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Monday, June 10, 2013

Writing in Layers

MUSE MONDAY

At a book club the other night, one of the readers asked me "what is your process when you write?" That's a huge question, so after we talked a moment I understood what she wanted to know had more to do with how I build a scene than with my whole process. Which is an easy question for me to answer.

I layer. Every scene has layers - dialogue, setting descriptions, sound, smell, conflict, action and so on. Not every scene has it all, but has to have enough layers to carry the story forward. Where I begin depends on what comes to me first. I have to say dialogue comes the easiest to me and many scenes start there. I'll give an example of layering in a scene from The Morning After. First, I might write:

“You taste as good as honey to a bee. Just like last night. But you should eat before we go any further.”
Speechless, she stared at his back. This man had her ready to kick him out one moment, and limp with desire the next.
“I hope you use my name, but if you insist, you can keep your own name. Course, since you’ve never been married and told me you’re aware of the old ticking clock, I would think you might want to shout the news out over the rooftops.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“Hey, calm down. You’d think you’re the redhead. You’re the love of my life.”
“And you’re the ambiguity of mine.”
“I hope that means you love me. You do, don’t you?”
“What makes you think we have a future? We don’t even have a present. I was impulsive, rash and careless last night. I’m quite sure whatever we did can be undone.”
“What you were was splendid and spirited. Look at us here; we have a present. And a beautiful future.” He thumped a fist over his heart. “It was definitely love at first sight this time.”
“What do you mean this time?”

Then I might add a little more action (in red):


“You taste as good as honey to a bee. Just like last night. But you should eat before we go any further.” He walked to the coffee pot to refill their cups.
Speechless, she stared at his back. This man had her ready to kick him out one moment, and limp with desire the next.
“I hope you use my name, but if you insist, you can keep your own name. Course, since you’ve never been married and told me you’re aware of the old ticking clock, I would think you might want to shout the news out over the rooftops.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“Hey, calm down. You’d think you’re the redhead. You’re the love of my life.”
“And you’re the ambiguity of mine.”
He put plates of crepes, three to a plate, and mugs of coffee on each side of the table before sitting in the chair opposite her. “I hope that means you love me. You do, don’t you?”
“What makes you think we have a future? We don’t even have a present. I was impulsive, rash and careless last night. I’m quite sure whatever we did can be undone.”
“What you were was splendid and spirited. Look at us here; we have a present. And a beautiful future.” He thumped a fist over his heart. “It was definitely love at first sight this time.”
She lifted her coffee cup but froze before it reached her mouth. “What do you mean this time?” Over the rim of her cup, she studied him through narrowed eyes.

 And finally, I would add another layer with some more emotion and sensory elements:

“You taste as good as honey to a bee. Just like last night. But you should eat before we go any further.” He walked to the coffee pot to refill their cups.
Speechless, she stared at his back. This man had her ready to kick him out one moment, and limp with desire the next.
“I hope you use my name, but if you insist, you can keep your own name. Course, since you’ve never been married and told me you’re aware of the old ticking clock, I would think you might want to shout the news out over the rooftops.”
His kiss still burned, but his words instantly doused the flame. “What’s that suppose to mean?”
“Hey, calm down. You’d think you’re the redhead. You’re the love of my life.”
“And you’re the ambiguity of mine.”
He put plates of crepes, three to a plate, and mugs of coffee on each side of the table before sitting in the chair opposite her. “I hope that means you love me. You do, don’t you?”
“What makes you think we have a future? We don’t even have a present.” The warm cinnamon smell drifted up, and she had to look away from her plate to concentrate on the handsome madman making wild suppositions. “I was impulsive, rash and careless last night. I’m quite sure whatever we did can be undone.”
“What you were was splendid and spirited. Look at us here; we have a present. And a beautiful future.” He thumped a fist over his heart. “It was definitely love at first sight this time.”
She lifted her coffee cup but froze before it reached her mouth. “What do you mean this time?” Over the rim of her cup, she studied him through narrowed eyes.

Some scenes are really skeletal and need many more passes. Others seem to write themselves. But I always look at a scene a couple of times, put myself in the characters point of view and layer in what she sees, feels and maybe tastes and touches.

Scene layering is part of my "process".

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