Monday, November 28, 2011

If You Fail to Complete Your Mission? - Instant DEATH!!!!

Last week I couldn’t help thinking about ‘high stakes’.  Especially while grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner.  You forget something like butter and the whole freaking meal risks to become an epic fail.  You have to be on top of things- stay focused!  Eyes on the prize!! And when you manage to get the turkey and all the fixings on the table at the same time?  Well, designated Thanksgiving chefs should be awarded a yearly medal by the mayor or something in my opinion. 

Unfortunately, creating the perfect meal probably won’t float when you’re looking for the high stakes in a novel.  You need something a little more universal- something that will hit closer to home.  This is a list of the leading ‘stakes’ I’ve noticed in most novels:

DEATH

-If you fail- Your loved ones will DIE!
-If you fail- YOU will most surely DIE!
-If you don’t catch the killer, then people you don’t know will DIE!

LOSS

-Society as you know will be forever changed for the worse
-You will lose your reputation/standing/friends
-Lose your worldly goods or capacity to provide
-Lose your chance at True LOVE  (in the case of most romance novels)

FAILED GOALS

-When the MC has some person/place/thing/ or status that they wish to obtain at the set out of the story in order to have a better life.  If they fail- their lives might not be any worse off than when we began but by the end of the novel, this outcome should feel like it would be a worst-case scenario.           

What other frequently used ‘high stakes’ can you think of?
Hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

29 comments:

Sarah said...

I guess the only one I can think of would be loss of self, like, if the character fails then she won't be able to live with herself. But I think you've been pretty comprehensive!

Lisa Shafer said...

In YA novels, a frequent high stakes possibility is the fear of embarrassment or social exclusion. This is HUGE when you're 13. Public humiliation of not wearing the right thing or saying the right thing or having dorky parents or whatever. When you're 13, this is right up there with saving the world as far as high stakes go.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think you've got most of the high stakes described. And yes, they are so necessary for a story to work.

Mac said...

My writing is character driven. The detail that kills is failing to ensure every scene, paragraph and clause belongs, merges into a seamless story in the protagonist's mind.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Eek! The problem of blogging at 5 am when you've stayed up late reading a YA contemp you can't put down, the brain fails to work. I can't think of any high stakes beyonds the ones you've listed.

I'm reading Between Now and Forever by Elizabeth Scott. If the main character doesn't succeed, her sister won't come out of her coma and move away so that the mc can get her life back. It works. Not only could I NOT put the book down. I spent most of last night crying while reading the book.

Laura Pauling said...

Can't any more high stakes than death, probably why it's used so often. I have to admit, they make great stories when done well.

But high emotional stakes pull me in to but I find those more with cont. stories.

Vicki Rocho said...

Is anyone else hearing REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It"??

Your list is pretty complete on it's own -- your good like that. ;)

Creepy Query Girl said...

I just thought of another one- when the mc's goal is to get back the life they once had after a major loss

Jen Daiker said...

I personally thought this list was perfect, anything else that I didn't think of was said in the middle as well!

I'm currently working in a high stakes situation with my characters. It's about to get ugly. Step back. Be safe. Happy Monday!

Talli Roland said...

Love how you've compared forgetting the butter to high stakes. I can relate. In this house, that would be very high stakes indeed!

You've got a great list here.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Most of the things I can think of fall under one of those categories in some way.
You've made me over my newest project now ... let's see: failure for the main character means facing either total poverty or a loveless, arranged marriage. Check.

April Plummer said...

I think you've pretty much nailed it! As for Thanksgiving...getting everything ready at the same time is always our hardest thing! We do potluck, so people have to warm it up. I honestly don't know what we'd do if we didn't have a double oven!

Connie Keller said...

I love the butter analogy.

I can't think of anything to add to the list.

Em-Musing said...

I'd say happiness. Putting your own happiness first even though you know it will hurt everyone else. Hmm? Did this make any sense?

Meredith said...

I can't imagine cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal. I would definitely forget the butter! Love your high stakes. :)

julie fedderson said...

I read a lot of paranormal, so it's always if you fail, mortals will all DIE!

Old Kitty said...

Love? As in "if you love me you will do this most unthinkable of things" and "i love you, i will do this unthinkable thing for you to prove my worth!" LOL!

Take care
x

Hart Johnson said...

With my cozies, the stakes are usually that if it isn't solved, a loved one will go to jail over it (though I've played some with rescuing abductees or saving lives when the MC gets too close to solving it). Eternal torment is something my characters in other books often need to be rescued from...

LTM said...

in the MS I have out the choice is between Life and True Love. yeah, I went there. But I think it works. Stakes, man. Love 'em. :D LOL!

Hope you had a divine holiday with no fails whatsoever~ <3

JEM said...

You hit the nail on the head! Although with just a few "stakes" at stake, it's a big responsibility for the author to make it fresh. I love the comparison with Thanksgiving ingredients. I felt that way when I went to the grocery store - like if I didn't get something, it was lost to me forever and I would never be able to make my meal. Pressure indeed.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think you covered the main ones. Throwing all three into a book is even better.

Jessie Humphries said...

I cant think of any more...those are the biggies. Putting in as much as you can is best.

Stephsco said...

In YA, you will never ever be cool unless...

Which of course will change over time once the character realizes whatever they thought was cool isn't actually cool. And usually some other high stakes situation allows them to realize it. Hopefully! So many of these YA books are trilogies these days; it takes forever to get to any resolution.

CNHolmberg said...

If you fail, Russia will nuke the U.S.!

Tony Van Helsing said...

If you fail the devil gets your soul.

Nancy Thompson said...

Yeah, I've got all three of those in spades in my own book.

mshatch said...

thanks for making me think about the stakes :)

Alleged Author said...

I have to agree with Sarah about loss of identify/self.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Oh darn. I liked the "not getting the meal on the table in time" stake. :) But yeah, I can see how that would be boring to the average reader.

Do they sell turkeys in France or did you have to buy one imported? Curious....

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