Friday, March 21, 2014

What are the Stakes?

I’ve been using the past month or so working on my query.  I know, I know.  It seems like a long time, but it’s the first impression of my writing and I don’t want it to be thrown together.  Besides, it took years to revise and rewrite my novel.  I feel like my query should have the same kind of focus.  (Hopefully not a years’ worth.)

Many different people have critiqued my query, and I’ve noticed a certain theme.  Why does this matter?  Why does your character even care?  What are the stakes your character is fighting against?

As I go through possible answers to those questions, and my query has changed quite a bit.  And I’m starting to realize that the stakes need to be personal.  What does it matter if it affects society or changes their environment?  What is it about the situation affect them personally?

For example, in Harry Potter, the main character is fighting against Voldermort, the man who killed his family and is threatening the very society and life that Harry knows.  But what does that matter?  Why does Harry feel the need to fight?  It would have been much easier for him to sit back and let someone else fight the battle.  What is it about the conflict that Harry finds so personal that he’s willing to sacrifice everything, even his own life, to keep Voldermort from wining?

Honestly, I’d love to hear your thoughts to that question.  Is it because of some moral sense of responsibility?  Revenge?  Preserving a world where his place isn’t in the closet?  In memory of those who’ve already died?

The stakes are what makes the character.  If there’s nothing to lose, there’s nothing to win.  Our characters need to be motivated by something that’s so personal that they’re willing to fight until it’s over.