What’s at Stake?


Lately, I’ve been searching for the motivation of my heroine’s choice that would change the course of her plot, which would lead to the climax I had intended. My first idea didn’t feel strong enough, so I felt like I had to raise the stakes to make it a real problem for her because if it’s not a big enough risk, where’s the story?

Now, when I say “big enough risk,” I don’t mean that the fate of hundreds have to rest on her shoulders. It could be as simple as the fate of her family, but it is through the development of her inner conflict and the sacrifice she will have to make that the stakes get raised. As readers, we need to be able to relate or at least care about what will happen to her based on the choice she makes.

So, in order to develop your story and to discover what is best to raise the stakes for your heroine, try asking yourself these questions:

What happens if she walks away from the problem?  What happens to the other characters she is close to because of her cowardice? Is it cowardice or is it a matter of survival?

What happens if she ignores “the choice” until the last possible second? This method could add a layer of tension throughout the story; however, it has to be a pretty big choice that causes loads of internal conflict to keep the story moving forward with subplots that finally unite to one giant climax.

What will she have to sacrifice to keep her dream? Oftentimes, this will be the “selfish” choice. IF the writer goes this route, the readers will need to understand why she chose to hold onto her dreams even when it negatively effects other characters because if the readers don’t understand why, we run the risk of making our heroine unlikeable.

What will she have to sacrifice to give up her dream? This was my problem. I had to find a way of making the “sacrifice” great enough to make it live up to its name of being a sacrifice and not just something the heroine could just give up without causing her too much pain. I needed to make it believable and make the reader feel her heart breaking.

And finally, when her choice is decided, we need to ask ourselves: what trouble could/will this cause her? Choices will always come with consequences, which can create the higher stakes. It’s up to you, as the writer, to decide if it’s for good or bad…or possibly both. * gasp *

Happy Writing!

 Photo Cred: Unsplash.com

About Grace Hitchcock

Grace Hitchcock's first novella, The Widow of St. Charles Avenue, released in Barbour Publishing’s The Second Chance Brides Collection August 2017. Her second novella will release in Barbour Publishing’s The Southern Belle Brides Collection in 2018. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace is a Louisiana Southerner living in Colorado with her husband, Dakota, and newborn son.

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