I hope you all are doing well and feeling fine. I came across a couple of blog posts the other day and thought I'd share. They are interesting reads. Have a wonderful day. :)
How to raise the stakes in a novel
Along with “show don’t tell” and “write in an original voice,” “raise the stakes” is one of the most oft-repeated and misunderstood bits of writing advice out there.
What does “raising the stakes” literally mean? And how does one go about raising said stakes? What kind of stakes are we even talking about raising, tentpoles or poker?
I’m here to make this as simple for you as possible.
Ask yourself these two questions
Essentially, what’s at “stake” in a novel is a shorthand for what’s important. Your reader wants to feel like they didn’t just spend $15 on a novel where nothing meaningful happens.
It is in your best interest to raise the stakes so the reader feels like they’re reading something where the things that are happening matter.
The best way to think of the “stakes” more specifically is in terms of rewards and consequences. If the character succeeds, they get something great. If they don’t, something terrible is going to happen.
Thus, the very simple key is to ask yourself these two questions:
What does my character think will happen if they succeed?
What does my character fear will happen if they fail?
That’s it! That’s all you need to know!
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. That’s because…
Your characters have to want something
So often I read novels by aspiring authors where things happen to characters and we see them bouncing around in sometimes exciting and chaotic fashion, but they don’t want anything in particular.
This is a problem. That’s because your reader is going to be inclined to want what your protagonist wants and will root for them to get that. If your protagonist doesn’t really want anything in particular, why should your reader care?
And this isn’t just true for your protagonist. Nearly everyone in your novel should want something. Oftentimes those things different characters want are at odds, which is where conflict in a novel comes from.
So for every major character in your novel, you should know three things both on a macro level and in every scene:
The things the character wants
What they think will happen if they succeed
What they fear will happen if they fail
And don’t forget this: Your reader needs to know these things too.
The motivations and fears can sometimes be implied or hinted at instead of explicitly stated, but if your reader doesn’t have a sense of what the important characters want and what they are risking to get it, you have a problem on your hands.
Read the rest here.
Your Ideas Aren’t That Interesting
I know. I know. Already I feel you pulling away. I sense you tensing up, like a flicked sphincter. You’re mad. I can see you’re mad. I get it, you have ideas, and ideas are the backbone of fiction, and dangit, you tell yourself, my ideas are very interesting, that guy doesn’t know. Except, I do know. Your ideas aren’t that interesting.
And here’s the trick:
That’s a good thing.
I don’t intend for this to be a long post, but I see writers lamenting sometimes their lack of ideas, or their inability to fulfill the promise of a premise, or worst of all, I see them hoarding their ideas — as if they shouldn’t even write them into a story lest they screw it up, somehow. This is a piece of advice given to young writers sometimes, right? “Oh, don’t give away your best ideas on your early work.” Which is so fucking strange to me, it’s like, “Don’t start off on a strong foot, instead, snap your ankle and run on that, instead.”
Listen, in this house, we recognize that ideas are not gemstones.
They are costume jewelry. Trinkets, at best.
We do a lot of work as writers forcibly filling parts of our job with a kind of mythic importance, a bold magic that feels hard to deny — THE MUSE and MY IDEAS and THE PROSE said with a rolled ‘r’ — and mostly, that’s a huge disservice. It doesn’t seem like it is, it seems like we’re just trying to recognize the majesty of what we do, but in the day-to-day, that makes it very hard to just get stuff done. It’s so much harder when you imagine that you’re performing surgery on a snowflake than if you’re just digging a latrine, you know? And it’s not that I want to say that writing your book is just like digging out some kind of caveman toilet — it’s not. It’s more important than that. It’s more mysterious and more magical than that. But it’s important not to give it too much power, you feel me? If you are overwhelmed by that magic, that mystery…
….you’ll find yourself paralyzed by the haughty significance of it all.
Which can happen with how you regard your ideas, as well.
We like to believe that ideas are the most interesting thing about our work.
And, by proxy, that they are the most interesting thing about us, the author.
Read the rest here.
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