Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Crafting Corner: Do you want that Steak…Medium or Rare?

I’m kind of on a beef kick this week, but I’m not going to talk about “pink slime” again. In fact I’m not even going to talk about steaks—at least not the beef kind :)

Do you ever worry about the stakes in your story? I do. All. The. Time. I want to pass on something that has changed how I write.

It’s great to have a big over arching stake that runs the duration of your story, but it will not carry your story. It isn’t good enough.

You MUST have some kind of stake in EVERY scene. Let me put it even simpler. There must be something to lose in every scene! EVERY SCENE.

Just think about it for a moment. If there is always something to lose, people will read on to see what happens.

Need a few ideas of what your characters can lose?
  • Friendship
  • Freedom
  • Love
  • Secrets
  • Face
  • Protection
  • Help
  • People
  • Dreams
  • Security
  • Family
  • I could go on and on. 

I learned this principle from that “Filler” book I’ve been reading. The characters are never in danger of losing anything—but their life. Now, don’t fall in to this trap.

Threatening to kill off your main characters doesn’t really work (unless you are J.K.), because if you kill of your main character—the story is over. We've all been reading along and thinking, “Ya, this is bad, but I know they won’t die there are 200 pages left.”

So, give us real stakes. Give your characters something to lose. Make us read on :)


6 days to I’m HearingVoices Blogfest. Yay, I can’t wait!


Brinda said...

I am doing an editing class right now where we had to determine the stakes in every scene. No stakes? Cut the scene.

Kelley said...

Such a good point Angie. And like Brinda said. If the scene doesn't do it...snip, snip :)

Deana said...

I just read a post on this yesterday. Except it talked about every that might be a little harder. But I love this!

RachelMaryBean said...

Very good point. "I know they won't die because there are 200 pages left." It seems like I think that all the time when reading.

Kyra Lennon said...

Excellent advice, and definitely something I need to think about!

Melissa Sarno said...

Medium! I want my steak medium! But I guess in the writing world, I want it well-done? ;) Great advice.

ilima said...

Oooh, I like this. I'm going to read through and double check my manuscript.

Ruth Josse said...

Well done stakes make for delicious tension. :) I'm designating one editing pass just to make sure there are stakes in every scene. Great stuff, Angie!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've been reading in the Donald Maass book about personal stakes and public stakes. Really good stuff.

One of the things I love about Stephen King's books and stories is that the main character or one of the main characters COULD die. No one is safe. Ever. Many many years ago, when I read the THE STAND, I couldn't believe it when one of the main people died. I actually had to re-read the pages to make sure it actually happened!

Emily R. King said...

You do a great job of describing the stakes in your book, Angie. I think you have a knack for it. Thanks for sharing what you've learned!

J. A. Bennett said...

This is something I've been working on, but need to be better at. Thanks for the reminder!

Meredith said...

So true! And what an excellent way to get rid of the pink slime (still shuddering about that, by the way). :)

Shallee said...

I love that you point out that death is not always the worst thing the protag can face. Too often, that's the "big" stake, and it's just not enough. There are a lot more things to lose. And yes, there need to be things to lose in each scene! It's part of the driving tension.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Fabulous stuff like always, Angie!
And I'm getting all ready for the blogfest :)

Johanna Garth said...

That's one of the things I edit for (which is why editing is so high stakes, sorry couldn't resist). It's also a pain in my hine-y but hopefully the final product is worth it!

Stacy Henrie said...

Love steak. It took several years for my husband to convince me it tasted better a little pink. :) I like high stakes too.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for the suggestions! i will be analyzing my scenes to make sure my mc's life is in havoc, at risk of losing something frequently!

Brittany said...

Awesome advice Angie. just what I needed to read while I'm in the midst of editing.

Leigh Covington said...

I could bookmark every post you write. Seriously! I love it Ang. Very good info going on!

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