Using layering as a tool to write fiction and essays

airesflora Jan 10, 2008 Other
In most writing classes you learn to answer the basic journalistic questions: who, what, why, when, where and how. Many writers approach this trying to weave this in to the original draft and end up feeling defeated. Here's a technique to help anyone trying to write fiction, memoirs, essays, or even non-technical non-fiction achieve that goal. It's easy. You don't have to think about it, and it will enhance the feel of your writing with ease.
First, various types of the thesaurus is essential to supplement writing. I'm not talking about the online versions. I'm suggesting you create your own. I use a spreadsheet. I have one for colors, another for gestures and feelings. You can create these for any common description you may think of, that could be used at one point in your writing. Smells. Sounds. Touch. All of these do well in a thesaurus you create. Metaphoric references and similes too.

Now draft your project. This is the freewriting stage where you place your ideas on paper. There's no need to follow your outline at this point. Sometimes it's better not to. You let the ideas flow onto the paper and arrange them later. Remember not to get bogged down with grammatical correction or spelling. All of this will be corrected later. Think about your purpose for writing the piece. What is the message you wish to communicate? What are the characters like? How will you place these characters in the plot? What is the storyline?

Now you are ready for layering. I go through and find places where I've narrated. Would this be better turned into meaningful dialogue? If so, I adapt it. The characters now discuss the descriptions in a more meaningful way. Here is where I bring in colloquialisms to give the characters personality. My characters are narrating now, through their own eyes, giving descriptions of what they've seen.

My next step is to add gestures. I have a huge thesaurus I've created with gestures, facial moves, muscular responses, and body language. I weave this into the dialogue. Henri doesn't just speak, but he reacts too when Jessica says something that irks him. Maybe it is the sudden reaction of disgust with a vinegar nose, or it could be a raised eyebrow. Maybe it's even the way two people walk in tandem and mirror one another's body movements if they are a couple. Anything to give the character a personality the reader can see. I take it from there and add gestures as reactions where no dialogue exists. Characters should never be stiff. We do not speak without action, even if it's looking to the left and thinking, while the person they speak to wonders if this indicates they are lying.

Here is where I add the senses: touch, smell, taste, sounds. For me, nothing does this quite as effective as a metaphoric reference. Instead of saying she had a screachy voice, use a metaphor for screeching, that nails on the chalkboard type of metaphor, without using cliched references like the one I just gave. This is the fun part. You create your senses by using your imagination. For me, lavender is fresh smelling. I associate it with Downey, clean clothes, innocense, and all that is pure. So if I'm creating a character with those qualities, I might use the color lavender to provide a smell, giving a metaphor of freshly laundered clothes, instead of saying "Carol's scent was..." This is also the place where I add punch to my scenery. I etch it out by using the senses, what I see, hear, etc.

Now it's time to see if the behaviors of your characters are unique and telling their story. Here's where your list of behaviors comes in. Weave these into scenes. Etch out the character. Give him substance. Make him unique. Does he have a tendency to wash his hands too much to make up for living dishonestly? Work it in.
What did you think of this tutorial?
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1 CommentsAdd a Comment
Janet Grossmire on Aug 6, 2008
Great article!