Raise the Stakes


I love to use The Observation Deck, by Naomi Epei to undercover something in my writing that may be needed. I picked up the deck and shuffled the cards as I normally do and ask ‘what do I need from you today?’ and I took flipped over the first two cards and they are cards that I have recently pulled; ‘Raise The Stakes’ and ‘Study Opening Lines’ I laughed out loud and shook my head in agreement and say to myself ‘I get it, I get it.’ What I mean is, I’ve been toying with ideas for the current work in progress and when I thought of raising the stakes I didn’t and then I went back to the idea that would raise the stakes of he story and guess what, it worked. To get this card again is a reminder to listen to my gut, to the inspiration, to the idea that is whispering to me, just write and let what happens, happen.


Ken Follet says that you need the stakes to be high for every one of your fictional characters. if you are writing about a bank robbery, make sure your robber has a compelling need to steal the money. It’s not enough that he wants to be rich. He needs to have an ambitious plan that requires a million dollars. He has to have someone or something that will die without the money. ~ Naomi Epel


My current work in progress has risk all over the place, I risked some of my own emotional stress for one of the characters, she is a bit of a lost soul. I also had to dig deep to find one of the other characters emotional risk, at first he was pretty one dimensional because that’s how he presented himself, but then he shared his fears and his intentions as the story unfolded and I just went with it and I was surprised how much the characters were having by just telling me what was happening. You have to listen to the idea and get it down on the page.


The other card I pulled was ‘Study Opening Lines’. Basically Naomi Epel is suggesting to he pull a few favorite books off our book shelves (because we have a lot of books as writers) and study the opening lines of those books.


Look closely at several of the books on your shelf. Pick one opening sentence that calls out to you. Ask yourself what makes it work. Does it grab your attention? Set a mood? Transport your to another place or time? Now, take that sentence and write your own version of the paragraphs that might follow. ~ Naomi Epel

I have so many books that I love, but I pulled a few off the shelf to try this little assignment:

I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, ‘The Liars’ Club’. Not just by its ferocity, it’s beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular, but its totality – she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years.                                                         I’m not that way. I lived an odd, herky-jerky childhood. ~ Stephen King, On Writing

This book is not about cemeteries. Nor is it a mystery-suspense story. It is about writing – the craft of writing and telling a tale. It is about how to use other people’s stories, and what we we are allowed to do with them. ~ June & William Noble, Steal this Plot.

This book should be a great help in the freeing of your thoughts and the genius that is in all of us. ~ Brenda Ueland, If you want to write.

love of book

Okay, so there is a theme here. I love reference books on writing. I’m already filled with so much excitement about writing, telling a story, making up shit that people will read and enjoy, who wouldn’t? I love to read about other writers who share their personal stories, their joys, trauma’s, fears, successes, up and downs. The constant theme is they kept writing, writing is what moved them forward. Writing is what will move us.


They’re all dead now. Here’s a picture of the town where they lived. New Waterfront. It’s a night bright with the moon. Imagine you are looking down from the height of a church steeple, onto the vivid gradations of light and shadow that make the picture. ~ Anne Marie MacDonald, Fall On Your Knees.

On November 11, 1997, Veronika decided that the moment t kill herself had – at last! – arrived. She carefully cleaned the room that she rented in a convent, turned off the heat, brushed her teeth, and lay down. ~ Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides To Die.

My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone. ~ Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes.


Everyone one of these opening lines grabbed me and sucked me into their story. I couldn’t but down each book when I started to read them, get invested into their stories. That’s why I want to write, that’s how I want to write, to have someone gasp for air because they can’t seem to stop reading and have the feeling they would be lost in the real world and safer in the tale I’ve provided by an idea that was whispered to me. I love the creative process.

I will continue to look at opening lines and see what happens; I will share with you what I come up with. For now, I’ll keep working on raising the stakes and see what the characters come up with.

Until next time, keep on typing….


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