Layering: It’s Not Just about Clothes to Take Off
My guest today is Sidney Bristol, author of Flirting with Rescue, an Ellora’s Caves romance with a horse rescue background that will tug at the hearts of any reader who’s ever saved or loved an animal. Sidney’s sharing her secrets about using her story’s background to layer a story with unique flavor and meaning.
Have you ever read a book, maybe the heroine had a cat, and during the course of her adventurous story she had to go out of town to avoid certain death, despite making plans with a friend of hers or filing for PTO. As exciting as our heroine’s death defying tale might be, I always wonder about the cat. What happened to the poor kitty?
A really great book can suffer if the details aren’t there. Layering conflict and paying attention to the small things can really set your work apart from the rest. How do you do this?
Well, first you want to come up with your major plot arc. Maybe you’re a planner, so you’re going to plot out that whole story. If you’re a pantser, maybe you’ve already written the book and now you have to make it better.
How you layer in your subplots and details will depend a lot on your particular story. You need to figure out who the important people are to your characters, how their job and family and pets interact with them on a daily basis.
Does the setting mean you’re dealing with bad weather, which means your characters have to worry about fixing a leaky roof on top of defeating the big baddie?
What about family? Pets? Friends? How can these average, daily things you and I deal with, create more drama for your plot? This doesn’t just pertain to writing a contemporary tale, even in fantasy, science fiction or any other genre, characters must face a battery of daily, normal life.
Think about the last really great book you read. Can you think of any plot elements that might not have impacted the overall arc, but created something the hero or heroine had to handle or overcome?
I’m thinking of Lori Foster’s Savor the Danger, the third in her Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series. During the course of the book, the heroine spies a cat, who has been abandoned. The hero takes precious moments to figure out how to grab the feline, and transport it with them. Does the cat matter in the grand scheme of the book? No. But they do have to take time to care for it, see a vet and socialize with it.
In my latest release, Flirting with Rescue, the hero and heroine’s main story is how they fall in love, while rehabilitating a pair of abused horses. There’s danger, and difficulty because they come from two very different worlds. That’s my main story arc. All in all, it’s not a bad story, but you’ve seen and read several of those, haven’t you?
So what could I do to make the story better?
I looked at my hero first. He runs an animal shelter. In that alone I could do some very evil things. Rats can get into the food, there can be water breaks and staffing problems. These are average things that create strife in everyday life that help to make the story more “real.” I wound up deciding, since the economy is on the forefront of everyone’s minds, my hero was dealing with budget restraints as a big conflict in his life. Money can make us all stress out!
For me, this adds depth to the story. You might not be able to relate to the romance of the story, but you probably know how it is to be strapped for cash and have too many irons in the fire. You “get” the hero. Since my heroine’s life doesn’t relate well to people who don’t have a history like mine, my hero is the one that needs to really click with the readers.
My heroine has a lot on her plate. Figuring out what was going on in her life besides the romance arc was easy. She’s just moved halfway across the country, she’s taking on a new job and her grandfather’s farm. She has lots of former race horses to care for, as well as the horses her and the hero are working on. You might not have ever had horses before, but I’ve had plenty, and I can tell you that they’re a lot of work. And it’s never done. On top of that, she’s got a huge, crazy family to deal with, who want to stick their noses into her business.
Overall these details don’t matter to the overall arc, but it’s how their lives continue, despite the danger they are in, that bring the story full circle. Not only do I have the extraordinary, but also the ordinary, and that’s how you can not only connect with your readers, but fill out your book.
Can you think of an example where an author handled multiple elements well? Have you ever noticed something being left out?
By now you’re probably as eager as I was to see how Sidney actually uses her story’s background to make her book even more compelling.
Sparks—and clothes—fly when hot veterinarian Cody-Lynn Parker shows up at Scott Carillo’s animal shelter. Scott’s had a bad run with women, but he can’t keep his hands off Cody’s luscious curves.
Cody’s trying to be professional, but she can barely concentrate on work thanks to her craving for the tall, dark and sexy Cuban. She kisses caution goodbye and Scott hello when his shirt comes off.
Between naked star-gazing and naughty massages, their steamy fling turns into an affair of the heart. But when thieves target Cody, she finds herself flirting with danger, and Scott wants to rescue her whether she thinks she needs it or not.
And now I’d like you to meet Sidney herself. Please add a comment and thank her for sharing her layering secrets. I’m sure Sidney would like to have you come back later and post a note about Flirting with Rescue after you’ve read it.
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing.