The Layers of a Story – A Quick Summary

One of the most challenging portions of writing your book is the first paragraph, the first line. Setting aside its importance ( like it can make a reader close your book) there are other things to consider as a writer.

When a story begins, three things make the mold.

  1. A Dialogue tag
  2. Describing the setting/scene
  3. Moving the character

While you spend days upon days, pulling your hair, deciding which of the three to use for the first sentence of your book. I’m going to tell you that your entire book is, of course, made these from beginning to end. You need dialogue tags to communicate, you need a place for the story to unfold, and lastly, you need characters to move about.

The Superficial Layer

On the superficial level, we only allow our reader to see the three. Here they find character progression, dialogue, plot. And quite frankly…that’s all they need to get them from the first chapter to the last, but what is underneath?

The Layer of Everyday Foundations

If the Superficial Layers is the black crust of a recently cooled lava, underneath is find heat, your Everyday Foundations. These keep the story moving but applying these elements.

  • Time, year, month, day,
  • Social and Economic factors like  wars, currency, education
  • Religion, cultures,
  • Phenomena
  • The list can go on!

Layer of World Building

Here you find the world you created. The reason this is below Everyday Foundations is that foundations advance through the story, and World Building is the gear that turns before they go into motion. Though they both could go hand in hand, world building respects what was created. Everyday Foundations will change. For example:

For a utopian world to be considered a desirable place to live, there must be some kind of protection that also gives individuals food and shelter. Are these mountains or perhaps a protective dome? In the layer of Everyday Foundations, an army could overtake this utopian world and demolish it. But the story didn’t start that way and now we know that protective domes can be broken.

Layer of Lore

Behind World Building is my favorite part. It is the ground level that allows the lava of your layers to travel and disperse. They make the shapes, the building blocks of your world. Let’s stay here for a moment. Let’s say in your fantasy world, a goddess gave her life to save the world from collapsing. The building blocks of your world is that after this goddess, the world continued without her. Perhaps the people she saved paid reverence to her by giving their daughters her name. Maybe they built a temple.

In lore, you know more about this goddess, who she was, why she did what she did, and what led her to it. Granted, readers may not care about this for as long as you move the story, but there are few, like me, who love to dig for more information.

You don’t necessarily need to fill these layers to at max capacity. A world can remain immersive in its mystery, but creating lore can stimulate you to generate more ideas.

Which layer do you excel in?

I hope this was insightful, Keep writing.