Layers & Cliches

Subplots are plot lines given to different characters.

Layers are plot lines given to the same character.
In Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Mass notes that breakout fiction makes extensive use of plot layers. Real life is complex, so our characters’ worlds should reflect that.
Main characters who only have one layer are in danger of becoming boring. That’s the last thing you want.
Bored readers. Stop. Reading.
But don’t be cliched when you add on layers. Think through several ideas first before attaching one to your character. Mass suggests 10. I guarantee you the first few ideas you come up with will not be unique.
I’m guilty. It requires brain cells to think beyond your first three, four, dozen or so impressions. Dig deep to find that original spark.
Say you need a job for your main character’s dad. He is gone from home. A lot. Distracted by work. Brainstorm 10 occupations.
1. Pilot
2. Motivational speaker
3. Salesman, pharmaceuticals
4. Con-man
5. Professor/ lecturer
5. Architect
6. Landscape Architect w/ a specialty in zoo design
7. Speech writer for top government official, who happens to be his wife
You get the picture. These were jotted down as they came to me just now. Not super great, but I think 6 and 7 are intriguing. (Btw, my family knows someone who designs zoos.)
Keep thinking, and push yourself beyond that initial thought. I promise to do the same and have with a picture book this week.
And click here for a list of cliches to avoid like the plague. Ha.
Happy writing.

One Response to “Layers & Cliches”

  1. Laura Pauling

    I love Maass' suggestions. I've been trying to follow his advice with plotting too. Listing at least 10 different ways for the story to go until I find the unique one. 🙂