25 Ways To Raise The Stakes In Your Script Writing You Need To Know

Gideon's Screenwriting Tips: Now You're a Screenwriter

The screenwriting journey for both your main characters and your audience should be filled with twists and turns; ups and downs.

Screenwriters are taught to raise the stakes for their characters to create excitement, tension, intrigue and anxiety. This is more than simply putting multiple obstacles in the path of the main characters in your screenplay to stop them achieving their goals. There must be serious consequences for failure.

Stakes explore the POTENTIAL for things to go wrong for your main characters. Stakes must be substantial, not merely an inconvenience. They literally should be a matter of life and death.

Writers must explain how not achieving their goals will affect the characters, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. It needs to be deeply personal.

Let’s look at some ways to raise the stakes for your main characters by examining the repercussions if they fail:

  1. They lose the respect of…

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Author, Don’t Be Shy

author header without book information
 author header without book information

You Want Readers. Tell Them About Your Books.

When readers see your header on your website or on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or anywhere else, do they know your genre right away? If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. They’re not going to scroll down your page or your social media posts to try to discover the type of story you tell. More importantly, you are missing potential readers by hiding that information. Even a header with book covers may mislead them. Tell them right up front. Romantic fantasy. Horror. Thriller. Entice new readers with a straightforward tip on your genre.

Take a look at the image above. Are you ready to read Miranda’s books?

I’m a member of several author groups. Recently in two groups, there was a call to post Facebook pages and websites. I was astounded at how many headers told me nothing about the books. I had to dig around–these were fellow group members–to discover the genre or look for books by the author. Their headers were as mysterious as the one above.

Your Name, Author. Won’t get you readers.

Your responsibility as an author is to let readers know what you write.  Appeal to readers who resonate with your story elements. Your Name, Author, may be an ego boost but does not invite your core readers to find out more or buy your books.

Simple Promotion

Adding a bit more for your readers will help new readers discover you and lead to more book sales.

  • Your Name
  • Your Genre – A tagline.
  • Where to buy your books

Adding your genre and where to buy your books directs the right readers to your books. Big name authors often have just their name in the header, but indie authors need to work just a bit harder.

Graphic designers don’t always know about marketing. If you hire someone to create your header give them explicit direction and the actual words you need on your header.

If your budget is limited, Canva provides simple, easy to use templates or you can create your own from scratch. I used a simple template to create the image for this article.

Robust Author Promotion

Your header is the first visual people encounter when they reach your website or social media site. Give potential readers the basics. You want readers who love your genre. They will be happy to discover a new author if you give them the right clues.

However much you prefer writing to building your author platform, give the platform a boost with simple cues for your reader audience.

Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.
She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.d

Emotions first

The Jobbing Scriptwriter

emotions_2c18b4_208007

I have a nasty tendency when I’m plotting out a script to get too focused on the events. I work out what the beginning and end scenes are and then split the story into quarters, give each quarter a rough title and then start fleshing each quarter out with scenes.

The problem with this approach is it can sometimes leave me with cool sequences I’m very attached to which look great … but don’t really service the character’s journey. Because that’s what a film is: the protagonist’s journey, following along as they learn their most important, life changing lesson.

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No matter how big or blockbuster-y the film is, I want that emotional core. I want it to the story of one person learning and changing and growing (or dying and failing, that works too) … and I want that journey to be integral to the story. I don’t want the…

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Opening Lines – Dead Gone

Opening lines that grab.

The Irresponsible Reader

Head & Shoulders used to tell us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true for wearing dark shirts, and it’s especially true for books. Sometimes the characters will hook the reader, sometimes the premise, sometimes it’s just knowing the author — but nothing beats a great opening for getting a reader to commit. This is one of the better openings I’ve read recently. Would it make you commit?

She hadn’t been afraid of the dark.

Not before.

Not before it entered her life without her knowing, enveloping her like a second skin, becoming a part of her.

She hadn’t been claustrophobic, petrified the walls were closing in around her. Crushed to death without knowing they’d even moved. Not scared of things that crawled around her toes. Wasn’t afraid to sit alone in a darkened room and wonder if something was touching her face…

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10 Types Of Villains To Turn Up The Badass Factor In Your Screenwriting

Gideon's Screenwriting Tips: Now You're a Screenwriter

Here at Gideon’s screenwriting tips, I’m always looking for inventive ways for screenwriters to create different classes of villains. Are they merely the bad guys (or gals) or antagonists?

While villains are generally involved with negative behavior, this isn’t always true. They are however, directly responsible for obstructing the main character’s goal.

Sometimes their causes are noble and justified, while other times they are pure evil. It’s worth examining the backstories of your villains to give them a song motivation for their actions.

Let’s explore some different types of villain you can use in your screenplays:

1) SUPER VILLAINS

These are the Lex Luthers of the film world. These villains have no sense of morality. They are cold, selfish, emotionless and unrelenting in their pursuit of death and destruction. This type of villain is sometimes called The Dark Lord. There is no grand plan, just the desire to cause mayhem. Lord…

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Reality for New Novelists

The Amazing Benefits of On-Site Research

Plan for No Plan

My day job is ghostwriting. My current project is a thriller. The culmination of the story takes place at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Pictures, Google Maps, and other resources cannot replace the experience of being on site.

The author had personal reasons for visiting over and above the story. She wanted to connect with relatives she had never met. I had several plot points I wanted to clarify.

  • a place to hide the story’s MacGuffin
  • the best place for the killer to attack the protagonist
  • the setting for the denouement where the evil mastermind is overcome by the protagonist

Discovery Process

Picture

We arrived in the evening with no set plans other than to walk all of the archeological site of Chichen Itza. Tired and hungry we met for dinner on the terrace of our hotel and spa. The evening air was warm, musicians played guitars, our dinner was delicious. The author went to the front desk to ask if they knew any tour guides who were in her related family. The host pointed to the musicians and said that one.

A few minutes later Jaime Uh Mar Rufo joined us at our table and the rest of the trip was filled with excursions.The following morning we were up before sunrise to watch the sun come up over the Warrior Temple and the Chac-mool stone statue that held the head of the sacrificial ball team captain.

Picture

While Jaime explained the mathematics of the Kukulkan Pyramid I was searching for the spot where the MacGuffin could hide in plain sight.

We continued our walk around the main site, learned about the incredible competitive ball games between competing communities, learned to recognize repeated symbols like the serpent, the jaguar, the eagle, and the monkey. I found the place to hide the MacGuffin. And, as we were leaving we saw the guards for the archeological site clustered in one place, making it much easier for my characters to sneak in at night.

We returned to the hotel for breakfast and invited Jaime to join us. He was a non-stop source of Mayan lore. At home he and members of his family speak Mayan, not Spanish.

After breakfast we continued our tour to the old city. For the first hour, no one else was with us while we spent time at the oldest building, Akab Dzib, the house of mysterious writing. Exploring the plants and trees and the nearby sink hole I found the site where the protagonist confronts the evil antagonist and wins. Two down, one to go.

Hot and tired, we walked back and encountered the thousands of tourists that arrive each day streaming in to the archeological site. Along the trail back to the hotel, among the trees, I found the right spot for the hired killer to attack the protagonist and her group of friends.

The Extra Added Bonus

PictureJaime teaching us to count with Mayan symbols. This piece of obsidian is either zero or twenty depending on whether the curved side is up or down.


You’ll learn more from your on site visits if you are friendly and happy. Ask questions and pay attention to answers so you can ask more questions. In another article on research I talk about the mind set for being open to learning from people you meet.

Being open to what people have to share leads to deepening your knwledge. It’s the biggest benefit to doing on-site research. Because of our interest in natural healing and local plants, Jaime invited us to his home the following day to meet with his mother-in-law who is a local healer. He translated for us since she spoke no Spanish or English, only Mayan.

The neighbors were celebrating a Hesme (Mayan baby blessing) with a party afterward and we were invited. Everyone was friendly, open, and welcoming.  I met and talked with the community wise man (Jaime translating).
Picture

Stay Open to Experience

Our research trip was a brief two days on site but I gathered so much material for the story. Things I never would have thought of without being there. Staying open and communicating clearly are two skills every author needs for the surprise discoveries an on-site research trip provides.

  • Plan ahead for basics
  • Be prepared for anything
  • Stay open to offers from locals
  • Take notes
  • Take pictures

Once you are home, write your scene descriptions using the material you gather on your on-site research adventure.

Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.

She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.