Monday, December 22, 2014

Layering demystified

This tidbit appeared in a much longer blog published in February or so. It's not complicated...Since we're all probably close to having holiday brain. LOL


The trick to having a layered character is to give him an interesting, difficult, or jumbled up past, something that kind of collides with the heroine's story and affects both of well as the romance.
In Daring To Trust the Boss, the hero was a former foster child, who was almost obsessive compulsive in the way he dressed and behaved, not wanting ever to look like someone who didn't fit into the billionaire world he'd edged his way into.
The heroine had been sexually assaulted (she got away before she could be raped) by the town rich kid, who, of course, was never prosecuted. She embarrassed and humiliated herself by coming forward, then the people of her little town harassed her, saying she'd lied about him attacking her and was only trying to extort money from him.
So we have a 3-tiered hero. Former foster kid, who isn't comfortable with who he was or is, and who isn't sure he (the real "he") fits anywhere.
And a harassed heroine, determined to make her way in the world...but also very determined to be herself, the real person she is, because if she doesn't, then the old boyfriend wins.
He's hiding behind a façade. She's "out there."
Notice how many layers there are to that. And also notice that they all relate to things that happened in their pasts.
You don't "tell" readers every detail of their pasts on page one. It's your job to make sure your conflict is strong enough, deep enough that at least one aspect can slowly reveal itself. 

In DARING TO TRUST THE BOSS, we held back the idea that he didn't know himself, that the life he lived was a façade. Then being around her, he begins to long to be himself; he yearns to be with her because she likes the person he is underneath all his polish. But he fears letting go.

Do you see how "layered" that is? How slowly revealing these things makes his character more complex? 
She, at first, doesn't trust him. Then once he lets her take over a big project and she gets a taste of the freedom of having the money and authority to be the business person she always knew she could be, she soars. Because she's ready. And that only makes him want what she has -- that confidence and freedom -- all the more.
Now...All that is a very long way of saying that a book is about steps...Journey Steps (I call them...even do a workshop about it) of two characters going from who they are at the beginning of the story to who they are at the end of the story.
Your book could be set up like my old Sil Romances used to be. A cute premise, close proximity, banter, flirting, near misses with sex, conflict ...but if you don't have those layers of character that come from things that happened in their pasts, then the story really is only a surface story.
What your editor wants is for you to go from the cute meet, set up, cute premise, banter, flirting story to one that has something in the characters' backgrounds that takes readers deeper and involves them in the characters' lives in a real, genuine, personal way.
And that's layering. :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading!

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