By: C. S. Lakin
We’re looking at conflict in our fiction, and last week I touched a bit on this essential “corner pillar” of novel construction. Conflict is crucial to having a compelling story, for if our hero has no obstacles as he tries to reach his goal, the story will be bor-ing. What would The Wizard of Oz be like if, once Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz, she had only to take a walk in the park without incident to arrive back in Kansas? Well, there wouldn’t be a story, and story is everything.
So I’ll assume we’re in agreement that we need conflict in our novels. I talked last weekabout some different types of classic scenarios that pit man against other forces (opposition), and how conflict doesn’t necessarily imply a bad guy or antagonist blocking your hero’s way. But what conflict should do is present high stakes for him.
The Truth about High Stakes
So just what are stakes? Stakes come in two forms. You may or may not have heard the terms “public stakes” and “personal stakes,” but those are, in a nutshell, the two types of stakes at play in a story. Public stakes affect the world at large (in your story). They are stakes that affect others besides your character.
The best stories, in my opinion, are the ones that have both public and personal stakes in spades. And I’ll even say the stories in which the personal stakes are the highest are the better stories. I’ll explain why in a moment.
Stakes are what is at risk for your character. In general, stakes can be for gain or loss. Characters make choices and initiate action as they go after their goal, and every choice and action should have something at stake—something to gain or lose.
You might assume high stakes (big risks, big losses) only come into play in genres like international thrillers or action/adventure novels, but I disagree. Any story, however small scale and personal, can present huge stakes and huge consequences.
How can that be? Because it’s all about the character and her goal.
. . .
Read the full article HERE!
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