Stakes, And I Don't Mean the Vampire Kind

Finally I got to see this movie I've been wanting to see for months. The previews rocked and I'm happy to say that I loved the movie too. :-)

As I was watching it in the theater (yay!), I was processing the format of the storytelling, the characters, the dialogue, even how the director used the setting and visuals to create mood.

I immediately connected to the heroine because she was a little girl imprisoned by a wicked queen. I rooted for her to be free and cheered (inwardly, of course) when she escaped.

Then came my AHA moment.

A hero is tracked down, a guy who can follow the heroine into dark places and bring her back. I didn't want him to. I wondered why he would.

Then the evil queen offers him something that made my breath clench and immediately hooked me into the story.

You see, the hero is found drunk and careless. He's a widower who lost his way when his beloved wife was murdered.

The wicked queen sees his loneliness...his pain. She has evil powers and offers to bring his wife back from the dead if he'll find the heroine.

HIGH Stakes.

He has everything to gain if he does this thing. Who couldn't relate to missing someone so badly you'd do almost anything to get them back? Who couldn't empathize with the hero's pain?

And that was when I was hooked for good. The conflict was set. I wanted the heroine free, but I also wanted this hero to get his wife back.

I'm torn...and I'm perched on the edge of my seat to see what will happen next.

This is what having high stakes in your story can do. It creates believable and seemingly insurmountable conflict that will cause the reader to flip pages. Not only that, but high stakes create empathy.

I haven't done a whole lot of high stakes writing in my books so far. I'm still learning and will definitely be incorporating this into my future works.

If you're a writer, what kind of stakes is your protagonist facing? How can you heighten them? Readers, do you know what movie I'm referencing? *grin* If you've seen it, who did you root for and why?


Terri Tiffany said…
You are making me think about my current WIP-- I might have to up the stakes a bit more! Thanks!
I did see the movie and totally enjoyed it but as a romance writer, I was disappointed at the end. I wanted a definite, I only got illusion.

I do a lot of high stakes writing, but writing suspense, I kinda have to! LOL
Connie Keller said…
Great post. What was the name of the movie? I'd love to see it.

BTW, I gave you the Versatile Blogger Award on my Merry Heart Blog today. (I hope you haven't had it before.)
Cindy R. Wilson said…
Oooh, I love high stakes! I should consider having more at stake in my current WIP. I really want readers to be invested and root for the hero and heroine.
Katie Ganshert said…
I want to see this movie!!
I'm with Katie, let's go together. Catch the next flight. :D

I'm working in stronger ones as I edit.
~ Wendy
Lindsay Harrel said…
Loved this movie, but agree with Jess about the ending! Boo.

If a book doesn't hook me early on with something I care about, it's hard for me to keep reading.
Julie Dao said…
Great post! High stakes make a great story. We want to root for the character as they overcome their hurdles. I still haven't seen this movie and really want to!
Unknown said…
Sounds like a great movie. It reminds me of "Writing the Breakout Novel." He's always talking about raising the stakes.
It was a great movie! And while the ending disappointed a bit, I understood why they had to make it like that and not with a marriage. The allusion to love was enough for me to leave happy. :-)

The movie is Snow White and the Huntsman. VERY good, if you like fantastical with some romance. ;-)
Erica Vetsch said…
I haven't seen the movie, but I'd like to. :)

High stakes, I love reading books with high stakes, ticking clocks, life or death on the line. :)
Unknown said…
Yes, yes high stakes all the way!

I think I'm seeing that same movie next weekend. Excited!
Patti said…
I want to see that movie too. I think that the higher the stakes the better the story, as long as you have a good pay off in the end. At least that's my belief.
Stacy Henrie said…
Super intriguing - great high stakes!
Loree Huebner said…
The stakes must be high! We want that page turner, or a edge of the seat sitter, gripping with white knuckles.

Great thoughts here, Jessica!
Enjoyed your revelation of high stakes. It is something I'm working on during edits.
I really got a kick out of your comments about analyzing the storytelling process at the theater. Writers just can't help doing this, can they?
Andrew said…
The highest, and most universal 'high stakes' we can all identify with is - falling in love.

Nowhere else are we forced to lay aside our defenses and conceits, and leave ourselves open to winning the greatest of all prizes - or experiencing a rejection that can alter our lives' whole trajectories.
Linda Kage said…
Ooh, not fair. I want to see that movie! But, yeah, I love how the stakes are set for the Huntsman; I hadn't known that part of the story before.

VERY good idea about setting stakes. Thanks!
Beth K. Vogt said…
I'm plotting a book right now and I will now make sure I've got my Stakes set in the ground firmly.
And I don't know what this movie is ... but oh, do I want to see it!
Unknown said…
I love high stakes. It's fun being mean to your characters. :D
Hi Jess -

Those are high stakes!

I've got a life or death situation in my novel. I like the idea of putting the reader in a place where they want both outcomes.

Susan :)
Karen Lange said…
Wow, those are some high stakes! Really makes me think about the WIP. Glad you shared, thanks. :)
Me too, Erica!

Melissa, I hope you get to see it!

Patti, that's so true. We have to come through for the reader.

Thanks Loree. :-)

Ava, you're right.I do it all the time now, but thankfully it doesn't interfere with movie enjoyment (usually).
Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by! Are you a romance writer, by any chance? *wink*

Susan, it makes for some intense conflict!
Nancy said…
I don't know the movie, but was it some version or an update on Snow White? That conflict certainly did put up high stakes.

In one book I read, I had to choose between the law and what was most surely the right way, and a down and out adorable outlaw. I can't believe I was rooting for the outlaw, but had you been there, I think you would have too.
EEEK! Now I really want to see this! Great post, pal. I think emotional stakes are the best one (like this one) because they are so relatable universally. Glad you loved the movie!
Nick Wilford said…
Great post. This is something so important to remember, it could make the difference as to whether someone keeps reading your story or puts it down because high stakes increase the emotional connection to the character. I need to keep this in mind with my WIP! Thanks for commenting on my blog.
I'm not a big movie goer (is that a real word?) but you make it sound very interesting!
Tammy, I don't know if you'd like it or not. There's some heavy fantasy/supernatural stuff in there but if you do see it, let me know what you think. :)

Hi Nick!
I thought your blog looked very interesting and will be checking out more of your posts. Have a great weekend!

Anita!!! I think you're gonna love it. :-)

Nancy, yeah, it was an altered Snow White tale. If we're rooting for the outlaw, then the writer has done a super job, imo! lol
Jennifer Shirk said…
Sounds really good! Makes me want to see the movie now!
This is a timely post for me, as I'm trying to increase the stakes in my current WIP.
Jennifer, I think you'd like it...maybe? Hmmm. lol

Melanie, I'm glad it was helpful. :-)

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