Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lesson 7: Personal Stakes

Good Tuesday! I must say it has been an adventurous ride. I want to introduce you guys to a new friend Ron "The RAT" Southern. He is the awesome guy that I met on the Google Help Groups for Blogger. I'm here to tell you that's a tremendous resource, Ron and a bunch of other knowledgeable people are dispensing great advice, and in real time!

Oh, the mess up was not Blogger....It was operator difficulty! Somewhere along the line I opened up a Source Code template and started woring in it...Can't do that...it makes Blogger throw up!

Okay...Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

In case your just joining our regularly scheduled program...what I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. Today's lesson is in Section One: Personal Stakes.

It is easy to dismiss the protagonist's personal stakes as just another way of saying what motivates him. That's too simple. Personal stakes are more than just what a hero wants to do. They illustrate why. Why this goal and the action that must be performed, matters in a profound and personal sense. The more it matters to your hero...the more it will matter to your readers.

What are your protagonist's personal stakes in your current manuscript and how do they rise? Why does he/she care? Why might he care more?
Without personal stakes, even the highest-voltage thriller is an empty plot exercise. Raise the personal stakes and we will all care what happens in your story no matter whether the plot is boiling or not.

Step 1. what is your protagonist's main problem, conflict, goal, need, desire, yearning, or whatever it is driving him/her through the story.

Step 2. What could make this problem matter more. Write down as many new reasons as you can think of.

Step 3. When you run out of reasons, ask yourself what could make this problem matter even more than that?

Step 4. When you run out of steam, ask yourself what could make this problem matter more than life itself.

Follow-up:For all the ways to deepen the personal stakes that you created above, work out how to incorporate each into your novel. Include at least six.

Conclusion: Every Protagonist has a primary motive for what they do. Outward motives are easy to devise, but inner motives most powerfully drive a character forward. Don't just look at all the possibilities...Use them! That is what raising personal stakes is all about. It's extra work, but the results will be a more gripping novel.

And now the joke for the day!!!

An Amish lady is trotting down the road in her horse and buggy when she is pulled over by a cop.

"Ma'am," said the cop, "I'm not going to ticket you, but I do have to issue you a warning. You have a broken reflector on your buggy."

"Oh, I'll let my husband, Jacob, know as soon as I get home," responded the Amish lady.

"That's fine. Another thing, ma'am. I don't like the way that one rein loops across the horse's back and around one of his testicles. I consider that animal abuse. Have your husband take care of that right away!" instructed the cop.

Later that day, the lady is home telling her husband about her encounter with the cop.

"Well, dear, what exactly did he say?" asked Jacob.

"He said the reflector is broken," replied the lady.

"I can fix that in two minutes. What else?" wondered Jacob.

"I'm not sure, Jacob...something about the emergency brake".


  1. David Meigs said...
    So the problem was a nut loose behind the keyboard?

    Har, har, har.

    This series is great! Loving it.
    Bonnie S. Calhoun said...
    ROFLOL...that's exactly what the problem was...You hit the nut on the head!

    But I learned at ton of new stuff which makes me exponentially more dangerous...*insert maniacal laughter here*
    Rulan said...
    lol. Nut loose. Uh oh, you'll be more dangerous now? Help!!!! lol
    Muahahahaha :)

    Great series Bonnie. Keep it coming.
    Bernita said...
    So glad you found the right wrench, Bonnie.
    Ron Southern said...
    I see ya, sneaky girl! Thanks!

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