Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lesson 14: Public Stakes

Thursday...only a day away...from Friday...I wish I could figure out how to put musical notes up here, so you'd know when I was singing. But then again maybe you don't want to know when I'm singing...LOL!!

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Character Development, now we're moving on to Plot Development! Today's lesson is in Section TWO: Public Stakes.

We sometimes think, It can't get any worse than this. (But I can tell you after our flooding two weeks ago...and now torrential downpours)...Oh, but it can! That is the essence of raising the outward, or public stakes: making things worse, showing there is more to lose, promising even bigger disasters will happen if the hero doesn't make matters come out okay.

Everyday problems presented in an ordinary way, problems that anyone might have on any given day, do not have the power to become universal. That is, to resonate within us and remind us of all humanity and its eternal struggle. But when stakes rise to a high enough order of magnitude, a protagonist's problems will become the problems that we all have. What was personal becomes public.

In your present WIP where are the stakes? How far do they rise? How bad do they get? Take them higher and deeper. Bwa hah hah...make them worse...much worse. Your novel can only get better!

Step 1: Write down your novel's overt and outward central conflict or problem.

Step 2: What would make this worse? Write down as many reasons as you can.

Step 3: When you run out of ideas, ask yourself, "What would make this problem even worse?"

Step 4: When you run out of steam ask, "What are the circumstances under which my protagonist would actually fail to solve this problem?

Step 5: Have you novel conclude with your protagonist's failures. Can you pull some measure of happiness from this ending?

Note: Things can always get worse. Raise the stakes by making what might be lost more valuable.

Follow-up: Incorporate into your story four raisings of the outward (plot) stakes.

Conclusion:A common failure in novels is that we can see the ending coming. The author signals his preferred outcome, and guess what? That's how things turn out. The only way to keep an ending in doubt is to make failure possible. Even better is to make failure happen. Maybe what's actually at stake isn't what you thought at all!



*warning---if you are drinking coffee, swallow it now*


CLASS PROJECT GONE WRONG


An elementary school class started a class project to make planters to take home to their parents.

They wanted to have a plant in it that was easy to take care of, so they decided to use cactus plants.

The students were given green-ware pottery planters in the shape of clowns which they painted with glaze.

The clown planters were professionally fired at a class outing so they could see the process.

It was great fun!

They planted cactus seeds in the finished planters and they grew nicely, but unfortunately, the children were not allowed to take them home.

The cactus plants were removed and small ivy replaced them and the children were then allowed to take them home instead.

The teacher said cactus seemed like a good idea at the time!

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6 Comments:

  1. The Curmudgeon's Rant said...
    I prefer it if the protag achieves the anticipated outcome, but only if it comes by blood, sweat and tears. The hurdles are what make’s the outcome satisfying.

    ...Are those statues of baseball players?
    Rulan said...
    I like to make it tough on my protags, but I also like them to reach their goal even if they are battered and bruised.
    Bernita said...
    Oh. My. Goodness.
    Oh yeah, that was excellent advice.
    Dennie McDonald said...
    OMG! - I am so stealing that pic - that teacher should have know better - sheesh -
    Jean-Luc Picard said...
    We are sometimes surprised when the anticipated conclusion occurs.
    Rulan said...
    Whoa! Last time I visited, my server was so slow it didn't load the picture so I didn't get the joke. Oh, but it loaded just fine this time. he he he Goodness...

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