Layering Words Stir the Imagination

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Certain words instantly bring images to the front of a person’s mind. Psychiatrists use a word association exercises to glimpse inside the mind. Big-little, weak-strong, mother-wonderful—the possibilities are endless. The results depend on each individual’s experiences during their lifetime.

A writer ponders over a single word more than most people do. A word that brings many images to mind is Layers. A wonderful, happy word as in layers on a cake, layers of clothing, layers of paint and layers of words that stir the imagination.

Stories flesh out in layers. Write the first draft and then start layering. The location, the characters, and the action are three areas imploring writers to use layers to stir the imagination.

For fun, describe the area around your house. Start with the general scene. Where is it located? Is it City or Country? Let’s go visit the author who lives in the country along a river.

The next layer—Right where the road curves sharply to the left there is a country lane that leads to the river.

The next layer—On either side of the lane there are overgrown banks. Banks covered with Sweet Pea flowers, sweet Williams, wild daisies and weeds. The aroma seeps in through the rolled up windows and if you look close enough you’ll see the banks are alive with activity. A groundhog stands on its hind legs and looks around before it ducks back into its burrow. A rabbit brushes against one of the Sweet Pea stalks and knocks a bloom to the ground. The weeds bend as the crickets and the grasshoppers search for succulent blades of grass to munch on and the bees busily pollinate the plants.

Next layer—describe the flowers, then the bugs, and the animals. How do the rich dark purples of the Sweet Pea compare to the light purple of the Sweet Williams? How pretty a bouquet of Sweet Peas, Sweet William and Daisies would be arranged in the crystal vase sitting on the kitchen table. How green is the grasshopper? What’s the teeth look like on the groundhog? What other details can be added? Is the driver tempted to pull over and pick flowers or take a cell phone photo of the rabbit? You can add more layers as you travel this lane and ½ wide road until it dead ends right before the river, where you will make a right turn down a gravel road that’s not much more than a cow path with grass growing over the stones.

The layers can go on and on, just as far as the imagination can reach, the sights, the smells and the sounds will generate new ideas. All the words or the detail may not be necessary in an individual scene, but a few well-placed details will add interest and depth. Details anchor the prose.

1 Comment
  1. Paula Boer says

    Interesting. I consider that I use layers in my writing – dialogue, scenery, backstory. Yes, my concept of layers is different to yours. As you say, it is an interesting word, and the whole concept of word association is fantastic for a writer. Nested layers, ah, now that leads me to another set of imagery. Add in time, the five senses, plot twists – no wonder we have so much fun as authors.

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