A Vital Point to Consider If You're Trying to Get Published Part 18


The simplest way to build a ‘flat’ story — one which primarily uses the mechanism of ‘Then this happened, then this happened…’ to drive a story forward to some kind of conclusion — into a three-dimensional or rounded story is to use the principle of layers.

A ‘layer’ is, as you would expect from common usage and the dictionary, ‘a sheet, quantity, or thickness of material, typically one of several, covering a surface or body’.

If you have laid out a series of ‘Then this happened…’ events — say, a chase sequence with bad guys chasing good guys across a landscape, which is a common enough sequence in fiction — and you want to add layers to it to give it depth and resonance for editors and readers, here are a few things you could do:

1. Ask yourself about metaphors.

Is the chase sequence also about something else? The usual ‘bad guys chasing good guys’ series of events might thematically represent something other than its surface appearance. Perhaps the message is about growing up, or losing one's innocence, or perhaps there’s a religious significance there.

For example, C. S. Lewis’s famous children’s classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is based around a simple chase-sequence plot. Most of the story is to do with the Pevensie children being pursued across Narnia by the White Witch, who is intent on killing them. They have a goal — they must get to a mysterious figure known as Aslan, in whom all their hope is invested, but apart from that, it’s all about running, escaping and hiding, which are well-used ‘Then this happened’ devices for giving a piece of fiction Momentum.

But Lewis’s story is also a metaphor — an extended metaphor, actually, which is crafted to be a Christian allegory.

Start by thinking about your simple linear tale — is it an allegory of something else?

2. Look at the setting.

Once you have established that there might be an allegorical or metaphorical meaning in the plot, take a look at the landscape through which the chase is happening. On one level, Lewis’s story takes place in a wintry wood, with all the pragmatic difficulties that that might bring — the cold, the frozen river, t