Make Mine Mystery
August 5, 2017
Linda Lee Kane
Raising the Stakes as a Writer
To keep readers turning pages, what do you do as a writer? I try to keep raising the characters’ stakes. This means every line must add tension and conflict to the story.
So how does a writer build suspense while the story unfolds? The answer is in every line of the story. To ensure a tight, high-stakes scene, use the characters’ fears and weaknesses against him or her. In the Black Madonna I used Luci’s panic attacks which not only forced her to struggle, but also to face an inner and outer antagonist. Know the character’s story goal or problem, then I showed how difficult that quest is through r her weaknesses.
Here’s a few tips to help raise critical stakes.
Caught in the Crucible
Are the characters caught in the middle of a goal, either mentally or physically, in which both refuse to release the hold? The crucible is greater than the characters’ desires, and neither is willing to give it up.
Choices and Doubts
Think about yourself. Have you ever given up on a goal or decided the challenge wasn’t worth the trouble? Considered quitting? Given up for a while? I know I have. I want my characters to mirror my emotions, and I want them to overcome their fears to succeed.
Consider the choices confronting your character. Have her choose between two rights. Which one? Why? Are you still looking for more conflict? Force your character to choose between two wrongs. Imagine the guilt, the responsibility, the consequences, and the circumstances surrounding her dilemma. Make her life messy, with the story line and characters believable, but bigger than life.
Chapter hooks are as vital to the story as the hook in the beginning. End each scene with high stakes, an outer or inner struggle that spins with emotion. You’ll keep the reader up all night turning page after page to discover what happens next.