1. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Sep 24, 2009
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    Alabama, USA

    Raising the stakes...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Link the Writer, Sep 27, 2011.

    Few years ago, I had an idea for a story about a circus sideshow runaway's attempt to get back to his home (The story was called The Turtle Boy and the boy was a Russian boy named Alexi who found help in the form of an elderly farmer and his family). Trouble was, I had no high stakes involved. There was no great risk other than "Oh, dude just can't get back home, then. Hey, at least he has a farm to live and work in!" A small part of me wants to try to write it again.

    I know how to raise stakes in my mystery stories, as that itself is usually suspenseful anyway.

    But a story like this? How does one raise the stakes with a story like this? I did come up with a few theories:

    (a) Alexi knows the old farmer is a bigot and hates Russians. To get his help, Alexi pretends to be of a different nationality. Trouble is, there's a Russian ship in port that's due to leave in five days.
    --Counter Argument--
    So why doesn't he just stow away on said ship in the first place? Why does he need this guy's help anyway? Stow away and hope the crewmen don't find him and/or chuck him overboard.

    (b) He stole money from the circus, and now the circus leader has his goons chasing after him to get the money back.
    --Counter Argument--
    And they'll do what, exactly? What are they going to do to force Alexi's hand? Again, why can't he just get himself onto said Russian ship?

    See what I'm saying? I don't know how you'd raise stakes with a plot like this. Maybe this is just one of those ideas that should be buried and forgotten about?
  2. biggergib

    biggergib New Member

    Dec 17, 2008
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    South Jordan, UT
    I think you can do something with this. The basic plot is a young man who is running from something... What made him run away to the circus in the first place? Maybe the farmer could tie into something to do with the boy's past. For example, the boy ran away to the circus because he was abused and now the boy witnesses the farmer abusing his own son. The boy decides to help the farmer's son escape his own abusive situation and then returns to face the past that he left behind... Just one random idea, but I think that the boy's past would have to come into play at some point.

    Also, you can always change around elements of the existing idea, such as maybe the boy went AWOL from the military rather than the circus or maybe instead of running to a farm he runs to a different safe haven. Little tweaks here and there will open up new possibilities to make the story more exciting. Play around with it and see what you can come up with.

    I would hate to see someone put a lot of thought into an idea only to give up on it before seeing if they can make it work somehow. Just my two cents :)
  3. madhoca

    madhoca Contributor Contributor

    Dec 1, 2008
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    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    To me, you have enough story: a boy runs away from the circus, and then decides he wants to return (to his family in the circus, I presume).
    Three million dollar questions:
    a) Why does he run away
    b) What made him change his mind and want to go back, and
    c) So, what's stopping him returning?
    Find the main answers to these questions, and all the rest is detail and subplots.
  4. Morgan

    Morgan New Member

    Sep 15, 2011
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    You could always put in something with a time limit to give it urgency.

    One of the sailors is leaving the ship but not going back aboard. He recognizes the boy and tells him that his father is on his deathbed and wants to make amends.

    The boy rushes to get on the ship not knowing that it is making several stops along the way, so he leaves the ship at the first port of call, even further away than he started, possibly in a remote part of Russia.

    Now he has to find alternate means of travel cross-country with no money. He periodically makes contact with someone near his father and learns that things are getting worse, heightening the sense of urgency.
  5. Yandos

    Yandos New Member

    Jan 27, 2011
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    When I read your story, the idea that came to mind was :

    While performing in the circus, he witnesses a deal/murder/secret or he himself makes a deal/commit murder/or has stolen some secret thingy. The farmer is just a farmer but when he find out (secret) wants no part in it and calls the russian miltary (guys on boat) to take him in. And so he tries to turn to the only people he can think of that may protect him, his family.

    Just off the top of my head.
    What do you think?

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