Layering

>> Friday, June 01, 2007

It's all the rage...just as my 15yo daughter. But, of course, here I'm not talking about fashion.


Linda first introduced me to the concept of layering, oh, seems like years ago. Oh. Okay. It was years ago. (How frightening is that?)

She'd talk about "layering in emotion", "layering in senses", "layering in conflict", layering in backstory"... you get the picture. And, while I cyber-nodded as if I understood, I was sitting behind my computer screen with my head cocked wondering what the hell she meant by that. (But you knew that, didn't you, Lin?)

It didn't take long to understand how revision spotlights those areas of your ms that aren't quite developed or are ripe for additional information that can tie in somewhere else in the story to make it richer as a whole.

Coincidentally, Linda has blogged on revisions over at Romance Worth Killing For today, so head over and check it out.

Now I layer all the time. With every pass my eyes make over the page, I layer.

But in those instances, I'm adding layers.

When it comes to my characters, every revision uncovers another layer of their identity.

I try, try, try to get to know my characters--I do character sheets, questionnaires, backstory, childhood history. I produce GMC charts for all main characters including the villain and typically for a couple of key secondary characters. I develop conflict and GMC from the heart of each character. When I'm in a character's pov, I try, try, try to be in their head, seeing from their eyes, feeling from their body, thinking from their brain.

I slip constantly and find myself back on the outside looking in. Have to regroup, reposition and go at it again.

But I've noticed that when it comes to characters, the biggest opportunity to get closer to them is during revision. With each change, they inch closer to reality, take on another unique characteristic. Even though I'm, admittedly, not a fan of revisions, I have to admit that if there's one thing I love about them is the way my characters come to life, little by little. And by the time I've revised the hell out of a manuscript, I've come to know my h/h/v like I did those who are now my closest friends.

Do you layer? How do your characters develop?

4 comments:

Linda Winfree 1:59 PM  

I definitely layer, but you knew that. :-)

I spend a lot of time delving into my characters before I write . . . but I learn things through revising, too.

Neat post!

Elisa 3:38 PM  

I layer. I write a basic first draft in about a week, and then spend a much longer time going over each chapter individually, and then the whole book several times, adding details as I go.

I do character interviews and take lots of notes about them as the ideas come to me, but I usually write three chapters before I get too deeply into the characters. I used to create them first, but they sometimes felt forced, like I was trying to stuff them into molds they didn't belong in.

Now I let them create themselves, and once I've been introduced to them, I can get down to the little details that shape who they are.

Man...I'm suddenly feeling a little less than sane right now. *g*

Stewart Sternberg 8:38 PM  

What a wonderful post. I shall have to stop by this blog more often.

Layering has to occur in revision, in my opinion. It's something you can do with a character after you have spent time with them and gotten to know their idiosyncrasies. Some gestures, some expressions, some phrases of speech, seem to evolve as we go along. Going back and reworking the material seems a natural thing to do.

A book may be born in the writing, but it comes to life in the rewrite.

Joan Swan 7:57 AM  

Thanks Stewart.

I agree. I see it in a parallel with sculpture. The first draft is a lump of clay--the right size, rough shape. The revisions start bulky and refine with each pass until you have all the details carved perfectly.

Hope you come by again.

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