Monday, November 19, 2012

Layers of Life

Envision a person as if he was an onion. Layer upon layer of life experiences, covered by layers of protection. When we peel away the layers what do we find? We start with the outer layers:

  • Clothing and makeup
  • Hairstyles
  • Gloves and hats
  • Whatever hides the real person

When we get to the inner layers of protection, we approach the core of our being:

  • Basic truths
  • Honesty
  • Religious beliefs
  • Fundamental relationships
  • Political leanings

The next question is: What is at the core of a being? For each person it will be something different. As writers, our job is to have vision and peel away the layers to the core. We need to explore what each character is at its basic layer. Is there light or darkness? Does your character hide behind its beliefs? Do they dress in religion or politics or some other trapping that identifies them as a certain truth?

When we strip away each layer of each character, we can easily identify who they are and where they belong in our story. When we create characters this way we will have a better perspective of our entire work. Try unwrapping your characters as if they were an onion. What is at the center? Will your character have light at the center of its being? Is he/she the protagonist? Or is there darkness, that pervades its core. Investigate your characters, then wrap them back up, layer by layer, according to what you find. It is a fun exercise that reaps its own rewards.


  1. That's a great comparison... and very helpful with my WIP. Thanks :)

    1. I'm glad you like it. It has helped me identify my characters and how they would react in a story.

  2. Hi, Karen! Enjoyed your post. Great comparison. I'll definitely have to give this a try. : ) Happy Thanksgiving!