High Stakes?


We all face stakes in our real lives – being a writer is probably a stake in itself! But what can set fiction apart from life is the types of stakes that feature in novels.

200px-Skulduggery_Pleasant_book_coverI’ll use Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series as my example(s) of the fantastic. It’s fair to say that these novels have higher stakes than my own: after all, the end of the known world is a pretty major stake. It affects everyone (including me, as a citizen of the UK).

However, one must remember that his is an urban supernatural series, about modern magic and evil (to extensively paraphrase!).

Contrast that with WTCB’s stakes of romantic loss: Aidelle may lose her life, but that is not what she’s concerned with: it’s liberty and love that bother her. And the chance of losing her future family is a pretty major part of her troubles, too. It’s in her character to feel guilt for people who don’t actually exist in her current time-line.

And Phillip, he’s got to look out, otherwise he might get hitched the wrong girl.

These stakes don’t bother anyone outside of their respective close families – in fact, I’m sure the Villante sisters would be indirectly chuffed if the protagonists fail.

Nevertheless, these are the stakes that matter to me as a writer, and so they matter more to my characters, beyond puppetry.

On the ‘From Fact to Fiction’ blog this week, Elley posted a similar point about whether stakes should be higher before the end. Good to get thinking.

Writers face a choice: the realism of a lesser stake – or the higher stake incorporating a less convincing idea.

I think it depends on the genre. I’m not saying that stakes are unimportant,shaun-of-the-dead-trio but that they really depend on what sort of story a writer is going for. Having an end-of-world-is-nigh scenario in a romance novel is not going to attract readers on stake value – unless it’s a zom-rom-com the likes of Shaun of the Dead.

That’s why I’m keeping WTCB’s stakes as they are, emotion-based.

Pictorial time-slide ABrant
– or clocks falling down a cliff…there’s a joke in there somewhere…

I was led to think about this post recently in reference to the growing possibility that my novel is to be the first of a trilogy. Whilst the plots are minimal for the time-being, I’ve decided to go for high stakes for the final book. Yes, the world is ending! A ‘time-slide’, as the protagonist of the second and third books calls it – kind of like an avalanche of time – is coming, and this means trouble for even you and I, observers of the situation.

But especially me, ‘cause I have to write it.

Totally had writer’s block (commonly known as ‘I-have-too-many-ideas-floating-‘round-my-head-to-actually-write–itus’) yesterday, and I’m thinking of giving up my Tuesday slot to edit some more. I’m hoping to query later in the year, so I’m, as Jae would say, “polishing up the diamond”.

On that note, my word of the week is SARDONIC, from the Latin: Sardonius (referring to a bitter plant). Sardonic is a pretty cool word.

2 thoughts on “High Stakes?

  1. Thanks for the mention. 🙂

    Genre surely has an impact, and even sub-genre. Within romance, paranormal and suspense are ripe for bring-them-to-their-knees plots, not that it can’t or shouldn’t happen in the other sub-genre. The personality of the writer and reader also has an impact. Just as I don’t tend to write dire stakes, I shy away from reading them as well.


    1. You’re welcome!
      I myself tend to read some books with dire situations, but I’d rather craft something a little lighter. It definitely depends on what the author feels capable of doing. Just as I’d rather have a happy ending. I know I’m more satisfied as a reader with a happy ending, so the idea works that way.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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