Writing a Novel in Layers

I find myself so involved in the plot of my story that when I try to consider the myriad of writing techniques and requirements I get lost. Let me explain my dilemma and how I am dealing with this…

My plot is fairly complex. Not that I intended it that way, it just… evolved. At times I think it’s the darn characters fault for taking over the telling of the story, but I’m dealing with an epic fantasy, so I just know it is what it is.

The challenge for me, however, is not so much the plot – at least not more than facing the usual plot problems to ensure I have a tight and interesting plot. It is the rest of the stuff that I need to do to write my novel, and the main issue I confront is characterization.

I’m starting to understand why so some writers that base their novels on plot seem to lack in bringing the characters to their full realization. It is certainly not impossible, but definitely tough to develop a perfect plot for the lives of the perfect characters. I suppose that is the mark of good writers, but I don’t feel I’m THAT good. Not yet, anyway. So I figured out a system to overcome this challenge in my writing: writing in layers.

As I work on my first draft, I focus on the plot, and don’t even feel guilty at my lackluster characterization. I decided to add characterization on my next review, like building another layer of a cake.

I know, or sort of know, how to write good characters. At least I’m familiar with enough techniques to build a memorable character, and I know this because I do have at least one character with a great personality in my book. My decision to focus mostly on plot on this first draft allows me to pay attention to the story, to build a tight and exciting adventure, build good foreshadow that results in revelations are spot on.

On my next review, I can focus on characterization, on adding descriptions, gestures, thoughts, maybe change or add dialog to bring more life to the characters already inside a good plot. And on that next layer, I want to focus on just that.

That would not be my last layer, though. I want to use this same insane technique to add yet another layer of what I call texture. For me, texture includes the senses: sounds, tastes, touch, sight and smells. My theory here is that if I can focus on just that aspect of my novel, I will find all those places where I can add texture to the story and to the characters.

Perhaps it’s because I’m just learning to write, and seasoned writers don’t need to use a layer approach to ensuring plot, characterization, texture and all the good stuff is in their works on their first try. For me, this layered approach really works. I tested this method on reviews I made on earlier chapters, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

Do you have any advice for new writers like me?

1 comment for “Writing a Novel in Layers

  1. H. R. Ryder
    H. R. Ryder
    October 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    The one concern I would have with using this method is that sometimes characterization is what drives the plot. Definitely some characterization would have to be worked out in advance to make certain that the characters are taking the actions that would make sense for them to take.

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