March at Evolution / High stakes in short stories

March 03

March is a busy month over at Evolution Writers, focusing on the theme of Characters. We have one article submitted by Terra that will be posted soon about raising the stakes with your characters… always nice to see members chiming in with their observations. There are a few character chats scheduled, and a character building workshop as well. Feel free to take a look and sign up for anything that interests you. 🙂

I have a post from last month over there that I’m still mulling over, regarding high stakes in short stories. I’m still pondering over this, as I think it applies to some of my short stories.

The one that I think it applies most to– and the one that inspired the post on Evo in the first place– was the short Blood Sight. In it, the seer Awena is running from some villagers, who capture her. They are killed by a vampire, who rescues her, and tries to convince her that she is in danger from him. Karlan doesn’t believe that he can control himself around her.

But she doesn’t want that. She wants him to take her, to change her, so that she can be free of fear. The problem is that the stakes aren’t high enough. She doesn’t ring true, because the consequences of her not being taken by Karlan are not severe. (Not unimportant, but not important enough.)

I need to revise this at some point, but first I need to detemine what is truly at stake. Her freedom? Her life? Her sanity? Her virtue? How about all of the above? Now that’s starting to sound good, sounds like she has something on the line worth fighting for– worth dying for.

As I had intended to work with these two characters through multiple short stories, I may just sit down and do character bios for them both. I do need to do more work for the revision– fleshing out the setting, and her relationship with other characters– but most of that can be done through the bios.


Posted by on March 3, 2006 in General


2 responses to “March at Evolution / High stakes in short stories

  1. Sela

    March 8, 2006 at 8:33 am

    I recently attended a class where we talked for a few minutes about the stakes. The teacher said that the stakes must be high *within the context of the story.* She mentioned a short she had read that dealt entirely with whether the character’s husband was going to bring a cup of tea. Big whoop, one thinks. But… every day for the past 30 yrs of marriage, her husband had brought her a cup of tea at exactly 6:00 pm. Yesterday, he didn’t. So today, she’s watching the clock, listening for the kettle and wondering whether it will come today. The stakes for her are HUGE! So high stakes are extremely relative within the context of the story.

    As Angela Knight said regarding writing novellas — You can solve one problem, get rid of one bad guy in a short. You can’t fix all the problems of the whole world. Focus.

  2. stormerider

    March 9, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    Thanks for the comment… I like the last part especially. Solve only one problem…

    *wanders off deep in thought*


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