We’re back looking at Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK. This week’s lesson focuses on plot layers. Maas says, “Subplots are plot lines given to different characters; layers are plot lines given to the same character.” Most of us are familiar with the concept of layering our story like an onion so that we begin with the rough draft and then add additional facets that round out the characters or enhance the conflict or up the tension in order to build that beginning--and often flawed--draft into a fully-developed story
Equating the layers to story arcs might also work. Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense books, which I write, have a suspense arc, romance arc and faith arc. I think of them as threads that weave through the story. Each should have a beginning, middle and end, and the resolution for each should be satisfying. The threads carry more weight or play a more dominant role at various times in the story, and the resolutions do not necessarily coincide. In other words, the hero and heroine might realize they love each other before the danger escalates; thus, the relationship in the romance arc may resolve long before the climax of the suspense arc.
Maass notes that layering involves multiple problems affecting the hero. He also mentions that layers are connected by “nodes of conjunction,” which he’ll talk about in lesson 16.
Now let’s look at our own stories and count the plot layers. In my current work-in-progress, I found four layers for the heroine and three for the hero. Was there another thread I needed to pull through to round out the story? After reflecting on what I’d learned in this lesson, I identified a fourth plot line for the hero, which should provide a more satisfying resolution.
Check your story. Do you have three or four distinct plot lines that thread through your book? If not consider the onion and layer it on.
Wishing you abundant blessings!