October 26, 2010

Onion Parfait

Turns out, it exists. And it must be the most layered meal of all time. Because the onion has layers and the parfait has layers and…and…my point? Oh yeah! I have one!

I’m talking about almighty layering today. And not the onion parfait kind of layering, either. The writing kind.

I feel the need to, once again say, I can’t teach anyone how to write, only how I write. And if something in all this makes sense to you, or gives you an a-ha! Then that’s ten kinds of awesome.

In order to give you an idea of how the layering works for me, I’ll have to try and explain how I construct a MS. This is also specific, and this is by no means the ONLY way to do it, or the only way an MS can be constructed. Just examples.

I try to begin my MSs at a point of change. (Elaine proposing to Marco in HIS VIRGIN ACQUISITION, Alison telling Max he’s going to be a father A MISTAKE, A PRINCE AND A PREGNANCY) That’s the external conflict and it’s also the thing that forces proximity between two people who would otherwise not be in proximity.

Then as the MS progresses, that element moves to the background as the relationship builds and the internal conflict gets more tangled up in things. You’ve moved through that first layer in the onion parfait and are now getting in a little bit deeper. You started at the  more superficial part of the story and are now going deeper into the characters as the central romantic relationship (ten dollar phrase!) progresses.

That’s a layer as far as the story goes. It’s the parfait! The big bowl of layers. And then you have characters, the onions. The layered bit in the layers. (follow me? Hungry yet??)

The characters should be layered as well. You’re working with who they appear to be vs. who they are. I’m going to use my hero and heroine from A Mistake A Prince and  A Pregnancy as examples.

Alison is smart. She’s confident, she’s pragmatic and she’s compassionate. She shows those things to the world. But underneath all of that is insecurity, a fear of becoming too dependent on others. She’s independent mostly because she’s afraid if she’s not, she’ll look to the wrong person for support, only to find herself crippled if she ever loses that support. Love, in her mind, is dependence, and she wants to stay far away from that.

Alison started out closed off to the idea of allowing someone into her life, of trusting someone with her emotions. She needed to get to a place where she was open to people, rather than being closed off. A Place where she realized that love didn’t mean dependence.

Maximo is a powerful man. A Prince. A widower. He’s strong and decisive, and yet beneath that is a man who fears he failed his late wife badly. A man who feels he failed as a husband.

And it’s Alison, and her independence, all of the things she’s made it through alone, that bring him out of that dark place and open him up again. And it’s the give and take in their relationship that gives Alison the courage to love.

But of course, before they reach that HEA…one of them is pushed too far too fast, which brings it all to that dark and lovely black moment. The ultimate in It Had To Get Worse Before It Can Get Better.

They both have a journey to go one, as individuals and as a couple. And to get there, it’s peeling back the layers…occasionally rubbing salt on some wounds…and generally making them miserable. Hurt them to heal them and all that.

So this is how I do it. My onion parfait. I hope some of this gives someone an a-ha moment! Even if the a-ha comes from realizing that it doesn’t work this way for you!


9 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. That’s a great, succinct way of putting it. I’m working on my outline for NaNoWriMo (I’m tell everyone I’m participating in hopes that will inspire me to finish!) I can use all the help I can get!

  2. Julia, good luck with NaNo! I’m not doing it, officially, since every time I do it officially I get drastic revisions or something right in the middle of things. :/ But, I will be NaNo-ing in spirit! I have to get my WIP done!

    And honestly, writing out the onion parfait on the blog, helps me sort of see my process and makse it feel less random…like I can do it again. 😉

  3. I like your onion parfait, Maisey! You’re being very creative about being creative!
    I’m using it to identify my heroine’s deepest motivation-the because…because…because, layers. Surprising what you’re left with after eating your way to the bottom of the dish-where the truth pools! ms

  4. Fab post Maisey! I’ve never had a parfait. I’m not so sure I’m missing out… 😉

  5. Margie, ah yes…the truth that pools at the bottom of the parfait…O_O I’m glad it’s useful to you in some way! I thought, after I finished with the post, that maybe I’d just written about breakfast.

    Lacey, usually parfaits are sweet. Pudding and fruit layers or something. 😉 I googled onion parfaits because I was thinking Shrek. 😀

  6. Great post as always, m’dear. Yummy parfait! Except without onions please. I’m thinking layer cake instead. 😉

  7. Yeah, I had this GREAT pic of a chocolate raspberry parfait…but then I found out the onion one existed. Substance before flavor… 😉

    Glad you liked it! (the post, not the parfait)

  8. awesome Post Maisey, this is really helpful. I hope i understand all my layers by the time i’ve finished my ms to sum it up like you have!
    But then, that’s what the editing stage is for 🙂

  9. I’m so glad it was helpful, Kerrin! Yeah, um…ask me to sum up my WIP half as concisely. Not happening. I definitely gain perspective as I go along.

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