Despite the yummy photo, this is not a post about layers of cake. Sorry. Today, I’m talking plot layers--not as many calories. Do you take note of a character’s plot layers when you’re writing or reading? I don’t always consciously take note of these layers as much as I should. So, I revisited some of my favorite writing books (not cookbooks).
A plot layer is a plot line given to a character, usually the protagonist (as compared to a subplot, which is a secondary plot line involving different, usually secondary characters). More than one plot line is necessary to create a character with depth, intensity, and complexity. To me, this translates into a character that comes alive. My favorite kind of character.
For example, imagine a high school freshman a tad on the insecure side. Let’s say he’s on the school track team and struggling to achieve better times in his sprints. He loves running and competing, but most of his friends are not into track. So, our protagonist's love of track is causing conflicts with his friends. Maybe he finds himself often torn between training and hanging out with his buddies. On top of this, let's say that our freshman’s parents don’t like the direction that his friends are going in. The parents suspect the friends will be getting our protagonist into trouble. He can’t afford trouble if he wants to stay on the track team, and keep his parents content, but he’s had these friends forever. In addition, maybe our protagonist is also sporting a major crush on a certain girl. How about if he knows she’d be impressed if he won his races?
Our freshman protagonist is dealing with layers of internal and external conflicts. Isn’t this the way with most of us? There are plenty of plot layers for everyone that I know. To be real is to have layers.
Think about your favorite characters from your reading or writing. Do they have layers?
Okay, NOW it's time for cake. ; )