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  1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Lowest-Stake Stories

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by John Calligan, Dec 4, 2018.

    I'm working on a short story with incredibly low stakes. Will he ask the girl out? How will he feel? It's over 3k words.

    What are the lowest stake stories you've ever written? Any tips or tricks to keep it engaging? What are the pitfalls?

    Teach me the way.
     
  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    I've written a short (4k) featuring a boy and his father on a hike when a thunderstorm moves in. Stakes? Nothing much, because despite them stuck being on the ridge it's clear from the start that they have alerted the guard and will survive in any case. The story itself revolves around an imagination-game that the father invents for the boy to pass the time, and from which the boy takes away something different than the father intended.

    From the moment the father starts the game, everything in the story points to the coming difference of opinion, though I hope not too obviously.
    I don't know if this story works. It has had only a few readers, so maybe... @zoupskim , what do you think?
     
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  3. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think low-stakes stories are best when there's actually a deeper stake under the surface. Like, a woman deciding to buy a different flavour of coffee isn't at all interesting... but if you can figure out a way to show that she always bought her less-favoured flavour because it's what her boyfriend preferred, and then on this day she buys the flavour SHE prefers, it probably shows something about a change in their relationship or her attitude or something at least a little deeper. The tricky part is showing the deeper stake without overpowering the more subtle choices.
     
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  4. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    I think @Lifeline 's story was good at showing what @BayView points out; the small, seemingly inconsequential story telegraphs a much larger theme.

    I personally don't usually write low-stakes stories, so I can't tell you how to do it. If I was writing a story about a lady picking a different kind of coffee to drink, she'd end up chased by some monster.
     
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