Monday, February 9, 2009
Structuring Your Novel: What's At Stake
Good characterization and believable motivation are of utmost importance in your story structure, but whether it's money, love, success, or life itself, there must also be something at stake for the characters in order for the reader to care. You must create tension and suspense. Even if it's done in a very subtle way, you must make readers care about the people so they, too, will have a stake in the outcome.*
To see some really good examples of "What's at Stake" for your character, study the hit TV series "24." Jack Bauer is constantly having to change directions because he is presented with another "what's at stake" scenario if he doesn't comply to the villains' demands. It might be his life, the lives of his family or friends, or the lives of thousands of people. And it's not just what is at stake for Jack; every character in the series has his/her own goals, motivations, and something that is at stake in his life that is driving him to do what he does.
Your character, too, has to be faced with the threat of losing something very dear to him. It doesn't have to be someone's life at stake, but the stakes need to be something valuable enough to the character that he will be forced to take risks and do things he might not otherwise.
Next Week: OBSTACLES/CONFLICTS
COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL: *From my 1992 RWR article: "The Outline: Your Blueprint for a Structurally Sound Plot."