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Sunday, April 03, 2011


Layers in Life and Writing

While looking through Facebook photos, I noticed the different hairstyles of my friends. Hairstyles have certainly changed over the years; my all time favorite—the layered cut. The "Shag", the long shag, the short shag, it didn't matter as long as there were lots of layers. I like layers.

Cakes come in layers and we layer clothes. Make-up (which I don't care much for) is layered and bricks,to build a nice house, are layered. My life is multi-layered and yours is too. 

Characters in a novel or even a short story need to be multi- layered. 

Think about the character in the book you're reading or in the one you're writing, how many layers does the character have? What are the obstacles? How many are from the present and how many are from the past? If your character only exposes one layer, how interesting does that make her? 

Here's a check list:
  1. What overall problem needs to solving?
  2. What additional problem can be added (key word additional)?
  3. And what additional problem can be added? 
Problems, problems and more problems make layers. The main character should have, at the very least, three problems. In my WIP (work in progress), Jill is an FBI agent trying to catch a serial killer, she's dealing with the multiple shootings she's been involved in, struggling with the fact that she doesn't have children and that she's attracted to her partner. Like all of us, she has much, more than that going on in her life, but that gives you an idea of the kinds of problems one character should have. 

Jill's partner, Jack has his own set of problems that build up the layers of his character. He's twice-divorced, has a 5 year old daughter who he's trying to get custody of, he can't keep partners or a steady relationship. He never had a little sister, so he tries to make Jill his sister. He's trying to catch a serial killer. 

Problems and conflict are synonymous when it comes to your characters life. 

Joy Cagil, in comparing writing a novel to screen writing, says, "Creating a conflict inside the story begins with setting up a motivation. The question to ask here is what does the character want the most? Motivation is important because it makes the audience identify with the character. This doesn't mean that the character has to be goody two shoes, but what he wants the most--be it to blow off the planet--has to be of interest to the reader or the viewer. When the viewer's curiosity is aroused, he'll stay with the story to see if the character will succeed in his quest.

The screenwriter likes to "create a platform" so he can push forward the motivation of the character. This means creating a scene or a sequence of scenes that state the point of the story clearly, so the audience or readers can penetrate inside the character. At this stage, the character's touch-up characteristics or his shades may be developed that were left out in the initial planning of the story."

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Blogger Cher'ley said...

How does layers effect your life?

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Rita said...

Sure would like a piece of that CAKE!!! Good article Cherley.. I have lots of layers in my hair now and I really need to get a hair cut!

6:56 AM  

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