Friday, July 25, 2008


I thought adding layers had to do primarily with the five senses. You know. Making sure each of my scenes incorporate smell, sight, touch, sound, and oh yeah . . . taste. Some combination of those.

Man, was I wrong.

A section of the course being taught by Colleen Coble through ACFW deals with adding layers to our stories. And she's not referring to cake. Darn. Any excuse will do . . .

The concept, on the surface quite clear but difficult for me to work through once I got into it, is that layers have nothing to do with feelings. Nothing to do with character. Nothing to do with history or backstory. Nothing.

Layers in the writing world are the elements in life that are edgy. Burdensome. Problems. Little blisters that pop all over my otherwise pristine world. Poking and jabbing sticks that threaten my supreme focus. Layers are external conflict that mean I'm alive. Or rather, that my character is alive.

These external conflicts, not associated with my main story, create a full life for my character. One readers can identify with. Unlike subplots that eventually must tie in with my main plot, layers for my characters are uniquely theirs.

A layer could be the brother-in-law who is having an affair but expects my character to keep it a secret. Or the constant call from an old flame, bent on "re-connecting." It could be an ill parent, or a sibling who is constantly in trouble. It could also be the car that is constantly breaking down, or the rental unit that is a cash sucker-upper.

How my character handles these layers will end up building her credibility in the eyes of my readers, but that's as internal as they get.

So today, after continuing to work on my plot evaluation, I have extra stickies that have been added. Many of them say "Add layers."

Now I'll know what I mean.

For those of you who thought my initial concept of layers was too funny for words, you should've been around when the idea of POV first came up. Point of view? Well, duh. What's complicated about that? Everything I write is MY point of view.


Still reading To the Power of Three.
You know what I'm working on.

It's all better with friends.


  1. I like this explanation of layers. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I love the picture. I am so dissapointed you weren't offering to ship each one who posted a slice of it.

    Just kidding.

    Colleen's class is awesome, isn't it?

  3. I never heard of this definition of layers. I always thought that I layed by the way I write. I put down the main plot idea, then come back and add personal things, then finally maybe a spiritual aspect. But it always tied in together. I like this a lot better.

  4. Thanks, Helen and Mary. I'm just passing on what I learned from Colleen's course.

    Glad it helps.

  5. Sharon, hi! We're on a little road trip and I missed your comment. Sorry.

    The class is terrific. Well, the instructor is and the material is . . . with me in the class the word awesome is a bit of a stretch. LOL.

    I know I'll need to reevaluate this stuff often, but it feels like it's gonna stick.