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Raising the emotional stakes of your story

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One of the keys to compelling story writing is making your readers identify with your characters. By putting them through the emotional ringer, you immediately raise the stakes of your story and make it difficult for your readers to not root for the good guy.

Sometimes you have to be a little mean to your characters in order for them to change, but by doing so, you will not only help them to grow, but you will also write a compelling tale that readers will not want to put down.

If you want to raise the emotional stakes of your story and make your readers really care about your characters, try introducing one of the following aspects into their lives:

  1. Suffering: intense feelings can help your readers become more emotionally invested in your characters
  2. Sacrifice: self-imposed suffering will be more intense to your readers than pain alone
  3. Jeopardy: putting your character into dire straits will allow your reader to attach more importantly to your characters
  4. Sexual Tension: use intense negative feelings to raise the tension between your characters
Suffering Catalin Pop


Although it may seem like you are being sadistic by making your characters suffer, reader will not only rmember them but also the character who inflicts that suffering.

Readers do not necessarily feel what your characters do, but by being able to relate to that pain or at least identify with the intensity in how your character feels, will greatly intensify your reder’s experience.

Inflicting physical pain is often easier to portray, but emotional pain or loss and the cause or effect it has will increase the power and show readers that you are not doing it arbitrarily.

Sacrifice Svilen Milev


Pain is an intense thing to witness, even fictional pain. But self-chosen suffering is far more intense than pain alone.

When one character inflicts pain on another, readers become focused on that character and not necessarily on the consequences of those actions.

When your character deliberately chooses that pain and suffering for the sake of the greater good, it has a more powerful effect.

Jeopardy Dora Pete


Putting your character in jeopardy is a great way to heighten the tension, since both the reader and the character will be anticipating the pain or loss.

The more terrible the danger and more helpless the character, the more your readers will sympathize with him or her.

Be sure to deliver on the threat of jeopardy to ensure that your audience feels the full effect of that tension.

Sexual Tension
Sexual Tension geloo

Sexual Tension

Putting two characters at odds is an easy way to introduce sexual tension. The easiest way to make the most of their discomfort is to make the hatred between them especially negative.

Your characters do not necessarily have to be physically attractive, however. If you make an unattractive character important in other ways, readers will still find them attractive despite their lack of physical beauty.

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