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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Weekend Writer's Challenge

A lot of our conversation at the Writer's Retreat this week has related to how to generate and raise the stakes in fiction. In basic terms, giving a novel "stakes" means, simply, giving the reader reason to care: a goal that the main character is trying to achieve that the reader can invest and believe in. This is usually framed as "Character X needs to achieve Y or else Z". Below I've listed "stakes," from least to most interesting.

1. Casey needs to buy toilet paper, or else it will be really embarrassing next time she goes to the bathroom.

2. Casey needs a date to the prom, or else she will be all alone on the dance floor and everyone will know she's a loser.

3. Casey needs to figure out the mystery of the murder next door, or else she might be next.

4. Casey needs to find the Bermuda Triangle and the secret key located within it, or else the whole world will explode.

So THIS challenge will be slightly different. Rather than having you all attempt a paragraph/passage, please write 1 example of a BAD/LOW stakes premise, and 1 example of a good/HIGH stakes premise. As always, I will post responses on my blog!

Happy writing.



Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Laura likes Josh, but her friend Will is sad and a little jealous about it.


Laura likes Josh, but Will threatens Josh if he won't leave her alone, Kidnaps Laura and if she won't say she loves him, he'll kill her entire family.

Unknown said...

Is it a good thing that I didn't have to think about this one? And how have you been? I sent you an e-mail with the challenge and some other stuff . . .

An author's worst nightmare said...

Laura would love nothing more than to have sex with Josh, but Josh is not sure about his sexuality. With Tim the laid back handsome guy in school making advances at Josh, Laura would have to make her moves quickly and land Josh, and also help him answer that question that has been bugging him for a while now, if he is gay.

Lexi said...

Tara can't decide what her favorite color is so she goes to The Epic's where you take a quiz for you favorite color.
The End.

Tara wants more than love. She wants answers to the world, and how to save herself and those she loves. Only it's more complicated than that.

greekzaz said...

Natalie can't decide what to wear to school picture day, and if she doesn't pick something cool, everyone will make fun of her.

Natalie needs to tell the principal of her school, Mtn. Brook High School, that there is an evil cult that will kill all the students at her school if they don't win the National Spelling Bee.

Sareh said...

Ana, a princess, doesn't want to marry the guy her parents wish her too. But she does anyway.

Instead of marrying the guy her parents want her to, Princess Ana runs away to the city where she works as a servant. One day while working, she is kidnapped and ends on as a slave on a pirate ship. She must then escape the pirate ship, avoid falling in love with one of the pirates, and find out how to get home.

Alex said...

Alex needs to raise the blinds or the cat will tear them trying to separate them.

Alex needs to find a real job or she will be homeless. (Yikes!)

Norman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norman said...


Remy and Laila are star-crossed lovers who want to be married. There is only one Holy Man in Tassa who will marry them, but he is sickly and old and lives on the outskirts of the kingdom. Remy and Laila must race to the bed side of the old man before it is too late.


The King of Tassa is about to declare war on the Kingdom of Tamar. Tamarian King Lucius, is believed to have impregnated the King Darwin’s revered concubine, Laila, during a drunken stupor at Tassa’s annual Feast Of Tranquility.

Laila is in love with Remy but she is the emperor’s concubine and Remy is a eunuch. Remy was spared the mutilation of his privates as a returned favor, and has carried on a secret affair with Laila resulting in her pregnancy. Remy has to make a choice to say nothing, and watch his homeland be flung into a bloody war; or confess and risk the lives of his beloved and their unborn child.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Bad/Low: Suzie has to buy red food coloring, or else she won't be able to make her BFF a birthday cake with pink frosting.

Good/High: Suzie has to hide her power of telekinesis from the government spy who is masquerading as her BFF's boyfriend, or else she'll be locked up forever and the world will be overrun by the evil Mr. Magnet.

:-) That was fun. Good exercise to get the juices flowing.

Anonymous said...

Bad/Low: Clara needs buy a new clock, or else she'll be late for work again and lose her job.

Good/High: Clara needs to find out how to stop the governemt she fled, before they can murder and destroy all the new unaware settelments. Otherwise the evil and corrupt government will have everything they need to become an unstoppable force towards world domination.

That was fun, and it gave me a good idea. I think I'll go write a story now :)

Sylvanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sylvanna said...

Bad/Low; Alerra must find her headband or her hair will be in her face all day.

Good/High; Alerra must fight against the demon inside of her to save her humanity and mankind, or else she'll evolve into nothing more than a vicious killing machine and humanity will meet it's doom.

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