Welcome to my Underground Layers
-Banes, your pop culture references are as on point as ever!
I've talked about story structure here many times, normally in similar ways.
A different approach to character and story, one I haven't used much personally, is what we could call the “onion” approach.
Instead of thinking in terms of the flawed or wounded character who is impacted by a change in the status quo and then struggles through the story, which forces growth on them, we can look at the character from outer layers that gradually reveal deeper layers of who they are.
So one way to mark out a story is to show the character/characters as they appear to be on the surface first. We see them interacting with maybe co-workers, or in some activity that illustrates their outer self - maybe attractive, professional, and courteous.
Next, after certain events or pressure, or just seeing them in a different part of their life, maybe we see them in a different light. Maybe they're an addict. Or they're secretly lonely.
Eventually we could see the deepest layer - maybe, pushed to the limit, they're become a murderer. Or they're secretly ALREADY a murderer. Maybe they're a secret sociopath (apparently a much-loved trope in a lot of books). It doesn't have to be all negative of course - but deeper layers should contain weakness, wounds and flaws obviously, or at least antisocial elements of some kind. The layers should be INTERESTING.
Perhaps in the final, deepest core, the person is heroic and noble DESPITE those flaws, though. That can be a beautiful thing!
This process can be used for a main character who we see a lot of, or one who we only see a few times, like an Antagonist who we meet only occasionally but shows us new secret layers each time we encounter them.
Some stories that come to mind that would illustrate this kind of thing happening would be Agatha Christie's “And Then There Were None”, the movie “Courage Under Fire”, and the grimy classic “Wild Things”.
This might not be an approach that results in completely different characters or stories; it could be
a different way of looking at the same thing.
But that can be helpful in itself sometimes!
Have a good one,
Banes at 12:00AM, July 8, 2021
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