Layering it on.
This post is a craft piece, one a critique partner of mine has suggested I attempt. Developing the process of layering.
What is layering? Why do I choose to use it?
Layering is one of the processes by which an author builds the image and the nature of a character. I think of it rather like getting to know a new friend.
At first meeting with a new friend, you may take in their appearance or elements of it, hair color, height, eyes and mostly their smile. You will discover their name, perhaps their age and you will find out some of their individual likes and dislikes. These will most likely match your own, that is the beginning of their attraction as a friend.
When I write a new character, the process is a little like establishing a friendship. It is then the layering process starts and it might take several chapters until the complete character, with all their faults and foibles, their strengths and finer qualities are whole for the reader. The process will continue until the last page as the character develops through interaction with others and changes due to events, or by achieving their personal goal.
I believe this process of building the character in incremental steps enhances the reader’s pleasure in getting to know the character, in becoming familiar with them and wanting the best for them. The last phrase is the important key to reader involvement.
Layering not only gives characters life but also shows readers their world. The reader discovers more and more about the characters in the story, sees their motivations, finds out what makes them tick and how they function in a clearly visualized world.
Complex? Yes. Layering is one of the methods I choose to use. I want my readers to be swept to another world, I want them cheering for my hero and heroine to succeed. Most of all I want my readers oblivious to outside distractions as they experience triumph or despair with my characters.
Below there is a little example of some steps of layering for you. I do hope you think it works.
“Blond Bessie, I know her, she works at the Red Lion Tavern. She’s a brawny wench with a bright eye and ample bosom.”
“Who did you say you were looking for? Oh, Blonde Bessie. I know her, there’s not many round here who don’t. She’s the main wench at the Red Lion Tavern. A brawny lass with a bright eye and ample bosom. You’ll find here there right now. She’s there from noon to dark.”
After a morning wandering along the narrow streets, dodging to avoid the filth from the gutters and the spill from chamber pots emptied out of casement windows, he could have given up the search. Across the alleyway in rare patch of sunlight, an old man took his ease.
The old codger sat on top of a keg caught his eye. The gnarled features resembled weathered oak. Thin lips pursed around a pipe stem wedged at the side of his mouth and puffs of smoke rose, but the eyes held a spark.
If luck were with him, perhaps this fellow might know of her. He stepped across the street. “Good day to you. I’m looking for a woman known as Blonde Bessie. Have you heard of her?”
“Who did you say you were looking for? Oh, blonde Bessie. What do you want with her? Not your sort, me lord, or so I’d say.”
“I have a message for her from her brother. It is vital she is gets this information. Tell me where I can find her.” He pulled a half shilling from his pocket and let the sun reflect on the silver coin.
“Right ye are, yer lordship. I know Bess, there’s not many round here who don’t. She’s the main wench at the Red Lion Tavern. A brawny lass with a mess of fair hair, a bright eye and ample bosom. You’ll find here there right now. She works from noon to dark.”
This is how a story might grow with additional layers of information in both dialogue and description. And no, this isn’t from one of my published stories. I made this little snippet up for this post, but guess what? I rather like the idea of this. I want to find out what the message is and who is his lordship? Why is he carrying a message to a tavern wench? Ah, snared again. I think I might have to go on and write some more. This might even turn into a whole story. If it does, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for reading.