Week 7 Report: Risk-Taking

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By Camille Germain

The term “risk-taker” has many connotations in our society. It is often seen as a person who indulges in ideas upon impulse, challenges the norm and jumps into situations that are not ideal in the concept of safety. But they are almost never seen as boring. As writers we kind of have to take on the role of a “risk-taker”. We must put our characters into situations and circumstances that provoke the reader to ask questions. There must be a reason to turn the page.

How do we take risks in our writing?

1.      1.  Raise the Stakes

2.      2.  Increase the Voltage

The easiest way to test the height of your stakes is to ask the question “So what?” Act like your character is a test subject and put obstacles in front of them to see how they react. What will happen to Character A if Conflict C happens? Or what if Character A becomes discouraged after Conflict C and then Conflict D happens?

To have “High Stakes” means that something is at risk and that you can clearly state something could be lost. There are both public and personal stakes and we must ask “What will society lose as a whole if…?” Each scene or chapter is relevant to raising the stakes. To move the story forward ask “What can I do to get my character closer to where I want them?”

Personal, deep-down stakes act as an insight to the characters. It shows who and what they are.

How can you make the stake matter more?

You must ask “How can this matter more?” If Y doesn’t happen… what will my character do or go through? Ask “How could things get worse?” And even though this seems malicious, make sure to ask “How can I make my character suffer?” You must figure out why the outcome of whatever situation or circumstance or conflict matters to the novel.

Dig Deeper

1.      1.  There needs to be something at stake for you personally.

2.       2. Your audience needs to feel anxious.

3.      3.  There needs to be a question of “Will they or won’t they?” for your characters.

Frontloading

What happens when you foreshadow the outcome of the irrevocable commitment early on? Decide if there is a bridging conflict or if it starts with a bang and there is no backstory and figure out how to make it create a backstory throughout and the initial, uniting character conflicts. There needs to be a temporary conflict, mini-problem, or interim worry that makes the opening matter.

Takeaways

1.       1. There needs to be conflict to move the story forward.

2.       2. Determine what your stakes are and raise them.

3.       3. Make your character suffer.

4.       4. Your audience needs to feel anxious.

5.       5. Be a “risk-taker”.

What I learned:

It is important to care about your characters. If they do not overcome conflict and endure then we are less likely to care. There must be personal and public stakes and society is affected by both. Each scene is relevant and acts as a catalyst to whatever outcome we want. Make the character matter.

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To Do for Week 7: Stakes and Voltage

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Inside

T 10/1

  • Week 6 Blog Post Due: Heather Digiacomo

  • Quiz 6: Baggott, Pure (pp. 293-431)

Th 10/3

  • Weekly Words #6, due by Sunday, 10/6 at 5 PM. Focus: Your novel needs lots of tension. Write about how the situation for your character could matter more, how you can make things worse for them, how you can make them suffer more. Does your novel need “frontloading” or a ticking clock? At least some of this is about figuring out why this story matters to you personally. If you haven’t already created the novel’s bridging conflict, do so now.

Outside

  • A lot of my material this week comes from Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. The idea of the Bridging Conflict especially.

  • Make it your goal this week to have a solid bridging conflict. But that is the only thing you should be going back to do. Keep moving forward as much as possible. Don’t spend a lot of time revising.

  • Whatever new words you write this week, try to make sure there’s some kind of tension, some kind of voltage jump on every single page.

  • Spend some time thinking about what’s at stake in this novel–not just for your characters, but for you. Why do the themes of this novel matter to you? How can you make it matter more?

  • Do you feel like you’re ready to trade work yet? Consider showing someone you really trust your bridging conflict, your opener. All you’re looking for is: would you be interested in reading on? If you don’t feel ready, that’s fine.

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