Exercise: Defining Personal Stakes

Without personal stakes, even the highest-voltage thriller can read like an empty plot exercise. Raise the personal stakes, and we will all care what happens in your story, whether the plot is boiling or not.

STEP 1: Write down the name of your protagonist.
STEP 2: What is her main problem, conflict, goal, need, desire, yearning or other factor driving her through the story? Write that down.
STEP 3: What could make this problem matter more? Write down as many new reasons as you can think of.
STEP 4: When you run out of reasons, ask yourself: What could make this problem matter even more than that? Write down even more reasons.
STEP 5: When you run out of steam, ask yourself: What could make this problem matter more than life itself? Write down still more reasons.

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