Monday, March 22, 2010

Raising the Stakes

A writer has to make the reader care about the outcome of a story.

In m
y novel-in-progress two kids, Delia and Sam, suspect a former neighbour of having murdered his wife. They set about to uncover the truth. It wasn't long before I began to have doubts about the strength of this story. Why would the kids even bother? Why would they care?

When I began to ask myself these questions, I realized that kids themselves needed a stake in finding the answer. How could I make solving the mystery a matter of life and death for these youngsters?

In order to answer that question, I had the boy's aunt, a young woman who plays an important role in the lives of both kids, begin to date the man with the deadly secret.
Now Delia and Sam had a reason for wanting to get at the truth.

To ratchet up the tension, I had the kids discover that the man had had not one, but two wives, who had died violent deaths. It became more urgent than ever that they act quickly to save the unsuspecting Aunt Esme from a similar fate.

Now, I can get on with the story.


Willow said...

That's such an important point! I really got interested in the story as soon as you brought in the aunt.
I recently read about half of a book that sounded great: a little girl arrives in Australia on a ship from England and no one is with her, plus she can't or won't say her own name or who put her on board. This mystery is never solved in her lifetime, but her granddaughter takes up the quest later on and travels to England to find out. "But why does she care so much?" I kept asking myself, finally realizing that I myself didn't care and I stopped reading!

Peggy Dymond Leavey said...

I agree 100%, Willow. The question you asked yourself is key. And as writers for children, we have to make them care. Sometimes, I've found, it helps if the protagonist is someone they can identify with too. Thanks for your comment!

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