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Friday, January 18, 2008

Putting on the Layers

With temperatures expected to take a major tumble here in the northeast, I’m hearing that a lot. But while wool socks and thermal underwear are what the weather man is talking about, I’m hearing something else.

Adding on layers. Layering. I’m thinking about fleshing out scenes, not covering flesh!

For as long as I’ve been writing, my stories have come to me one way. Straight from the horse’s mouth—or in this case, the hero and heroine’s mouth. I don’t just mean Raz Colt pulling up a chair, propping up those long legs of his and insisting I listen while he tells me his life story. I mean the way my characters talk to each other. That’s pretty much how every scene unfolds for me.

Sometimes my fingers can’t keep up as I struggle to get it all down on paper –sorry, old habit, I mean on screen. Especially when the sparring really gets going.

But at the end of the day all I’m left with is … talking heads. Two people talking, baiting, bantering. But no action. No movement. No emotions!

That’s where the layers come in. One layer for physical gestures. One for external things, like description of the room, the surroundings. Another for emotional responses to charged statements. And another to see if I have any unnecessary tags I can get rid of.

As I continue to fine tune and hone my craft, I think I’m slowly getting better at doing it as I go. But by the time I present it to my critique partners, I still go home with “how does she feel about this?” “What is he doing?” “Where are they?” scrawled on my pages. And as frustrating as it is, I’m glad my CP’s are there to ask these questions and make me look at my scenes from a different angle.

How about you? Do you go back and add layers, and if so, which ones do you have to add?


Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Great blog, Nic. I know I have the same problem with description and settings. My CP used to say that I had 'two talking heads' and what were they wearing, where were they, what smells/sounds in the room/area. Now I work hard to make sure all of these are in my work.

And, yes, God bless our CP's.

Susan Macatee said...

My first draft scenes are always sparse. After all, I can see the scene in my head and know what the characters are feeling, doing and seeing.

It's only when I go back for that second draft that I realize no one reading this for the first time will figure out where they are, what they're doing or how they're feeling.

Sometimes I don't get it all the layers in in the following drafts either--I always miss something-- but my cp group points it out. And then I think, why didn't I see that?

I do think I'm finally starting to get a little better at doing it myself, though.

Paty Jager said...

When I layer it is to add more decriptions. Emotions tend to come as I'm writing.
Great topic, Nic!

Sarita Leone said...

Loved this post! More than I love long underwear, lol.

When I go back it's usually to add the details. The color of a flower, the scent of something baking--those are the things I let wait until I've got the meat of the story down. Then, the fine tuning.

Great topic. And the photo is gorgeous. :)

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sarita! Glad to know I'm not the only one who has to go back and add in layers!

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