PICTURE BOOK FOCUS Raising the Stakes Part 2

 In the second of this three-part featureNatascha Biebow
suggests key ways to raise the INTERNAL stakes in your picture book 
to make readers (and editors) really care!

You’ve done STEP 1: THE “SO WHAT?” CHECK  (See Part 1)


INTERNAL STAKES drive the character’s growth – in the best stories, the main character has grown and changed by the end, leading to a satisfying ending.

INTERNAL STAKES are personal – they are more than just what a hero wants to do. They illustrate why this goal and the action that follows to arrive at this goal matters in a profound and personal sense.

So how can you up the personal stakes?

MAKE CHARACTERS SUFFER: yes, make it worse for your main characters!

ADD COMPLICATIONS: make the main plot problem grow and grow by adding complications that matter personally to the characters

Here are some examples:

 • High personal stakes force the protagonist to make a choice with consequences

•     The character is on the verge of making a hasty major decision (perhaps she doesn’t have all the information yet and we want her to wait, but it doesn’t look like she will).

•     The initial stakes are raised by too many choices


•     An unexpected problem falls into the characters’ laps just when the resolution seems on the horizon


Always ask: What does the protagonist stand to lose through the story's central conflict? What will happen if your protagonist fails to achieve their goal? What are they risking?  

Finally, consider: How personally invested is your protagonist in the outcome of the central conflict? How much does it matter if they ultimately achieve their goal?

Tip: the more it matters to your hero, the more it will matter to your readers, too.

Read about setting stakes in Part 1 of this blog here. And get more tips on raising the internal and external stakes in your picture book in Part 3 of this blog next month. 

Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, mentor and coach, who loves working with authors and illustrators at all levels to help them to shape their storieswww.blueelephantstoryshaping.com 
She is the author of THE CRAYON MAN 
and has been awarded an MBE for her
services to children's book writers and illustrators as Regional Advisor of SCBWI British Isles.


1 comment:

  1. This is a great explanation of stakes and how to raise them in a way that matters. Thank you!


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