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Old September 7th, 2019, 08:20 PM
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Exclamation Writing nemesis: Stakes

Greetings, writers and readers. For those of you who simply like to read, this likely won't be for you. But for those of you who have lent some thought to the writing process, the below will, I hope, prove helpful and enlightening.

I've always had trouble with stakes. They are my nemesis in writing. Because they've given me so much trouble, I've gone over and over them, breaking them down into their defining principles of what they are, why they are needed, and how they are created. I'm no expert in the field, but I would like to share with you what I have discovered, and how I think stakes work. If you're willing, I would love to hear your thoughts on the below, and if you agree or disagree, and why.

The basics:
Spoiler Alert!

The details:
Spoiler Alert!

Where it comes together:
Spoiler Alert!

So now is the time for the cold hard truth.

Am I off my rocker here?

~TGRF.

Eternity, End Come - Problem Detected
Spoiler Alert!
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  #2  
Old September 8th, 2019, 05:11 AM
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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

TheAverageFan is Emirroon...
in THE BLUE CAVE

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Old September 8th, 2019, 12:42 PM
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

Spoiler Alert!

The reader stakes is what I was missing; I think I know how to create and show stakes now. We'll see once I start development back up.

The working in reverse I was referring to is simply that I start with the core elements of the goal and the obstacle when I first start creating a story. I certainly agree the characters are far more important than the plot. But I still create them based on the plot, because I start with the basics of the plot, not the characters. So for that reason, I need to define their goals based off of the goal of the plot (because then it will align perfectly). I've never tried starting with a character and making a plot from there. It might be something which I could try.

~TGRF, who doesn't have the experience to know if any romance he wrote would work or not.

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Old September 8th, 2019, 12:55 PM
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

Good analysis. Stakes are pretty important and it's important that a story has the right stakes. I find that personal stakes are generally stronger. Take James Bond for example: Casino Royale and Skyfall have deeply personal stakes and because of that are two of the strongest Bond movies. But Spectre took the personal stakes part too far and just came across as goofy.

I think that ties into the reader's stakes you talk about. We see how much Bond cares for Vesper and M. We never get that with Blofeld or anyone in Spectre, so the reader/watcher has no investment. (I'm looking at this through a critic's eyes rather than an author's eyes.)
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Old September 9th, 2019, 03:43 PM
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

I would try starting with the character sometime.
Get to know the character and let them tell you their stories.
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Old September 9th, 2019, 04:01 PM
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tornado View Post
I would try starting with the character sometime.
Get to know the character and let them tell you their stories.
I haven't been very responsive lately (to this or PMs), and I apologize, but basically this for me. Most of my favorite stories of any medium are very character-driven. If I'm invested in the character, I'm generally invested in their stakes, no matter how big or small they are.

I think that's what you're getting at with reader stakes. Granted, it's a balancing act, but if I'm watching a movie or reading a book where the fate of the whole universe is at hand, but the characters a meh, I'm not likely to pay attention or bother finishing the story. On the other hand, one of my favorite series has to do exactly with the fate of the whole universe, a notably cheesy trope (that the book is aware of), but the characters are so enjoyable and relatable that my reader stakes are higher, even if the story is one I've heard before. (That also has a lot to do with how much I'll re-read/watch something -- if I like the characters I'll read/watch multiple times no matter how well I know the story/ending.)
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Old September 9th, 2019, 05:33 PM
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The Grim Reaper's Friend The Grim Reaper's Friend is offline
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tornado View Post
I would try starting with the character sometime.
Get to know the character and let them tell you their stories.
This works for pantsers or discovery writers - that is, writers who create and discover their story as they write. I am a plotter - that is, a writer who has to plan everything out in great detail before ever writing. I can literally only write the one way. 'Letting a character tell' me what to write does not work for me.

~TGRF.

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Old September 9th, 2019, 08:19 PM
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Re: Writing nemesis: Stakes

Not with that attitude.
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