Thursday, October 29, 2015

Personalizing The Stakes Using Fear And Undeserved Consequences

with guest Angela Ackerman.

Compelling novels have many different ingredients that make them fascinating to read, but of one the standard components is a healthy, continual dose of ACTION. The protagonist is always doing something: weighing alternatives, choosing options, making decisions and then acting on them, good or bad. 

Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? We throw something at a character and they deal with it. Seize the day, steer their fate. The plot rolls ahead, filled with glorious momentum, with the character tackling challenge after challenge as the reader is carried breathlessly toward the story’s finish line. 

Only…that’s not what happens. 

Why? Because characters are stubborn. They fight action, fight decisions, fight change. Most would rather sit on the couch with a bag of potato chips as loud music blasts from the stereo speakers so they can pretend they don’t hear the author banging at the door.
What’s missing is Motivation. To act, a character must be motivated to do so, especially when danger is present, the odds are unfavorable or the consequences are grave. No one willingly throws themselves into a fire without thought. They need to have a reason to do so, especially when fear is involved. 

Fear The Reaper (And A Lot More)

As people, we make associations with fear (most negative). We tend to avoid things that scare us—a psychological response common to us all. To create believable fiction, what happens in the real world should be mirrored in the fictional one, so we need to apply this same mindset to our characters. 

Fear comes in many flavors. In addition to specific fears the character has based on past negative experiences (backstory) such as a fear of the dark, fear of poverty, fear of abandonment, etc., there are universal fears that come onto play: 

  • A fear of pain or injury
  •  The fear of losing something (or someone) one cherishes 
  • The fear of failure
  • A fear of losing oneself (identity)
  •  The fear of the unknown (change) 
  • The Fear of death

Story catalysts (the “motivation” aspect of the Motivation-Reaction Units (MRU) can be positive or negative, and both can trigger fear. So when dread paralyzes action as effectively as a pair of cement boots, how do we get our characters to push past their fears and act? 

Raising The Stakes

Stakes are the consequences which will come about if your character does nothing. If the consequences seem far removed or more of an inconvenience than hardship, chances are, a protagonist will not be willing to step outside their comfort zone and get involved. But if the stakes are higher, and the consequences more dire or personal, then it pokes at a character’s moral soft spots, hitting them in the place where their strongest beliefs of right and wrong live. 

The most effective way to raise the stakes is to personalize them to the protagonist in some way. One option is to use fear—more specifically, to activate a higher level of fear where doing nothing is worse than trying to do something despite the risk.

Fight Fear With Fear

If your protagonist fears failure…then have another pay the price of failing. Nothing motivates someone faster than a loved one having to pay a steep price instead of oneself.
If your protagonist fears losing something they cherish…have another suffer a loss undeservingly as a result if one does not succeed in one’s mission. 

If your protagonist fears a loss of identity…have another be forced to sacrifice theirs as a consequence should the hero not step up and do what is right.

If your protagonist fears pain…create an end game scenario where another will suffer should the hero be unable to put themselves in the path of pain themselves. 

These are just a few examples on using fear, but there are many other ways to personalize stakes. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a list to brainstorm from, so I’ve created one! When you need your character to act, go through this list to see if there is a way to nudge their moral compass in the right direction. 

What is your favorite way up raising the stakes? How have you used personal stakes to motivate your character? Let me know in the comments! 

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker and co-author of several bestselling writing books, including The Emotion Thesaurus. She loves building communities and her newest project, One Stop For Writers, is a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brainstorming  tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her website, Writers Helping Writers.

Angela brought  fun prize package with her today. Three commenters will win a one month subscription to One Stop For Writers, a powerhouse online library like no other, supplying writers with inspiration, education and unique description resources. And one reader will win a surprise package of books from Seekerville, in Angela's honor, to keep them reading through the holidays!

 Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

No time to lurk! Only three days until we announce the final winners!


  1. I cannot believe I'm first.

    Did the world end?

    Have we been cyber-attacked?


    Well, if there is, we've got COFFEE!!!!!!!!!

  2. Angela, good morning! Thank you so much for being here, and let me tell you that I printed that list off instantly because I need motivation reminders as I write....

    I'm a Mom, therefore a fixer. Causing these poor people added strife is not easy! And I have a delicious helping of old world Catholic guilt, besides, so then I feel B-U-R-D-E-N-E-D by their pain....

    But I do it anyway, because it must be done! These are such clear and concise instructions that even I can follow them without my attention wandering too much... :)

    I brought rice pudding today, one of my favorite recipes! It's not baked, those get too dry for me, so let me know what you think!

  3. Good morning Seekerville! Coffee is on and there is a vast array of pumpkin muffins, cinnamon rolls and banana bread. Dig in and enjoy.

    Hi Angela. Great post! One that I will keep for my 'keeper book'. I'm currently on hiatus from my writing but I still have characters running around in my head and the advice you have given will help me I'm sure.

    Happy Birthday Seekerville! May everyone have a blessed day today.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  4. All I could think about when reading this article was Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy. Katniss's entrance to the Hunger Games was all to protect Prim (she feared her kindhearted sister wouldn't have been able to survive). The stakes keep rising from there, all the way to the semi-controversial ending of Mockingjay ...

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  5. Welcome back, Angela.

    And Cindy, you brought diet busters! Way to go. I am so in.

  6. Angela, you have a new project coming up at One Stop for Writers. Can you share or is it still top secret??

  7. Raising the stakes...As a reader, those stakes are what keep me turning the pages. Although if you have danger after danger, it can seem unrealistic - especially if the setting is off. I think an important thing is make sure you are not sacrificing character development for the fast paced, dangerous plot.

  8. Kate, those are words of the wisest. If we suspend belief in the weave of the story, the reader picks up on it real quick!

  9. I have marked your site so I can use it, Thank you for this post.

  10. I'm avreader. I relate to your article. That helps keep me engaged when reading. :-)

  11. Welcome, Angela! I love all of your Thesaurus books. They're full of highlighting and post-its and always front and center when I'm writing. This post is a keeper for my Seekerville notebook. I love the idea of fighting fear with fear. You've certainly given me a lot to think about.

  12. Hi Angela,

    Great information. I'll stop by your site later today.

  13. I'm just back from three weeks in the resort town of Sopot, Poland, and first thing this morning I'm rewarded with this wonderful article on fighting fear with fear—I like that!!:-)

    Angela, this one is a keeper—thanks!

  14. Angela,

    I have the Emotion Thesaurus and LOVE it! My mind goes totally blank while writing, and it's so nice to having your book come to the rescue.

    Fear is the best motivator. You bring up a lot of great points. Thanks so much for the post.

  15. Great tips, Angela! Some of these things we just need to be constantly reminding ourselves of as we write. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  16. Ruthy, I can't believe you're not first every morning. :)

    Angela, welcome back!! I needed this post badly. Thank you for sharing this list to kick off some ideas. I struggle to make sure my characters are acting rather than reacting.

  17. Mary Hicks, what a wonderful trip!

  18. Thanks for the post. It could encourage someone's personal life, not just their characters. Fear is a strong factor in everyday life. Have a good week everyone!

  19. Thanks for the great post Angela. I am bookmarking and sharing it. I really need this because I am currently trying to get to know my characters and figuring out what their fears are. One of them is being quite tight lipped about it so hopefully this advice will help me figure him out.

    Thanks for the giveaway too!

  20. Great post! Very helpful! Please enter me in the drawing for the subscription. Thank you!

  21. Hi Angela,
    As a reader one of my favorite tools to "raise the stakes" is being willing to take a risk to right a situation. I just finished a book that had the divorced hero believing he "wasn't enough" and eventually any woman would walk away from him. The heroine had been in emotionally abusive/user relationships before and was determined to not go down that road again.
    Both had to take risks that what they believed about themselves and others could be changed if they were to take a chance on love. I love a story like this were the risk brings a happy-ever-after.

    Please enter me for the reader package and thank you Seekerville.

  22. Hello ANGELA! Thank you for the great post! I am raising a cuppa tea to ALL you risk takers! Thank you for writing stories that have us sitting on the edge of our seats wanting more!

    Please enter me for the reader package.

  23. I LOVED this post, Angela. I never thought about using fear in the ways you described. I can see how it would deepen the story and the character arc, though. I would imagine you can do that with other facets of emotion and their arc as well. I'm definitely going to be considering this when I brainstorm my next story!

  24. I love inspirational posts like this that make me want to write! I've been playing around with fear of loss and being alone in my writings. It's an interesting motivation that can lead characters to do some pretty crazy things.

  25. Angela, I use the Emotion Thesaurus a LOT when writing and thanks to this post, have just added this list to my arsenal of tools. Motivations are the key to making the fear believable, but they're also the glue that keeps a character in a situation they would much rather avoid.

    I loved the earlier mention of Hunger Games. It's also an example of a motivation that grows along with the character. Katniss volunteers in order to protect Prim, once inside she tries to protect Rue, and ultimately challenges the Capitol because she wants to protect all the future children from participating in the Games. That bigger fear is why she wasn't going to ever get married and have a family of her own.

    I think the best stories are the ones where motivated fears make the stakes get bigger. Thanks for the fresh boost of ideas as I plot my next book.

  26. TINA,
    I meant to mention your caption under the prize picture, "no time to lurk", that had me laughing, I'm trying not to be a lurker this week, I've got the Amazon card and the iPad mini in my sights ;)

  27. Hi Angela,

    It's so nice to see you in Seekerville! I always enjoy seeing what you have to say. Thanks for another great post and something to pin on my Writing Tips board on Pinterest.

    Tracey, Seekerville was the first blog where I gathered the courage to comment. These ladies are wonderful!

  28. WOW, ANGELA ... way to channel all that gunky fear into a positive!! This is a print-offer piece for sure, so thank you for the insight on fear as motivation.

    And author of the Emotion Thesaurus??? Okay, I love, Love, LOVE emotion in books, so that's apparently one book I need to buy ...

    RUTHY SAID: "nd I have a delicious helping of old world Catholic guilt, besides, so then I feel B-U-R-D-E-N-E-D by their pain...."

    LOL ... who would have thought that good ol' Catholic guilt would come in handy, Ruthy, but if anyone can use it to advantage, it's you, my friend! :)

    Pumpkin muffins and bread pudding -- I am sooooo there! Thank you Ruthy and Cindy W!

    Welcome back, Mary, from Sopot, Poland. A resort town, eh? Will have to look that one up ...


  29. This is great stuff! Thanks Angela. From my own personal experience, to books and movies that sucked me in, fear for someone you love.

    Someone has already mentioned Katniss' fear for her sister in The Hunger Games. Her fear for her sister was greater than her fear for herself. A mom's fear for her child is greater than the fear for herself.

    There are so many variations of this, but if you take a man/woman who doesn't fear the loss of something: life, possessions, salvation, health, freedom... for himself or for someone he loves ... then what does he have to live for? What redemption or "rising above" scenario can and author squeeze out of that?

    Fear, risks, and rewards. It's something to think about.

  30. Hi Angela
    I'm terrible at the upping the stakes part of things, so this post is uber useful to me. The fact that the mention of Katniss and the Hunger Games example of upping stakes resonates with commenter is probably why the series became the phenomenon it did/is still.

    Anyway, this is a copy/paste post for a go to when I need the refresher/reminder when writing. Thanks for the visit and the wisdom!!!

    p.s. can I guilt trip the Seekers with Catholic upbringing for an inside track on the prize vault items for today since it's my birthday? just wondering... oh, wait, that's a bit selfish of me 'cuz I've won a couple things already this month and those should count - nevermind.

  31. DebH!
    Happy Birthday! So many wonderful folks are born in October...along with Seekerville!!!

    Birthday cake! Did someone say they liked carrot cake? That's what I'm serving. With eight candles on top, of course! DebH gets the first slice!

  32. Angela, thanks for your timely post on motivation. I'm into the final countdown on my next story, and after reading your excellent blog post, I plan to enhance my heroine's motivation a bit. Also I want to ensure the reader knows why she has to do what she does!

    Mega thanks!

    Care for a slice of birthday cake?

  33. Very interesting post! I love action filled books or page turners as I cdll them. Please enter me in the drawings!

  34. This is a very timely post for me, Angela--thank you! As a pantser, I have a general idea where my current story is going, but some things about my characters' deepest fears and motivations to act aren't quite clear yet. I'll be reviewing this post as I work through the upcoming scenes.

  35. DebH. Don't feel guilty over your request...I had the same idea on Monday, just didn't mention it on here. I mean, Seekerville and those of us born in October DO have a special connection, don't you think?
    This post will give me something to think about for writing reviews. And this is why true stories/biographies often don't hold my interest to the end. Thank you, Angela. And thanks for all the great cyber treats today!
    Happy Birthday, DebH and Seekerville

  36. Angela, I am copying and mulling over every point of your excellent post! Loads of things to think about to motivate the characters I need to know way more than I do right now. Thank you! Thank you!

    In addition to taking risks for fear those they love will have to suffer, I often motivate my characters to act because of their backstory. The things that have happened in their pasts that they feel guilty about and are trying to make up for, even when doing so can bring terrible risk. That's similar to the fear of failing if they fear they'll mess it up again.

    Thanks for the Emotion Thesaurus! I have the Kindle version.


  37. Thanks for the buffet of desserts this morning Cindy W and Ruthy and for the birthday cake, Debby! Eight years is cause for a mega celebration!!!


  38. Holy Bananas--I just got up and already there are 28 comments! You guys are awesome--thank you so much for the hospitality!

    @Ruth, I will take some of that coffee. I tend to say rather mind-numbingly dumb things without it. Hmmm, on that note, perhaps I better stop here and go get some...

    *sips* Ah, circle of life, right here. *pets mug* And Food! You brought food! Food I didn't have to cook. See, I understand the perils of Motherhood--mine are 17 & 19 and when we run out of food noms, they turn feral. It isn't pretty.

    @Cindy, I think breaks from writing can be a healthy thing. Sometimes we absorb more when we don't feel under the gun to create. I once took a year off from writing to study the best writing craft books with Becca, my partner in crime, and it was probably one of the best things we did to give our writing a leg up!

    @The Artist Librarian--great example to pull from. I use this book all the time when it comes to character psychology and motivation. I'm not alone either--the last conference I taught at (an RWA one on Australia) three different sessions I attended when I wasn't speaking used the HG as an example. We can learn a lot from that book. :)

    @Tina, the CAT IS OFFICIALLY OUT OF THE BAG on One Stop For Writers--we launched on October 7th. In a nutshell, One Stop is a powerhouse online library for writers, filled with enhanced versions of our descriptive thesaurus Collections (including our book versions), plus writing tools, worksheets and tutorials to help writers elevate their storytelling. This is a collaboration between Becca and myself and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.

    I feel a bit like a new mom gushing over her new baby (Look at little Tommy when he coos, isn't he just ADORABLE?) but this is such an exciting project for me. We've spent years building our descriptive collections, and at last they are all together, cross-linked & searchable in a way Becca and I always envisioned. We are just getting started too. Becca, Lee & I have big plans for the site and future upgrades. (If anyone would like to check it out, you can register for free here & see a sampling of the site: )

    @Kate, I agree--with stakes we need to remember pacing, both to give readers a break, and to keep it believable. Too much craziness and readers will disconnect, no longer able to suspend disbelief. This is the beauty of personalizing the stakes, however--they come built in with a window into the character's moral code and internal struggle, allowing for characterization at each step. :)

    @Wilani, I hope you find lots of good stuff there--enjoy!

    @Marsha, Thanks for visiting today!

    @Jill, I love hearing that our books are dog eared and marked up--this means people are getting good use from them! Very glad this post gives you something to chew on--happy writing!

    @Rose, thanks for stopping in!

    @Mary, oh my gosh, THREE WEEKS? I am so jealous. I hope you had a great time recharging your batteries!

    @Connie, The Emotion Thesaurus loves you back! Very happy you're putting some miles on it!

    @Glynna, so glad this helps!

    @Missy, So happy this helps a bit. And yes, we need our characters to take control, and personalizing the stakes is a great way to push them into the driver's seat if they are being stubborn about it.


  39. @Kelly, so true. In researching the Positive and Negative Trait thesaurus books, over and over I discovered just how much crossover there is between human psychology and character psychology. And this is how it should be, because mirroring the fictional world against our human one means creating authentic, rich characters who are 100% credible. :)

    @Loraine, This post might help you with uncovering your character's fears: There's also a worksheet at One Stop For Writers that will help you pinpoint your hero's greatest fear. If you aren't on that site, go to this link: and you can see the tool template and it might help. :)

    @J, Thanks for stopping by!

    @Tracey, emotional wounds make it so hard for a character to take a risk! And the lie they believe (not being worthy) is something they must see for the lie it is in order to grow, move forward and achieve their goal. I love looking at how all these things work together to make a compelling story. :)

    @Caryl, what a great salute! I think we need a GROUP HUG! (((((HUGGAGE))))

    @Jeanne, very glad this post sparked something for you!

    @Margaret, Sounds like your character has a pretty big wound regarding loss to deal with. I agree, fear of suffering emotional pain again causes people to do almost anything, and causes a hard road to return to a place of balance where the fear no longer controls. But this journey (character arc) is what makes the book so compelling to read!

    Candee, yes I am a big fan of the layering Susanne Collins deployed in the Hunger Games. When fears and motivations steer behavior and action at micro and macro levels, that's authenticity. I think we all should strive to have our characters motivations seep through all that they do. :)

    @Jackie, I love it here. You guys are all so engaged, and it is nice to be able to talk about something we are all so passionate about. Each of you should be proud of this community and the support system you've built!

    @Julie, very glad this post will be a help to you! :) here's to using the power of fear to create strong fiction!

    @Pam, I agree. And too, this greater fear, a fear that pushes us to think beyond ourselves, this echoes in our own lives, our own world. This is why it is such a powerful tool to use in fiction--it reminds us of the real world and our own relationships with the people we love. :)

    @DebH, some times it can be hard to think bigger, and then even bigger when it comes to stakes...without creating a scenario that is impossible for a hero to face. I think this is why it is so good to personalize stakes--it simply means that the consequences are personal if one fails rather than forcing a situation of "seemingly impossible odds."

  40. Debby, very happy this helps! And you've reminded me I forgot to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! *chocolate sprinkles* *bacon* *cute firemen* Pass them around now, let's all share... ;)

    Loves to Read, very glad you found this a good read. Good luck in the draw!

    Myra, your comment reminded me of what someone asked me online today about "how much to know" as a pantser. I think this is an individual thing--for me, the more I know about my character the better, but the more I know about the plot, the more I can feel stifled. So dig up whatever you need to and stay in your writing comfort zone, right? Happy Planning...or pantsing!

    @Marianne, I never thought about this post from a reviewer's standpoint, but I am happy it is a tool you can put in your toolbox!

    @Janet, this is great, because forcing characters to look within and see how they need to grow is such a huge piece of the character arc puzzle. Sounds like you've nailed it!

  41. Angela! Writers Helping Writers and my use-it-everyday Emotion Thesaurus have been some of my greatest craft resources! Thanks to Becca and you for all the assists.

    As I was reading your post, I had an 'aha!' moment. I realized what I thought was my hero's fear, isn't. It's something deeper. Thank you for that insight, too :-)

    Would LOVE to win a one-month subscription to One Stop for Writers, so please enter me in the drawing.

    Any more thesauri in the future?

    Nancy C

  42. Hi Chill,

    HURRAY for aha moments. I love those! :)

    We are currently working on 2 volumes that will cover the Setting Thesaurus (there was just too much content to cram it all into one book!) Becca and I are hoping to release these in March, and together they have the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures for close to 250 settings.

    We've already started putting them up at One Stop For Writers--I think there's about 130 of them over there right now.

    Thanks for the kind words about our books and site. We love helping writers however we can. :)

  43. I'll take the carrot cake and the muffins.....with my smoothie and tea. Angela, thanks so much for such an excellent post. As I'm working on outlines for three more books I really, really, really, really needed this post. Really. I tend to downplay stakes and fear. Like Ruth, I want to ease away the pain as quickly as possible. I can inflict it all right, I was having a hard time tightening the screws in these three stories. So thanks bunches.

  44. Awesome--so very glad I could help, Carolyne! Plotting out three books at once is no easy task, but I'm betting your writing will be much easier with a plan to follow. happy writing!

  45. Angela,

    No wonder you're a writing coach...thanks so much for the help and the resources! I signed up for every thing you offered and found you on FaceBook, Twitter and Pinterest!! Do you have an Instagram account? LOL

    I LOVE the Emotions's a continual inspiration. I had it on my kindle first, but it seemed awkward, so I ordered the print book...easier for me to use! I'm just a print-kinda gal! And, I'm printing this post too!!

    Bread pudding was on my mind this morning too, Julie! Bread Pudding and a cuppa tea make the BEST breakfast ever! The most delicious recipe I've ever used came from a delightful cookbook with funny stories. Someone gave me this cookbook over twenty-five years ago. It's called White Trash Cooking...full of recipes for squirrel, possum, and Gator Tail!! Of course, the dessert recipes are FAB...but, no low-carb or non-fat ingredients used! LOL

    Thanks again Angela...and looking forward to your new project at One Stop For Writers! ( I already signed up!)

  46. Very compelling post! Thanks for sharing about raising the stakes and using story catalysts to motivate characters.

    Please enter me in the reader giveaway! :)

  47. Welcome Angela!

    I can't wait to dive into your website!


  48. Hi Angela,
    Great post! I have your Emotion Thesaurus and it's one of my go-to references with every WIP. Congrats on the One Stop launch. That has to be an amazing resource. Will look into it.

    Fighting fear with fear. That's a great concept. I see how that fits into my current WIP. Will pay more attention to that aspect as I edit. Thanks!

  49. Kathryn, I am not on Instagram--I know I should be, but SO MUCH SOCIAL MEDIA you know? Especially as I now am pulling double duty between Writers Helping Writers and One Stop For Writers. I need a clone, or like three. Haha!

    So glad you like The Emotion thesaurus and it gives you a nudge when you need it. And thanks for checking out One Stop. We have actually expanded the Emotion Thesaurus there, including 15 new entries :)

    Hi Heidi, so glad you enjoyed the post!

    Thanks for the welcome, S.! :)

    @Lyndee, glad you can apply this post to your WIP. I hope it helps you a lot! Happy writing!

  50. Thanks for the links Angela. I am heading over to look at them now.

  51. I love these calls to RAISE THE STAKES.

    I don't do that enough.


    I need to torture my characters more and I KNOW IT!!!

    I think I'll go sit on my couch with chips and listen to loud music and pout.

    But then I'll go back to writing and shoot someone, I swear.

  52. @Mary "But then I'll go back to writing and shoot someone, I swear." long as they are fictional people you shoot, two thumbs up! :)

  53. Angela, enjoyed your post! Nice to meet you.
    Please enter me for the reader package and thank you Seekerville.

  54. Angela, you've gotten Mary out of her "nice person" funk. Well done!

    To have her up and shooting randomly is so much better.

    Did you notice she never brings food.


    She protests that she's not a good cook, Angela.

    But the food is fictional. It is virtual. It doesn't exist. So... she could pretend, right?


    BUT NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    She never does.

    I'm kinda bummed by that, but I love upping the stakes so I'm all over this post.

    With more coffee.

  55. Thanks Angela. I read your post and then I finished Janet Dean's Daddy for Christmas from the latest Christmas historic collection. The word 'fear' jumped out all over the place! Way to go Janet! You provided the perfect example of what was emphasized in the blog today.

  56. Interesting post....guess I never really thought about this and what an author has to "nudge" their characters into action despite their fear by raising the stakes a bit! A fascinating lesson learned :-) I do like when an author does this to the characters, because it can sometimes motivate and encourage me to overcome some fear in my own life. Maybe in a way I never thought of or occurred to me :-) Thanks for the insight!

    Oh, and Ruthy, I sure hope you have some coffee left because I made some virtual cinammon rolls to go with it. Anyone care to join us?? :-)

    *Please put my name in the hat for the reader prize package, thank you!*

  57. I meant "What an author has to do to "nudge" thier characters into action"....see, this is why I am not a writer...haha!!

  58. I echo what Kate said! Suspense and strong plot pacing make a wonderful story, but too much of a good thing can ruin it. Like Trixi's cinnamon rolls--too many sugary treats will give you a stomachache, but just the right amount of iced gooey goodness is a marvelous thing :)

    Raising the stakes keeps us interested in the story and invested in the characters, but there is a limit to how much disbelief we can suspend!

    Please put my name in for the reader drawing! :)

  59. Interesting post, Angela! I'm a reader and I love learning all the steps writers go through! Since I see the result (the book) of all that writers go through, I like knowing the process that makes all the books so fantastic to read!

    I would love to be in the drawing!!!

  60. Angela, thank you for such a thorough and informative post. The process, physical, emotional and mental that writers go through is amazing! I'm not sure I can handle it, especially since as a reader, it already evokes all kinds of emotions from me! Thank you again.

    Please enter me in the reader contest.

  61. Ruthy, honey, why don't you PRETEND I bring PRETEND food.

    Surely that's the same.

    We had a nice crock pot roast beef for lunch, but I'm sorry, I can't share. There's barely enough for supper.

    I'd have to pretend to feed my husband. Now is that what you want? Huh?

  62. Angela, I have a hard and fast rule to shoot ALMOST NO real people. I really try to keep it down.

    unless they're bad

  63. Happy birthday Seekerville! As a suspense writer I find your tips extremely helpful. Please enter me in the drawings.

  64. I've already printed this up and am using it as I edit. Thank you, AGAIN, Angela!

  65. Angela, What a great post, especially as I am plotting my next book. I'm reading a writing craft book Tina recommended, and that along with your advice to increase the conflict along with showing the motivation has really given me a reason to look deeper into the heroine's internal conflict and give her more pain and suffering but in a way to go to the purpose of the book. Thank you so much for urging me and all the writers who read this post to raise the stakes and look for the character's fears.

  66. Jackie, thanks for the welcome!

    @Ruth, she seems a bit gun happy to me, just saying. Don't complain too loudly about the know, just in case. *reet reet*

    @Bettie, it's great when you read something that crystallizes the whole article, isn't it? For me it helps me better absorb something when I can apply it right away to a movie or book. So way to go Janet!

    @Trixi, Great observation. It's funny...I think half the time when I'm talking about character psychology and what motivates characters and why, I'm really talking to myself, trying to better understand why I do things. There is so much crossover between deep characters and people. :)

    @Sarah, Yes I agree, and this is why I think understanding the difference between personalizing the stakes and raising them just to make things harder. Personalizing stakes creates a psychological component to the situation, and I think that is what makes it ultimately more powerful than simply "upping the ante" by making the situation harder somehow. With personalizing, the task doesn't have to become harder, it simply has a higher price tag if one fails. :)

    @Valri & Just--it is neat sometimes to see behind the curtain, isn't it? So glad you stopped in. :)

    @Mary "almost" LOL

    @Terri, thanks for stopping by!

    @Tina, thank you so much for kindly letting me to visit. You guys really do have such a great community here :)

    @Tanya, very glad this can be applied to your current project. Plotting a new book is always fun--enjoy the process of it!

  67. I'm late, but wanted you to know I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing :)

  68. What interesting tips. I knows the writer crowd sith us can definitely use these excellent points given today. Please enter me for the reader drawing. Thank you.
    Deanne Patterson

  69. Interesting post. I am very late coming but would love to be entered for the writer's subscription prize.

  70. One high stake I used is finding an abducted child alive. Great post!

  71. So much great information here & just in time as I'm trying to dig into my MC head, trying to figure out her fears and how to add more conflict. Please add me into the drawing--I can use all the help I can get. And all the links here too--so many directions to look--eep!

  72. I had pulled this post up yesterday and then I did not get to it until this morning.

    My favorite way of upping the stakes is offing someone ( and, yes, by a samurai sword).

  73. A super helpful post, Angela. Thanks, it went right into my research folder (after reading of course). Fear is such a recognizable emotion because we all have it. It can paralyze us or set us to action. Most fear is learned but we risk immortalizing it, allowing it to become irrational, allowing it to run lives. It could send a protagonist skitzing off in almost any direction. What a great reminder your post is.
    Seekerville- you are way too healthy- yummy rice pudding and bran muffins? I've brought my one time a year stash of candy corn. I'm happy to share - it's a rare treat.

  74. Hi Angela In case you are checking back this morning, I'm so sorry I missed you yesterday. I thought I had done the blog and went on my merry way. sigh. Senior moments. But reading your blog this morning, I'm delighted you were here and gave us such a wonderful post. Thank you.

    Have a blessed week.

  75. Thanks Jamie! Glad you found it helpful.

    Good luck in the draw, Deanne and Sandy!

    Janet, I like often the expectation is that they won't be alive, so it plays a bit of a twist.

    Hi Jon and Vicki, getting in a character's head is so important. Good luck!

    Walt, you are hardcore!

    So true Barbara. Fear is something we all have to master in the real world too. I think this is why we like to read about it, and see how different characters deal with it.

    Sandra, no worries! And sorry to respond so late...I was helping my brother move. Long day!

    Take care everyone!

  76. Angela, Thanks so much for posting this at just then right time. I have been trying to work out the plot for a novel and trying to understand all the little things that make a story a really great read were confusing me. I think that fighting fear with fear is something I can understand enough to work into the novel thanks to you. Keep at it, you are very helpful to this aspiring novelist.

    Please enter me for the reader package.

  77. Thanks for your wonderful post, Angela!!

    Please enter my name in the drawing for the reader's package - thank you!!