“Come on we’re all going bungee jumping. It’ll be fun. What have you got to lose?”
My life, my dignity, my mind…
“Come on try it. It’s not that spicy. What have you got to lose?”
My voice, my cold, my appetite…
“Come on, it’ll be fun. You’ll have a parachute and everything. What have you got to lose?”
My life, my lunch, my legs, my mind…
What I had to lose was much more important than any thrill I’d get out of the dares. That’s why the question never got me on a rip cord or cliff somewhere.
Our characters have things they don’t want to lose either.
Stakes are why something matters, 0r what your character has to lose if they don’t achieve what they want. Stakes are extremely important in building conflict and tension on the page.
5 Things To Remember When Building Character Stakes.
1. Establish your character goal or what they want to achieve in the scene.
For Example: She needed to find the plane ticket.
2. Establish what your character has to lose if they don’t reach their goal. Usually you do this early in the scene. Often it is near the character goal itself.
For Example: If she didn’t find the ticket, she’d miss her flight.
3. Make sure the stakes or what your character has to lose matters to the character. A five year old isn’t going to care so much about missing a dental appointment. An adult isn’t going to worry so much about rain canceling the baseball game. Make sure you know what your character wants and build on a situation where they might lose it.
4. Make sure the stakes matter to your reader. This is the difference between conflict and tension on the page. If the reader cares about the stakes, then it creates tension. Think about your audience when you create your character’s stakes. Make sure that they care about what your character has to lose also.
5. Build up the stakes to higher proportions when possible.
For Example: If Cara didn’t find the ticket, she’d miss her flight and Zach’s flag covered coffin would make the trip home alone. (We care about this more because we know the details and Zach died courageously.)
What is the craziest thing someone has tried to talk you into? What did you have to lose?