Virginia Heffernan, “Art in the Age of Franchising”, in New York Times[1]:
      [Fans] won’t participate in online dialogues and events, visit message boards and chat rooms or design games. As a result, platforms for supplementary advertising aren’t built, starving even the shows fans profess to love [] . Aloof and passive fans kill their darlings.
    • 2011 January 30, Theodore Bale, “Choreographer Koresh debuts Sense of Human”, in Houston Chronicle[2]:
      In sharp contrast to choreographers who try to build a repertory that reflects an ongoing personal style, Koresh prefers to "kill his darlings," as he puts it, and start from scratch.
    • 2015 March 28, Ted Loos, “The Whitney Museum’s New Home”, in Wall Street Journal[3]:
      As the curators sifted through more than 100 years of artworks, disagreements inevitably arose. “We all had to kill our darlings,” says Foster.