back to list

Quackcast 661 - Steaks... stakes

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Nov. 14, 2023

LISTEN on our player!
Or TuneinRadio -–Literature/Drunkduck-Quackcast-p1150194/

Stakes are a part of a story. What does a character want? What means the most to the character? What are they after, what do they care about? Stakes can be really subjective like that and they can also be objective and more universal like death, debt, a threat to a home, nation, planet or even the universe. The most important thing though is that you can communicate the value of those stakes to the audience! It doesn't actually matter WHAT the stakes are as long as the audience understands that they're important.

Sooooo so many writers seem to have zero idea about that. One idea is that you need to “raise the stakes” in order to get the audience to be more invested, which certainly works but what a bad writer will always do is just crudely add onto the objective stakes: “Ten people were in danger but NOW it's 500! But wait… now it's 6000. OMG, now it's a million! Oh wow, the fate of the known universe hangs in the balance!”. The truth is that at a certain point it loses value, we just can't relate very well to bigger and bigger numbers and the “known universe” is an empty concept to most people. To really raise the stakes you have to pick things that the audience CAN care about and/or show that it's really affecting the characters in a way the audience can symbathise with.

If you write it correctly, a character losing their favourite pen can be a tragedy of earth shaking proportions and them needing to get it back can be an epic tale of redemption and self discovery without them ever leaving their office.

The idea here was inspired by Banes' newspost on the Marvel films. They're a great case in point, the higher they make the stakes the less we care. The first Avengers movie was a lot of fun till the end when they were trying to save New York city, fighting hoards of meaningless CGI blobs: “raising the stakes” didn't make things more interesting. It was more engaging when they were talking and just fighting Loki because these were stakes we could more easily relate to. It's a pattern that repeats in a lot of marvel movies and TV shows. Sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it wrong.

How do YOU approach stakes?

This week Gunwallace has given us a theme inspired by I wont Marry the General as the Dragon Lords only Daughter - A dense, layered palace of a tune here, it sounds like the theme to a major Hollywood film. We have a lot of body, depth and power to this sound. All electronic. You can just imagine mysterious opening scenes, titles fading into view and flicking of screen as you wait in anticipation for the story to begin.

Topics and shownotes


Inspired by Banes' newspost -

Featured comic:
Adkien -

Featured music:
I wont Marry the General as the Dragon Lords only Daughter - - by ShriekingMagpie, rated A.

Special thanks to:
Gunwallace -
Ozoneocean -
Tantz Aerine -
Banes -

VIDEO exclusive!
Become a subscriber on the $5 level and up to see our weekly Patreon video and get our advertising perks!
Even at $1 you get your name with a link on the front page and a mention in the weekend newsposts!

Join us on Discord -



Ozoneocean at 8:49AM, Nov. 14, 2023

@marcorossi- I disagree, you don't have to care about the protagonist or identify with them to care about stakes if it's something objective (death, injury, pain, winning a prize, danger, triumph etc) or the story is written in such a way that it makes you care - a good farce for example: you may not always care about the characters but you can so easily identify with the embarrassment and the shock of revealing a scantily clad mistress to the wife etc.

PaulEberhardt at 7:08AM, Nov. 14, 2023

@marcorossi: Good point. I think, too, that it starts with the protagonists, who need to be three-dimensional and relatable enough for the audience to empathize or even better identify with them. That's of course a drawback for superhero movies and generally any hero-on-an-epic-quest type of story, as they seldom lend themselves to protagonists like that - some writers may pull it off, but it makes it hard to keep up the spirit of the thing as well. I beg to disagree on that you have to care about the stakes to care about the hero. The stakes can enter the game after the introduction, or the other way round, making the reader curious with weird stakes that start making sense further down in the plot.

marcorossi at 4:38AM, Nov. 14, 2023

On the one hand, for the stakes to be important, readers, have to immedesimate in the protagonists; on the other hand, for the readers to immedesimate in the protagonists, they have to care about the stakes... damn circularity! I wish I had a clear solution.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Mastodon