Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Magic of Conflict: part two

The stakes in an emotionally satisfying novel have to be about death of which there are three kinds to choose from:

 (1) Physical Death: The stakes are obviously highest here. The main character has to win in the arena of conflict or he’s a goner! Most thrillers are written with this being what’s at stake. Maybe the hero has a secret that the bad guys don’t want revealed or he’s in a business that leads to trouble. But it’s the highest stake and causes the most tension and suspense for the reader which makes a book a page turner if well written.

 (2) Professional Death: What is on the line in this scenario to drive a novel forward is the hero’s or heroine’s calling in life is under attack. Her career might be over, her future a cloud, her life’s work a failure. High stakes indeed to die professionally.

 (3) Psychological Death: This is all about the personal death, dying on the inside. The stakes can go as high as suicide, though that’s at the extreme end of it. This type of death elevates the emotions of fiction like no other aspect. It is the key to all romances because no one wants to miss out on their soul mate. A writer needs to be very good at creating the illusion of imminent psychological death because of the happy-ever-after caveat. And what they are suffering about has to matter to them enough, and make the kind of sense that it will become a page turner which is our ultimate goal, I believe, as writers.

*All these “deaths” have to be chosen with the near-end in mind, bringing your story’s conflict to its crisis point which is what your readers are waiting for. Keeping it strong and life changing will make your story matter and give your readers something or someone to root for.

Happy writing!

Best, January Bain

The Forever Series


Liz Fountain said...

This is an area I really need to work on. I tend to make the stakes either too low or unclear. Thanks for the help!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Once we like our characters, we hate to hurt them. It helps if they bring it on themselves. YeeeEEE!

January Bain said...

Thanks for the comments, Julie and Liz! Writing is such an interesting journey.

Olga Godim said...

Great post, January. What about a death/danger to someone else? What if the hero doesn't risk much himself but runs through all sorts of obstacles with a ticking clock in the background. If he doesn't make it on time, someone else will suffer.

January Bain said...

That sounds terrific idea Olga! Are you writing a novel like that? Love to hear about it. jbain@xplornet.com is where you can reach me. Best, January

Anonymous said...

What romantic death, where the H and H never achieve true love. I have seen a few stories like that, never in mine of course (g).

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)