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Old September 8th, 2019, 06:11 AM
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TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

I agree generally with the entirety of your assessment. My go-to for reader stakes is Relatability, which you more-or-less covered in synonymous terms. Though it is important to keep in mind that reader stakes are ultimately subjective, even if there are objective metrics through which we can increase our odds of achieving those stakes.

My go-to example of this would be my take on a game called Neir Automata, which my brother made me play because it was so good it supposedly made him cry. Throughout the entire experience I just simply didn't care. The universal wrongs you speak of were there, as was an excellent musical score trying its damndest to drum up emotion in me. But I just didn't care. The characters were boring and the plot didn't make sense. It's the reverse for Silent Hill 2, which I adore but didn't resonate with my brother. He knows better than to dispute the quality of that masterpiece; it still just didn't work for him personally.

At any rate, I sense that you have a clear grasp on the concepts at play, so I remain curious as to why the execution of it eludes you. It may simply be because you claim to work the process in reverse, though I couldn't say for certain as I've never tried it that way. I write my plots in reverse from end-to-start and it mostly seems to work for me (at least to my knowledge (notify me if it doesn't, readers)), but perhaps it's more complicated to do so for stakes.

It is my belief that characters are ultimately more important than plot when it comes to reader impact, and a good deal of the Threat you refer to often originates from that plot. The character Need typically comes from the character, so it's more important in my opinion. Again writing Threat-then-Need may mess with this a bit, resulting in lower reader stakes. But I'm not a doctor in this area.

Perhaps what you should do is look at your library of works and figure out which among them you thought had the best stakes, and then revisit and dissect that work to try and find out why. It could hold the answer to making your approach to stakes work.

~TAF, writing nemesis: Romance

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