Flat-Ironing a Novel

I am growing out my hair.

This is not a remarkable thing. I’ve had long hair before, but this time I’m highly conscious of it. Three years ago, I died my very long hair black. It was supposed to be temporary—but it wasn’t. I ended up chopping off my hair and wearing it boy-short for awhile. Since the black grew out, I’ve been letting my hair grow long in preparation for my wedding this June.

It’s getting longish now, below my shoulders. It is, depending on how you’re trying to characterize me, either the dark golden-brown of mesquite honey or the drab brown of mouse fur and dead leaves. It also grows erratically—vaguely straight on top, wavy around the ears, curly at the bottom, so I can’t air-dry it without committing to the just-rolled-out-of-bed, hippy-meets-flattening-humidity look. And no one likes that look.

There is one lock, about an inch square, near the nape of my neck in the back, that grows in a perfect, loose, regular spiral curl. It is, without a doubt, the prettiest part of my hair.

Usually I blow-dry and flat-iron it straight, though. It would be way more work to make the rest of my hair match that beautiful curl—work I’m not really capable of. When I curl my hair, it tends to end up resembling River Song’s, and not in a good way.

I LOVE River's hair

I have to crush that curl, flatten it, erase its existence, to make it meld with the rest of my hair.

It’s the beauty equivalent of killing your darlings. Sometimes you have to cut the most poetic, intriguing character or subplot for the sake of the rest of the novel. Sometimes our darlings just don’t match the rest of our plot. It would take forever to rewrite your book to suit that darling, just like it would take forever to put my hair into spiral curls. And in the end, sometimes you just end up with frizz and split ends.

Sure, it’s in your novel’s best interest. It’s in my hair’s best interest to flatten that lovely curl.

That doesn’t make it any less of a bummer, though.

Have you had to kill a darling (book or hair), readers? How did it feel?

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10 thoughts on “Flat-Ironing a Novel

  1. Ah, I have curly hair, too. Last week, I ran out of my usual after-bath hair cream. It was NOT pretty. I think once we learn what tools work best for us, it becomes easier and less intimidating to make changes, both with our hair and with our novels.

    Love the hair to writing analogy! 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      I think you have a point–it’s about learning to work with our hair (and novel), rather than against it. We can’t always force it to be something it doesn’t want to be.

  2. I recently had to kill a darling in my WIP. I was sad to let go of her, but the end result has been a WIP that has more tension and better pacing. The other characters seem happier to have her out of the picture, too, something I hadn’t anticipated. 🙂

    1. HA! How funny. I haven’t had to kill a darling character–yet. I know I’ll have to if I ever go back to my first novel… that is if I don’t just rewrite that one from scratch! Mine is a too-many-viewpoints issue, and while I’ll be sad to let him go, he’ll still be in the book, just not a viewpoint character.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 Not usually painful, though I do have a history of burning the rim of my ear with a curling iron! (Ouch.)

  3. What a great analogy! After years of being ridiculously straight (so straight it wouldn’t hold a curl dipped in hair spray for an hour) it now has just enough wave to be … a mess. LOL. So i either add more curl, which it will now thankfully hold … or iron it flat, which I hate because I like curl. I’m hoping as I continue to age, it will continue to curl. But then I might look like a poodle at 60. Hmmm…

    1. I wish my hair would just be one or the other — I’d take straight OR curly, rather than a weird mixture of both. Stupid weirdo hair. Though mine has definitely gotten curlier as the years pass. Here’s to a joint wish of non-poodley hair at 60! 🙂

  4. We clearly have the exact same hair.

    Mine is straight on top, curly on the right side and wavy on the left, with ringlets around the ears. I have to do something with it at all times.

    I am about to do another run at my novel with a machete as soon as Mr. Surly Muse sends me his notes, so I’m readying the war cry while my darlings cower in fear.

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