by Janice McCaffrey

As a fiction writing beginner I’ve had problems building scenes that are compatible with my intentions. Experienced authors and how-to books all say, “Write a draft then rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it.” But I still didn’t get it.

Then one day, exercising trust in my friend and mentor, I asked for her critique. She said, “you need more detailed descriptions here, you need dialogue there, your characters need to move within a scene, show emotions through body language, dramatize more.” And she asked, “What is he thinking? Why is she doing that?”

Was I feeling overwhelmed? Yes! But during my next computer session, like magic, I had a vision. A visual in my mind’s eye showing me the process in a way I could understand.


In visual arts layering is done with transparent sheets; a different part of a scene is painted on each sheet. When the sheets are stacked one on top of the other, like magic, a complete picture appears. An artist’s masterpiece.


And as you see, from the example picture, now-a-days this can be done on computer or IPhone.

My mind’s eye saw my draft (the story line) sitting on my desk and floating down onto it a transparency, not with painted objects, but words; words describing setting and character details. A second clear sheet added dialogue. Another gave my characters animation, the next, body language to invoke emotional responses in the reader. Inner-dialogue topped it off showing me a well written scene one layer at a time.

And it continues to work. As I write I visualize each element on separate transparent sheets as I add them one-by-one to my story’s foundation. Remembering each layer keeps me focused and determined to create finished scenes that convey the images, messages, and feelings I’ve intended as I work toward my masterpiece.

2 thoughts on “Layering

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