Monday, November 25, 2013

Fiction Writing Tips: Story Layering

In working on my new book Body in the Trunk due out in Spring 2014, I started using a technique I'll call story layering. When I was working with Scott D. Roberts' critically acclaimed novel Vengeance is Now, which is receiving non-stop praise and making the list of the top fiction books of 2013, I noticed he used story layering. I will describe it the way I do in my book, which is not how Roberts did it. I have a story that is doing a past/present storytelling technique. As the detective in the book unravels the mystery, the reader gets to go back through the eyes of the victim to see what actually happened. Each chapter is a layer to the story that moves seamlessly back and forth between the story-telling methods and "layers" the story together, which is another way of saying "develops," too. But it's not just story development, it's truly a layer on top of layer. Kind of like a layer cake with each layer being glued with the frosting, which is the story in-between.

I realize this description probably sounds esoteric. Let me warn would-be writers who want to use the technique, be careful it can easily get confusing to the reader if you're not using aforementioned glue. For example: the detective tells the true crime writer (the woman investigating the crime for a book she is writing) the pieces to the puzzle (he's being the frosting here) and then I take the reader to the actual story and tell it just like a real story would be told in a book so the reader is present and gets the specific details.

One way to track your story is to make a flow chart where the center is the actual story, and then literally tie each character and their roles in the story. Write how each character will affect the other character in the story. And then show how the stories will run together, and then begin writing to "layer" them piece-by-piece (or action by action) as it impacts the story. It can be complex if you make it complex. When I write I see the story unfurl like a movie in my mind's eye, and this allows me to slowly unroll the story inch-by-inch so the reader can see it.

Here are your tips:

  • Work out storyline A in your mind (if you're going back in time it still remains the same).
  • Work out storyline B in your mind (from beginning to end).
  • Now "glue" the stories together.
So you see as I tell the story of the detective's work and he pieces it together, I parallel that part with the actual story of the crime as it happened. He finds the clues, another piece of the story is told about what those clues mean. See how that works? 

Want a great book coach to help ensure your own story stays on track? We provide book coaching services at my company 3L Publishing ( For more information, call 916-300-8012 or send an email to 

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