the stakes

Posted: November 14, 2011 in stories

I’ve been reading about writing and as a result the one question I have whenever I read a novel is “What are the stakes?”

“What are the stakes?” goes beyond the traditional plot structures. As useful as those well-studied graphs and taxonomies might be, I usually think of the stakes as being summed up in the title of the book. If they are not, I wonder why that title was chosen.

For instance, in “The Art of Dreaming” many conflicts occur, but what is at stake is the art of dreaming: Can Don Juan’s disciple perfect the ability to dream and explore the worlds within him that seem also to be part of an outer world full of mystery and intrigue? Furthermore, can the reader also learn the lessons of the art of dreaming vicariously through Castaneda’s document of a young man’s strange experience?

Every time someone picks up this book, the words chosen for the title will ring in that person’s mind. I am reading the Art of Dreaming. What’s at stake? The very fabric of the inner part of the soul of my mind and how it processes and interprets reality!

Every character in the book will be focusing on the stakes. So what’s at stake?

Love?

Money?

Ideals?

A coherent plot cannot exist where there are no stakes. Characters have no reason to do anything without any stakes.

The more one contemplates the stakes in a narrative, the more one can think of what’s at stake in life, and how many things are obscuring us from attaining our goals.

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