Kill Your Darlings (not the dog)

It’s long been said amongst writers that we must “kill our darlings”. For those that are unaware, this seemingly psychopathic phrase isn’t about killing your babies or your favourite characters (although it is fun to make readers cry); it’s about cutting out elements from your novel that serve no purpose to the work as a whole, even if it’s something we adore. This was one piece of writing advice I got from my writing teacher and inspiration in middle school. The other was this:

“Whatever you do, don’t kill the dog. Killing people in fiction is mostly fine, but touch the animals and readers will hate you.”

And I mean, who hasn’t read a book or watched a movie that involves the death of a dog and cried your eyes out? If you haven’t, you’re clearly not human. Some of us still tear-up at the mention of Marley & Me — “some” including me. But when people die, especially when they go as quickly as on Game of Thrones, I find that I have to be really connected to them in order to shed a tear. But an animal? I don’t even have to know its name to cry my eyes out.

Exhibit A of this post is a new book called The Edge of Everything (if you haven’t heard of it, there’s more information down below). What’s worse than a dog dying in a book? A dog being killed in a book. And what’s even worse than that? Animal abuse. I can’t even think about it without feeling absolutely sick to my stomach. But that was what I found myself reading when I picked up The Edge of Everything. The blatant abuse of animals.

Let me set the scene for you so that you don’t have to read it for yourself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into graphics. So a teen and her younger brother are hiding in a seemingly abandoned cabin with their two dogs to escape the blizzard conditions outside when a vehicle is seen driving towards the cabin. The dog runs outside, barking, and is hit by the on-coming car. If you think that’s bad, it gets worse. The man comes inside and he hates the remaining dog for a reason that isn’t made known to us. After the girl and her brother hide from the man with the dog, eventually the man spots the dog and drags it outside, attempting to drown it in the freezing lake outside the cabin.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to that dog because I refused to read on. I’d heard amazing things about The Edge of Everything and I was really excited to read it, but I simply couldn’t stomach reading about animal abuse. It was disgusting, vile, and very disturbing. I had planned to just put down the book for a day and get back to it, but that book was honestly doing me more harm than good, and I couldn’t inflict that upon myself any longer. The fact that we didn’t even know why the man in the novel was doing this made it worse, and also made it seem irrelevant to the storyline, not that an “excuse” would have made this aspect better. I mean, was this part really integral to the overall narrative? Kill your darlings, man.

I know that the animal abuse is enough to turn a lot of readers off picking up this novel, but that’s not the only problem it has. Immediately after opening the first page, I saw a jibe about vegans. As a vegan, I was insulted that the protagonist thought it was okay to make fun of the way vegans choose to live and what they decide to eat, but I thought I’d let it slide for the moment. But then came another insult. This time I couldn’t ignore it. These “jokes” were unnecessary to the storyline and serve no real purpose other than to anger or hurt vegans like myself.

Lastly, I wasn’t even that interested in the story once I started reading it. I didn’t immediately connect to the main character, which would have helped me feel as though I had to keep reading, and because of that, I didn’t really care about what would happen after the incident at the cabin. I just wanted to get out of there. There’s also talk of there being insta-love, so I’m glad I didn’t continue and thus get even more frustrated with this novel. The few pages I read were enough to put me off it for a lifetime. If you’re someone who gets emotional over the deaths of animals or simply just has a heart and doesn’t want to read about animals being abused, please pick up something else. I suggest The Unexpected Everything — a cute contemporary YA about a girl who starts working for a dog-walking company and falls in love with a boy she meets while walking an insane number of dogs.

Let's Talk

Do you often cry in books or movies where an animal or pet dies? Have you read The Edge of Everything and did you find that part difficult to get through? How did you find the rest of the novel? If you haven’t read this one yet, do you think you’ll still pick it up? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

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The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

The Unexpected Everything Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

The Edge of Everything – by Jeff Giles

the-edge-of-everythingIt’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future.

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19 thoughts on “Kill Your Darlings (not the dog)

  1. Hi Sarah!
    Loving your blog posts! I loved Marley and me, but I do agree that it was really sad and make me cry! I think that if I were to read ‘The Edge of Everything’ I would not be able to keep a dry eye!
    Nilou fro Critter Critics

  2. I read TEOE and if it makes you feel any better, both the dogs are okay in the end. There’s actually a cute scene where they keep the younger brother warm in the snow! I agree that the animal abuse was difficult to get through, and to be honest the book was average. And yes – I cry every time an animal dies in any movie or book!!!!

  3. I like how you have taken the picture of the edge of everything among the flowers. From What you have described about the book, I think, they both are poles apart. I agree with you that animal abuse is one of the most disgusting things. woah, I Just checked the description of the book and it sounds to me like – beauty meets the beast. Thanks for sharing, you have a beautiful blog. 🙂

  4. Don’t pick up Stephen King novels Sarah! He always breaks my heart EVERYTIME I see a character has a dog I already start to sob because they always end up dying in his books 😭 Thank fully it’s not from abuse like this one but from accidents, police or supernatural forces but still… one of his books had a German shepherd (which I have) and I stopped reading and went and cuddled my dog and just skipped ahead a few lages where everything was fine again. The unexpected everything is the best though! I loved Andi and all her dog walking antics plus the love interest is a fantasy writer could I ask for more 😍😂

    • Haha oh no! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to read a Stephen King novel, but now I’m terrified to 😭 That’s not AS BAD, but still devastating. And I know right! THE UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING is amazing and I’m definitely in need of a reread 😍🙌🏼

      • Let me know which one your planning to read and I can probably tell you if it’s one where the pupper dies 😦

        I do recommend starting with Carrie tho! It’s short and basically of Matilda decided to be a murderer it’s my fave of his 🙂 no animal deaths just humans 😄

      • I’ve always wanted to read IT, especially because I love the movie STUCK IN LOVE and a particular character practically worships Stephen King and that book. I’ll definitely have to read CARRIE though! I’ve seen both versions of the movie and I loved them. I’m always up for horror (and human deaths haha)! 😜

      • I really like the movies as well both are really good… just stay away from Under the Dome and maybe Pet Sematary (even though that is one of my faves and technically the animals don’t die coz zombies?) I haven’t read IT yet I have it sitting at home just waiting until I’m ready for a huge book

      • Okay awesome, thanks for the heads up! I watched the first season of UNDER THE DOME but it got so weird in the second, so I had to stop 🙈😂 Did you ever watch that show? And yes, IT is MASSIVE! I’ll have to psych myself up for it 💪🏼

      • The show is so much different to the book, I bought all 3 seasons but stopped at season one I may watch the rest eventually but I didn’t like it that much (I really liked the book asides from the obvious puppy being sacrificed) it’s 1000 pages but all set over a week and from the whole towns POV (even animals have voices) it was just really well written.

  5. I absolutely cry every time an animal dies in any kind of format [book, movie, video game.] heck, in the video game Until Dawn, a wolf sidekick can die if you make a wrong choice and I was SO upset with myself when I did that.

    I also cried during Game of Thrones when bad things happened to the Direwolves.

    Just don’t get me started on Marley & Me….

  6. TOTALLY agree with you on this, especially when it’s just done for shock value, ugh! I really want to read The Road to Winter but the fact that it’s dystopian & the MC has a dog as his only friend is a little worrying…

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