Monday, October 16, 2017

What it means to "Raise The Stakes" for your characters

The concept of raising the stakes relates to the idea of conflict in the story. It is a relatively easy concept to understand, but when writing, adding this element can often be difficult.

When we think of the conflict in the story between your hero and heroine, we are talking about the thing that is keeping the two of them apart from that wonderful happily every after (yes, I am talking about romance writing here in case you didn't figure that one out). As an agent, this is something I really look for in the story.

It is important to understand that the conflict cannot simply be a miscommunication issue. This would be considered a complication. If you think of most sit-coms on TV, the problem in that 30 minute episode is generally considered a complication. This would be when one character overhears a part of a conversation and assumes they know the full story. In this case, it is a complication because the solution comes down to simply getting the full story. A conflict, however, needs to have something more than a quick conversation to solve.

Now, we get to the tough part - how to "raise the stakes."

What we are talking about here is what the characters stand to lose. If the two characters are meant to be together and there is nothing really big getting in the way, then the stakes are too low. Let's use a Regency romance for example. Let's say that a son of a lord is expected to find a good girl and get married. He finds someone he likes but she is not of the same social class. If this is the only issue, then the stakes are pretty low. Now, let's add to this. The girl comes from a family that may have once had power in the Ton, but due to an indiscretion from her father or uncle, they have been made outcasts. Now, someone dating her would also be drawn into that scandal. The stakes have just been raised. Add to this more that the son's dad is determine to make a statement of this and will disinherit him unless he marries someone the dad chooses. Now the stakes are up there!

If he decides to proceed with the relationship with the girl, he could lose family, name and money.

Does this make sense?

It is important to remember that we don't want to add a ton of extra back story and plot twists to the story. That will simply overly complicate things. Stick to what you have in the skeleton of the story and you build with that.

It is also important to remember to not make the situation impossible to fix, or something that only an act of God can fix. Keep it to something that the characters can resolve with a little critical thinking skills.

No comments:

Post a Comment