Layering Narratives

Not sure what to do next with your character? Don’t do anything. Try some of these menu ideas to layer your narrative around the action…

A good narrative is a composite of a number of layers to enrich the experience of both the writer and the audience. If you have writers’ block, the best way out is to move laterally within your narrative instead of trying to desperately pound forward.

If you want your readers to care more about your characters, present a variety of layers in their reading experience. Our real lives have many layers and so should our narrative lives.

Mix up your paragraphs with some different elements from the menus below. For example: have your characters perform an action, think about it, feel something about it, wonder something, and notice something; only then, move on to the next action.

Layering Narrative Menu

At any point, a character can…

  • do something, take action, go somewhere,
  • say something, ask something, propose an idea,
  • think something, wonder something,
  • feel pain or anguish, sympathize, empathize, put themselves in someone else’s shoes, endure, suffer, emote, pity,
  • feel power, strength, energy, superiority, a surge of strength,
  • imagine, hope, dream, daydream
  • worry, panic, work themselves up, assume the worst,
  • rationalize, justify, convince themselves,
  • remember, reflect, recall, regret,
  • philosophize, ruminate, ask what’s wrong with the world, ponder,
  • notice, watch, glimpse, listen, hear, smell, feel,
  • ask themselves a question,

At any point, a narrator can :

  • change perspective, paradigm, focus,
  • describe environment or setting:
    • sights,
    • sounds,
    • smells, tastes,
    • textures, temperatures,
    • background,
    • detail of an object,
  • reveal truths, secrets, hints, clues,
  • impart mood, atmosphere, tone, emotional texture,
  • pause time, flashback, foretell, foreshadow,
  • remind, coax, point out, prod, insist, propel, steer, direct,
  • caution, warn,
  • hinder, delay, stall,

Leave a Reply