Today's entry is not going to be very long.  But sometimes we don't need a lot of words to get across what we're saying.  Then again, it depends on what you're trying to convey in a scene.  I've recently had an interesting question come up where a friend told me they could write an action but didn't know how to fill the rest of the scene out.  Details, setting, background, etc. were the areas they had trouble with.  

I knew this problem all to well, I went through it a number of times and I know other writers have as well.  Interestingly enough in my Writing Class we came across an exercise that really helped me and I'm going to share it here with all of you. It's nothing special but it really helped me and I hope it does the same for all of you.

Here goes...


She walked out onto the porch.

Not a lot there besides the activity.  Now here's the first layer I added to the scene.

She walked barefoot out onto the wooden deck of the porch.

Okay now we have a little more to go on.  Barefoot, eh. That opens up possibilities for the scene.   Maybe she just got up, or she likes to go around with no shoes on.  Or perhaps she's wearing just a bikini and is going to sunbathe.  I decided to start being more specific and added another layer to the action.

Having poured a cup of tea, Cassandra made her way barefoot out onto the wooden deck of the porch, to enjoy the morning air.

Now I've gotten more a of setting going.  But I still wanted to add a little more to make things feel real and alive.  Like a typical day for just about anyone.  So I added one more layer...

Having poured her morning cup of tea, Cassandra carried it out of the kitchen, walked barefoot of the soft carpet of the living room and out onto the hard wooden deck of the porch.  She always enjoyed the morning air here at the beach.  A gentle cool breeze was just coming off the ocean.

All of a sudden I had an action along with a nicely detailed setting.  I didn't overdo the description of the rooms or the porch, but I gave enough for the reader to insert their own imagery.  Too much detail can sometimes bog down the reader and bore them to tears. I like to give them enough to build upon without taking away the flow of the overall story.  One does not have to get bogged down describing just how soft the carpet fibers were or the colors it contained, unless of course it will be significant to the scene.  Say if the person was suddenly stabbed or shot and the contrast of their blood to the carpet's coloring is important.

Layering is a great exercise to play with sometimes.  This scene was just for my class homework, but now I plan on using it in my novel.  So if you have some writer's block or are having trouble figuring out where to go with an action, play around with Layering.  You may surprise yourself.  


  1. An exercise many authors need to revisit once in a while. The hardest part for me was that I"m visually impaired and don't notice all the fine details in my life, so I had to relearn how to do this when I wanted to write deeper and better. Good post!

  2. Thank you Sascha, glad you liked it. And as you say, it's something some of us need to be reminded of as we write. We may have a clear vision in our heads, but we have to convey it properly to the reader. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sasha...sometimes those who are visually impaired have a damned annoying habit of seeing things with more clarity than the rest of us. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true of you. And Allan....thanks for this post. It's amazing how sometimes the spaces between the lines tell us more than the lines themselves. And for those who can't always see between the lines, it's good every now and then to beef things up a bit. A layer here...a strata all adds to the fun of creating pictures with words.

  4. Very good excersice. Sometimes we just need to get back to the basics.

  5. Strong writing finds balance between scene building (layering) and plot promotion. This blog provides a good "how to" example of a writing tool (layering), that, when used to advance plot or character development, makes a story richer. Thanks for the post.

  6. Your're all very welcome. Thank you for commenting here and letting me know how helpful this was. I hope that future posts are equally as useful to people.


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