When I first learned about stakes, I thought it meant the main character's life had to be in danger. HUNGER GAMES is an excellent example of this -- kill or be killed is definitely high stakes.
Many of my favorite books have more subtle stakes. In AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, Colin Singleton's life is not in danger. His mission is to find answers about himself and his relationships. Mellow, but totally entertaining.
Stakes are about loss. What does our main character stand to lose as she jumps over the hurdles of our story? And why should anyone care? Besides loss of life, here are some examples of loss in my favorite books:
- Loss of family/friends
- Loss of security
- Loss of power
- Loss of social position
- Loss of money/job
- Loss of respect
- Loss of happiness
- Loss of love
- Loss of beauty
- Loss of physical abilities
Real loss, or the threat of it, deepens our stories. If we layer it throughout, hopefully the reader will care about our Lead and root for her all the way til The End.
What are the stakes in your favorite novels? Can you add other losses to this list?