Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Taking Risks

As I mentioned last week I'm currently reading a bunch of writing craft books. So far I've completed Story by Robert McKee and I'm in the midst of reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. One thing I noticed quickly was that both of McKee and Maass agree on piling on the risk, or stakes. No matter what you call it, it adds a whole new level to our stories.

McKee gives three questions to ask when working with risk:
  1. What is the risk? 
  2. What does the protagonist stand to lose if he does not get what he wants? 
  3. What's the worst thing that will happen to the protagonist if he does not achieve his desire? 

Maass gives three others when looking at stakes:
  1. So what? (In other words why does it matter?) 
  2. How can this matter more? 
  3. How could things get worse? 

I created a worksheet for myself to use while I work out my revision outline next month. And it's a mixture of both sets of questions.

  1. What is the risk? -> First I want to identify the risk. 
  2. What could my protag lose? -> There has to be something to lose. 
  3. So what? -> Why does it matter if my protag doesn't get what he/she wants? If it doesn't matter, then it's not a great enough risk. 
  4. What the worst thing that could happen to my protag? -> This is what needs to happen to raise the risks/stakes. 
I have yet to put this into play, but I'm shooting for next month being my month of outlining this project and raising the stakes throughout it.

How do you raise the stakes? 

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