Have you ever wondered how a writer came up with an idea, scene, or story? You might be tempted to think their mind just spit it out in the condition that you saw or read it, but don’t be fooled. Good writers plan the scenes and plot those exciting threads. Great writers plan each part out using layers. Let me explain. Every story is supposed to have a few basics:
Layer One Someone to love Someone to hate Friction or bonding between characters Verification of personalities and choices Influences from secondary characters, environment and social situations A start, middle, and ending of some sort.
Layer Two Now we’ll add on a layer for the genre of book. Let’s go with horror, so we need: Moments that produce horror Moments that lead to producing horror Horror aftermaths. We also have to have verification of choices during horror, including, but not limited to: Scenery Weapons and gear food and water Shelter and warmth Medical care Flight or fight mentality Communication
Layer Three Now, we’ll go into the light details. To be horror, the mood has to be scary. Giggling is discouraged. Grins need to be changed to uneasy stretches of lips. In horror, weather often plays an important role, so we have to be sure we match the scary mood. Children outside playing happily in water sprinklers will distract the reader/viewer from the scare they are about to get. It bursts the tension that we’ve built. Our bad guy has to react properly to the characters. He has to be believable in his motivation and methods Our good guy also has to be believable as in his dialogue and methods. His motivation (fighting the bad guy) should be obvious.
Layer Four A fourth layer must go on now to keep track of all these threads. For example, if you have a snowstorm one day, you must make sure the cold is mentioned and there is still snow the next day unless it rains or floods or the sun sets directly on your iceberg. Details must be verified. Readers hate it when you screw up and have the same character in two places at one time. (I’m so sorry!) It was a simple name error, but it makes you look like an idiot. I call this layer the ‘make sure I’ve got them all where they should be’ layer.
Layer five For the fifth layer, we have to be sure we’re giving conclusions. All the above items gave us potential threads to be followed and finished. People hate to be left hanging, unless it is a series and even then, writers are supposed to tread carefully. All those small moments that were set up have to be finished. Series are different, but even in those, a writer must eventually conclude that thread.
Layer Six For the sixth layer, we have to explore the main theme of the book. We ask ourselves 7 basic questions about the story: Is there enough action? Is the dialogue appropriate for the character and situation? Will the reader understand? Did the character have a good reason for reacting that way? Was the scene boring? Is the setting clear and appropriate for the scene? Does the scene move the story along or is it just fluff?
Layer Seven The final layer, for the writers who have the energy left, is to ask, of each and every scene or plot thread: How can I make it better? What if I changed, switched…
The Next Step Now that we have put together the 15-35 page draft using the seven layers above, an author is finally ready to write the stories you love. It can be exhausting, even on shorter works. That’s why it takes so long. The tales don’t spit themselves out in full form. Writers shape them into cohesive, coherent (we hope!) tales that might last forever. Then they sleep.
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