Quick Tip: Adding Layers

Friday, September 4, 2009
Adding layers to your story makes it feel deeper and more realistic. I find that I come up with ideas for adding these layers as I go. Oftentimes I don't want to stop my momentum to rewrite the story, so I keep an extra Word document full of notes. After I've finished a rough draft, I go back and add a sentence here, a paragraph there.

Here's a few ideas of things to add to help you find your own layering ideas:

1. Add some type of religious views. Everyone, even atheists, have some set of beliefs. After all, believing in nothing is still a belief. (I add this because I royally suck at it :) )

2. A childhood memory that affects your character. I think it's fun to use something negative/embarrassing/sad. But especially embarrassing. It makes your character more approachable.

3. Some odd, but realistic tradition (they're fun to write!). After all, we Americans have many odd holidays. Halloween comes to mind. If you're writing contemporary, put a twist on a tradition. Like corndogs for Christmas Eve.

4. Myths/superstitions.

5. One flaw. Be it physical like a mole, scar, chipped tooth, broken nose, big ears, bushy eyebrows. I find that writers (me included) describe all the beautiful parts of our heroes and forget to add a flaw. That flaw is important. It makes the character real. Perhaps your character is exceedingly clumsy, stutters, bites her nails. My MC in my WIP bites the inside of her cheek when she's angry. There's a million and one different ways to make our characters imperfect. (Look at yourself for ideas). :)

Q4U: What kinds of flaws do your heroes/heroines have?


  1. All of my favorite heroines have flaws. I think it makes them much more endearing. In a book I recently reread (again :-) the heroine is young, inexperienced, lacks an education, and is recently impoverished. The author never gave a flaw for her physical description, though. Maybe it would have been an improvement.

  1. Great post! I've been wanting to add a layer of religion to Monarch. I think it's hard for me being so religious - to add religion to my characters. Not sure why... but it's something I need to work on! Thanks for the thoughts!

  1. Odd but realistic tradition:

    Waiting to cut hair unti the child is three years old (realish, actually: came out of a story from my dad-- he had red ringlets before his dad couldn't stand it any more and cut them against his mother's wishes).

    Traditions that hinge on an age/specific timeline are doubly useful because they convey information indirectly (to people who pay attention, anyway).

    Flaws: clubfoot and impatience.

    Impatience b/c I'm so familiar with it, clubfoot b/c it physically illustrates other forms of clumsiness (e.g., verbal).

  1. Becky: What was the book?

    Glamis: I have the same problem. Part of it is the genre. It's hard to include religion in YA.

    Amy: Everyone thought my middle son was a girl b/c he had gorgeous brown curls and long eyelashes.

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