Creating Compelling Characters

Part Six

Character Stakes

Our very last aspect of character is all about the Stakes.

We always here about “raising the stakes,” but unless you know what stakes ARE, how do you know how to raise them?

There are three kinds of Stakes

  • Internal
    1. What’s going on inside the character
    2. What do they personally have to lose or gain?
    3. Why does the reader care?
  • External
    1. What’s going on around the character
    2. Physical stakes
    3. The stuff that happens
  • Philosophical
    1. What’s going on in the world around the character
    2. What is making the values/belief systems change or not change?
    3. What happens if things change/not change?

The main thing to understand about obstacles is no matter what they are, they have to matter to the reader. The reader has to care if something happens or doesn’t happen. Because if the reader doesn’t care, they won’t want to continue reading.

Here is my favorite example:

Book: Jurassic Park

Internal: We Love Dinosaurs! But we don’t want to die.
Philosophical: “We spent so much time thinking about if we could, we didn’t stop to think if we should.”

External: If you fail, dinosaurs will eat you

Now, here’s the thing. If you think of these 6 Aspects of Character as Legos, I can give every person reading this the same building blocks, and every person will build a different character from them. I can’t tell you in what order to put these building blocks in. That is entirely up to you.