Will the World End?

A long, long time ago, I bought a book by Donald Maas about how to write a bestseller.  WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL.  His advice?  The higher the stakes, the higher the demand for your book.  I’m writing cozy mysteries, and a few people have told me I’d sell more if I wrote thrillers or suspense.   They might be right, but I’m an Agatha Christie fan, and I like what I like.

When I wrote urban fantasies, the entire plots hung on good vs. bad.  If the good guys didn’t win, all things horrible would break loose.  The world would end, as we know it.  Okay, in truth?  That was a lot of fun.  But then I wrote six romances, and the stakes changed.  If the guy didn’t win the girl, there wouldn’t be a happy ending.  Enough to make me sad, so those stakes worked for me, too.

If as a reader I come to truly love and care about a character, I want him to survive and to be happy.  I just finished readng WHAT ANGELS FEAR, and the stakes were high.  If Sebastian couldn’t find the real killer, he’d be blamed for a crime he didn’t commit and probably hang.  Did that make me turn the pages faster?  I got every bit as hooked by Catherine Bybee’s FOOL ME ONCE, because I got totally caught up by the characters.  Yes, there was a lot at stake.  Secrets needed to remain hidden.  Could Reece win Lori after she found out he was a P.I. who was tailing her for info?  Before he fell for her?

Every book has to have high stakes, one way or another.  Maas would say, the higher the better.  What happens if the protagonist fails?  How devastated will the reader be?  But there are all kinds of stakes.  Emotional.  Political.  Career.  Reputation.  Books are filled with little setbacks, chapter after chapter.  After all, we don’t want to make it too easy for the protagonist, do we?  We try to end each scene with the protagonist wanting more, feeling a little defeated, until the very end.

I read Caleb Carr’s book, THE ALIENIST, when it first came out.  I haven’t seen the TV series yet, but I want to.  His protagonist worked hard to catch a serial killer, using psychology to understand the murderer.  The stakes grew higher and higher, knowing that if the detective team didn’t catch him, someone else would die.  A ticking clock is a great way to add tension.

Mae Clair uses past events to heighten the stakes in her Point Pleasant series.   The Mothman rescued Caden Flynn, and the “monster” and Caden have a weird bond.  When strange sightings start again in Point Pleasant, the past and the present collide, and Caden knows he’ll be visitng the Mothman again.  Is he meant to save the cryptid or destroy him?  (If UFOs and the Mothman legend appeal to you, here’s a link:  https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Yesteryears-Point-Pleasant-ebook/dp/B0138NHJ4A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517091001&sr=8-3&keywords=mae+clair

Whatever you’re writing, may your stakes be high enough to keep the reader turning the pages.  Happy Writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

My Kensington page: (I need a new picture): http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/31751

Twitter:  @judypost



7 thoughts on “Will the World End?

  1. Whether it’s “emotional, political, career, or reputation,” as you say, the stakes in your books seem high to me. You have a knack for making your readers follow your plot, and trust me, there are lots of ups and downs in your stories! Good forward narrative movements.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Judi, I was thoroughly engaged in your post, nodding and agreeing all along and then found myself shocked to find a shout-out to my own series. THANK YOU!!!

    I read The Alienist (and it’s follow up) back in the day and loved both books. Sadly, I found the series drab and draggy and probably won’t return for chapter two. I guess some books aren’t meant for the screen.

    We do have to raise stakes in our books. It’s interesting that your friends commented about writing thrillers and suspense, because I often feel I’d fare better if I wrote cozy mysteries. I guess the important thing is that we’re both writing, LOL.

    Thank you again for the wonderful shout-out. You made my night! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you do a great job of raising stakes, especially since the stakes got higher book by book in your series. And by the end of book 3, the stakes were really high for Caden. I pretty much think that whatever you write will be good–cozies or suspense:)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you felt that way about the books and the suspense. And thank you so much for the kind words about my writing. I have my fingers crossed the new series goes over well. And I can’t wait to see what you do with a cozy! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can never be reminded often enough about these important basics. I read the Mass book but think your straightforward and common sense advice and insights are easier to understand and apply.

    Liked by 1 person

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