Editors, have you ever come across something in a manuscript that seems like a wild left turn, an odd fact or digression whose relevance is completely indiscernible and whose presence is clearly only made accountable by the perverse willfulness of the author?
I had to explain this phenomenon to another editor today. (Don't ask why.) I call it That Marilyn McCoo Thing. Back when "One Less Bell to Answer" was the number one song in America, the Fifth Dimension made a guest appearance, as themselves, on It Takes a Thief. On the show, they were recording "One Less Bell to Answer," and lead singer Marilyn McCoo was insisting on finishing the song with an odd sequence of four dissonant chords. She would not be moved, even though everyone around her--Billy, Lamont, Ron, Florence and the recording engineers--said it was a bad idea. Well. It turned out that Marilyn's brother had been kidnapped by bad guys who threatened to kill him unless the song was recorded with this ending--because the sound waves of the chord sequence, when played over the radio, would cause a bomb, secreted in a ship-in-a-bottle that sat on the desk of someone the bad guys wanted dead, to go off.
So when you ask someone to murder their darlings, be careful.