Lately, God has been speaking to me quite clearly. He keeps repeating the word “miracles”. As I am currently dealing with some tough life stuff, this word is especially meaningful. Obviously, God speaks to each person differently, and He reveals truth in many ways; although, His truth always remains the same. One way that God speaks to me is by repeating a particular word, idea, or theme. In this particular instance, the word “miracle” has come through several different people, one email, and the book of Matthew which I am currently reading through for my devotions.
As I read through new manuscripts, something that always makes me take another look is a tightly layered story. For example, let’s say that you are writing a story about a family provider. In what ways could you show that character as a provider? Perhaps you could give him/her the last name of “Baker”. You would definitely show that character actually providing for the family: buying groceries, cooking meals, earning money. You might highlight the antagonist doing something in direct opposition to your main character, so he or she, instead of providing, would take away: steal money, ruin a relationship, work as a tax collector (no offense to any tax collectors out there).
Beyond emphasizing a particular character, you also want to pay attention to the language that you use. Perhaps choose a word or two, or an idea, to repeat throughout your story. Trace that word/idea over the course of your story during significant moments that will move your manuscript forward.
Also, integrating key setting elements is important. You might focus in on a particular building, almost making it a character. Then, destruction could come to that building during the climax of your story. Or the building could undergo a transformation, again, highlighting the character of it.
And layering plot throughout story is important as well. Create scenes that build on each other and move the reader forward in exciting ways.
Finally, when you have done several revisions on your story, then the layering part becomes fun. Include your audience! If you are in a critique group, pay attention to their likes and dislikes: reference their favorite TV show, name a character after one of their children, reference something from their current WIP. Doing this last part really only speaks to one or two people, but I have always found it to be the most enjoyable part of story writing. Plus, it will make certain readers think that you are only writing for them which is one of the amazing wonders of story writing.
When you have worked through so many drafts, however, there comes a time when you must stop layering. Yes, it is fun to trace a theme throughout your novel, read it from start to finish, and come to the end and think, “Wow, I am good!” However, you don’t want to overemphasize a particular theme. Your readers are smart. Encourage them to dig for the themes within your story.
Layered cake tastes good as long as their is only so much frosting separating the layers. Don’t make it too sweet.
Question for you: What layers do you currently have in your WIP? Are there others that you could add?