Layer Cake Goodness

Believe it or not, I’m still in the middle of editing my urban fantasy. It’s taking a lot longer than I thought, but that’s okay. What I’ve polished so far I love. I’m at the mid-way point in the story and the heroine just met the villain face-to-face for the first time. Everything is hitting the fan. Good stuff.

I’ve already written the first draft and synopsis, so I know what will happen to these characters and how the story will end. As I go through the manuscript a second time, I’m adding a little foreshadowing here, a red-herring there, a quirky trait over there. It’s making this story more real for me. Who knew that the villain’s accomplice has an addiction to Trident gum? Or that my rough-and-tumble hero keeps a quilt made by his grandmother on his bed? Or that my heroine has trouble walking in high-heeled shoes?

In the first draft, I didn’t know any of this. The small things didn’t matter so much at the time. This editing round however, I’m taking my time and focusing on the details. As a result these characters are popping off the page and coming alive. They’re becoming interesting and — I hope — people will connect with them better because of it.

I’ve started thinking of my story as a layer cake. On the first pass, I made the cake itself. Now on the second pass, I’m adding all of the filling. A little chocolate, a little raspberry… yummy! I can begin to see the shape it will take and how many layers it will hold. In the final pass, I’ll clean up structural issues. You know what I’m talking about… the grammar, spelling, sentence structure and such. I think of this as the frosting. It can be the first thing that a person sees, and can turn an editor or agent away if poorly done. But if it’s done well, it could really make your cake stand out from the line-up on the bakery counter.

So I’m asking all of you today… What is it about a character in a novel that makes them come alive in your eyes? If you can, tell me about a quirky character trait you’ve read about that has stuck with you. I’d love to hear about it!

5 Responses to “Layer Cake Goodness”
  1. Barbara says:

    I’m a big fan of the quirky trait that ends up having an impact on the plot. In other words, a trait that seems quirky but then turns out to be somehow vital or integral to the resolution.

    What jumps to mind to illustrate this isn’t a novel but a movie. M. Night Shalamar’s SIGNS. The little girl who is always asking for water and leaving glasses of water all over the house? In the end, the water turns out to be how they defeat the evil aliens.

    LOVE IT!

    You just can’t beat the tingles of that Ah ha moment when, as a reader or a viewer, you say, “That’s why she hates the scent of mint!!” Or whatever:D

    So, when I read your book, I’d love to know *why* the villain’s accomplice is addicted to Trident and I’d also love it if it somehow caused his downfall at the end.

    I’ve heard it said that a hero or heroine’s weakness should turn out to be their greatest strength. I think Deb Dixon said that. Would love to see your heroine turn her inability to walk in high heels to her advantage!

  2. Suzanne Rock says:

    Thanks for the comment Barbara! And yes, it is wonderful when those quirks turn into strengths or become integral to the plot. I didn’t mention it in the post, but there is a definite reason why all of these characters do these things. I didn’t bring it up because it will give some of the hooks away, hehe. At first glance, my characters quirks appear to be a cheap attempt at humor, but if the reader reads on, then everything starts to make a lot more sense.

    FWIW, I saw Signs, too – LOVED that movie!

  3. Good luck with your book. Sounds like you’re on the right track and it’ll be awesome when it’s done!

  4. I’ve been lucky enough to read the opening of Suzanne’s book and it *rocks*. I always love reading a book and watching for what the quirks lead to:)

  5. Sue Brandes says:

    You made me hungry just reading this post. LOL. I do love quirky traits. The young son in The Blind Side movie. He made the whole movie for me. He was trying to get his brother a good deal & he always made sure there was something in it for him. He just cracked me up. There are a lot in books too but; right now I can’t think of one. Great post.

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