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Survival of the Fittest

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

As I understand Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, in nature, whatever can survive best in its environment will endure, allowing its offspring to evolve over generations.  The theory covers lizards in the Galapagos, the prehensile nature of elephant trunks, and my own lack of a tail.  I find the idea elegant and rather beautiful.

I’d like to propose the theory of Writing Darwinism, where the environment is the novel, and the characters and plot points that can survive generations of revisions must be able to evolve and adapt.  Uncut characters must develop layers of history and motivation.  They gain quirks and speak more frankly, or get better at lying.  The plot must take chances, and then get streamlined, and then expand again.  Fluffy baby ducklings of prose get honed for voice and pacing, or eaten by a hawk.  The whole novel-environment has to hang together or it will become a ghost landscape with nothing but corpses, bony corpses à la Georgia O’Keeffe.

Tempting as it is at this moment to have a meteor crash into my particular novel environment and destroy all life forms, I remind myself to have patience.  Not everything has to be perfect in this draft.  I will have more chances.  I, myself, will survive this novel and come out the other end of it, if not fit, at least better able to adapt.

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