Crafting Snowball Stakes for Your Fiction

Today’s post is by international best-selling author DiAnn Mills.

Creating high stakes is much like a snowball gaining strength as it rolls downhill. The story gains momentum, building throughout every scene.

Each scene has three critical elements: a goal, conflict, and high stakes. Without those components, the scene loses purpose and falls flat. Each proceeding scene must build on the previous scene’s urgency increasing the point of view character’s struggle. Scene two can’t happen before scene one, and scene sixty can’t happen without scenes one through fifty-nine. I’m not a math whiz, but I see the logic of this snowball effect of adding high stakes to a scene.

The high stakes must be worth the POV character’s effort and communicated to the reader.

“If it matters to the character, then the character must earn it.” —Roz Morris

Conflict comes in all sizes and shapes. These forces opposing the character lead the way for high stakes:

  • The character has an incorrect understanding of what is going on
  • The character doesn’t have all the information
  • The character is being lied to or deceived
  • The character has blind spots
  • The character isn’t sure he/she is making the right decision
  • The character is afraid
  • The character battles fears and/or phobias
  • The character is alone

How does a novelist accomplish high snowball-effect stakes in their story? The following four questions help create a tight scene:

  1. What is the POV character’s goal or problem to solve?
  2. What does the POV character learn that’s new information?
  3. What backstory is revealed?
  4. How are the stakes raised?

Questions two and three can have the same answer, but the answer to question four is what causes the reader to catch their breath and flip to the next page. They are hooked and care about the trouble surrounding the character. What happens next?

The high stakes don’t have to be earth-shattering and can be physical or psychological, but the stakes must initiate emotion. The opposing focus is the something that stops the character from achieving their goal.

Jerry B. Jenkins notes the key to creatively worsen story happenings :“Everything your character does to get out of trouble only makes the situation worse.”

To ensure tight, high-stakes scenes, use the character’s fears and weaknesses against him/her. This causes the character to not only struggle but also to face an inner and outer antagonist.

Watch plot twists emerge that will add levels to the storyline. Seek ways to ensure the character faces one difficult situation after another. Assign traits that defy the character’s goals and raise the stakes. Stop the character from moving forward by establishing a barrier that ensures temporary defeat.

Tips to increase t

he stakes:

  • Create a time element or ticking clock to stop the crime spree or prevent a crime from happening.
  • Add complications that apply pressure to the hero/heroine.
  • Use other characters, backstory, betrayal, internal turmoil, blind spots, and circumstances beyond the character’s control.
  • Force the character to make tough decisions and accept the consequences. For example, the character must choose between two rights or two wrongs.
  • Give the antagonist an edge that deems the goal impossible.
  • Punch the story with unpredictable and unexpected events.
  • Implore credibility by showing characters in action with strong motivation
  • Develop an antagonistic setting for every scene that challenges the character’s survival.
  • Keep any type of relief at a distance until the climax and resolution.
  • The character is stripped of all things used in the past to solve problems.

Writers search for clever means to raise the stakes for the protagonist. We dig deep within the character’s landscape to make the protagonist squirm and force him/her to manage challenges by relying on his/her strengths and growing the protagonist into a genuine hero or heroine.

Are you incorporating snowball stakes in every scene of your novel?=

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspens

e-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?

DiAnn Mills’s titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards, the Golden Scroll, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. She is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, an active member of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. DiAnn would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, BookBub, YouTube, LinkedIn or her website:

Featured Photo by Katie Gerrard on Unsplash.

Search Posts Here

Subscribe to My Blog

Similar Posts

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *