1. Eric Hollen
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    Eric Hollen New Member

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    I'm having some problems with finding what's at STAKE with my story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Eric Hollen, Aug 5, 2013.

    Hey guys. So my story centers around a 49 year old Vietnam veteran named Jack who's daughter Alexis has been killed in a car accident. The girl's mother, named Helen, left Jack and their daughter when she was a baby, and once Alexis is killed Helen starts visiting Jack at his work in the construction lot ("Helen starts to visit me at work.")

    So, the stake of the story can only be established from what the character cares most about, or his desires, right? So Jack cares most about his daughter (who's become a little estranged), but since his daughter has died does that dissolve the tension of the story?

    The way it seems to me is that the stake in the story is being a good father. Jack is torn between the two choices of honoring his daughter and his integrity as a father and shunning Helen (because Helen had abandoned both of them), and getting back together with her, since he still loves her and he's all alone in the world.

    The plot thickens. Jack's daughter had an abortion as a teenager and Jack blames Helen because she left her. So Jack is now alone without a daughter, and without a grandchild. So I'm thinking this could help cement the stake in the story, but if so, does the segment where the reader finds out about the abortion need to appear in the beginning or can it come at the very end? Do we have to establish stake, or can we follow the character through the plot, and at the very end be hit with the stake in a moment of awe and revelation?
     
  2. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    > The girl's mother, named Alexis

    or mother named Helen? Or is Helen another daughter (I don't think so)? I'm confused.

    I don't understand the choice. Convince me that it would it dishonor his dead daughter to get back together with her mother.

    The stake should be clear to the reader as they go through the story. It is what keeps them interested in the character. They don't want to read a whole story wondering what motivates the character and then find out on the last page what drove him.

    And even if feelings about the daughter are what the character is most occupied with, it isn't really a stake unless he still has something to gain or lose. What does he have at risk?
     
  3. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    It's generally a good idea to avoid having a passive protagonist. What is your protagonist trying to accomplish throughout the story? If your protagonist isn't trying to do anything then it will likely seem like there is nothing worthwhile at stake to the reader. From the initial information I'm much more interested in the relationship between Jack and Alexis rather than the relationship between Jack and Helen.
     
  4. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    What's the primary conflict? Man vs. what? How does that primary conflict play out? In order to have conflict, something has to be at stake. So follow the conflict to tell you what it is, or what it should be. At least, that's how I'd go about it.
     
  5. Eric Hollen
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    Eric Hollen New Member

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    Thanks for all the answers. That's what I was looking for. I made a mistake, the daughter is Alexis the mother is Helen.

    The way the story seemed to me is that Jack has failed Alexis as a father, and he feels like since Helen left him and Alexis when Alexis was a baby (which is also why Alexis didn't want to be a mom), he feels like he shouldn't get back together with her because it'd somehow betray his daughter. I think what's at stake is his idea of being a good father versus his own happiness.

    Your comment about the passive character was right on, I think. I'd never thought about it before.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you still haven't explained the name confusion... you said the mother's name is alexis, too... then keep calling her helen...
     
  7. Eric Hollen
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    Eric Hollen New Member

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    Sorry bud. I did explain it in the post above yours though. It was a typo. But Helen is the mother, and Alexis is the daughter (the one that dies in the car crash.)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'bud'?

    sorry, i didn't see that, for some weird reason...
     
  9. Eric Hollen
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    Eric Hollen New Member

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    Okay buddy
     
  10. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    Strip your story down and ask yourself these three questions...

    1 - Who is the protagonist?
    2 - What is the protagonist trying to accomplish in this story?
    3 - What bad thing will happen if the protagonist fails?

    The hero's goal is the engine that drives the plot and makes a series of events into a story. If the hero is not pursuing a goal, what are they doing the whole time? Wasting time? That character should have an end goal - do _______. If you're having trouble understanding what that end goal should be, ask yourself this...what must the hero do in order for the story to come to a conclusion? This climactic event is the glue that holds your story together and gives all the events unity.

    If you're having trouble understanding what is at stake, ask yourself this...what horrible thing will happen if the hero fails to reach the end goal and end the conflict? If you don't have this element in your story, that's a problem. It's the reason the protagonist struggles against the story conflict and puts up a fight in the first place.
     
  11. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    Maybe Jack and Helen form a partnership to find the person who caused the car crash and they find this person and punish them for causing their daughter's death.
     
  12. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    Just reading it seems to be that the father is trying to cope with the loss of his daughter, which is complicated by the reappearance of the mother. Yes? What's at stake could be contemplation of suicide. He must have feelings of being unable to protect his daughter, or to provide for his wife (or else she wouldn't have left). Basically is sounds like he's questioning who he is and if he's worth anything.

    The conflict is if he fails, he'll kill himself. That or never forgive himself, which sort of has the same effect. His only answer is to forgive. Forgive himself and forgive his wife.

    That's what I see anyway. Hope that helped.
     
  13. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Rather than think in terms of the “stake,” it might help to sort out the conflicts more carefully. It sounds like Jack and Helen both have conflicts to deal with.

    1. If Helen is coming to Jack's workplace, she must still have feelings for him. Yet she abandoned him and Alexis years ago. Why did she do that? What would drive a mother to abandon her daughter? Why would she leave a husband whom she loved? And why is she coming back to him now? Work out some backstory and some internal psychology that makes sense of this conflict.

    2. Then work out Jack’s conflict. On the one hand he loved Helen enough to marry her. Now that she’s coming around again after all these years, he realizes that he still loves her as much as ever. But he also feels deep, bitter resentment toward her. She abandoned him and their daughter, and Jack feels it would dishonor Alexis's memory to take up again with the mother who abandoned her.

    So he’s torn by this conflict. Will Jack return to Helen? Or will he reject her advances? How does he resolve this conflict? Possibly something like this: He meets Helen after work one evening. They go to dinner. It’s a very awkward reunion. The small talk runs out, the conversation stalls. Finally, Jack brings up the question that’s been gnawing at him for years: “Why did you leave me, Helen? How could you abandon your only child? Do you know what Alexis went through, getting pregnant when she was only fifteen? And then having an abortion? Can you imagine the agony I went through trying to help her deal with that? Do you have any idea how much you hurt both of us?”

    How does Helen answer? That depends on what you work out in paragraph 1 above. And given her reply, how does Jack react?
     

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