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

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 their close family and friends
  2. They lose respect for themselves
  3. They lose the respect of those who depend on them
  4. They damage a professional relationship that relies on the success of the mission
  5. They will lose a bet
  6. An embarrassing misunderstanding will occur
  7. Deep emotional pain and turmoil will result
  8. They will be forced to confront their biggest fear
  9. Their belief sand moral compass are challenged
  10. A meeting or deeply wanted connection will be missed
  11. A closely-held secret is revealed
  12. A lie will prevail while the truth will be hidden
  13. A war or deep conflict will start
  14. Someone will die or be seriously injured
  15. They must sacrifice an innocent person
  16. They cause harm to somebody else
  17. They will be banished from their homeland
  18. They are forced to give up something valuable
  19. They underestimate the cost of their goal
  20. They take an unnecessary risk
  21. They are forced to change their plan or their goal
  22. A meeting or deeply wanted connection will be missed
  23. Their plan will be severely set back
  24. A villain will escape or be be set free
  25. Justice will be miscarried

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. misterzee188 says:

    thank you for this helpful list of stake-raisers. Question: is # 19, “leave out something important?”

    1. Ha. It’s actually what they see if they get hit by the train.

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