Guest blogger Clifford Garstang asks “What are the stakes?”
A writer should never lose sight of what's at stake for his characters, and for beginning writers that's a common oversight. When I'm teaching creative writing, I'll often see perfectly interesting settings, with fresh characters, but because there's nothing at stake, the story goes nowhere. It's a "slice of life," the student might say in defense, and there's nothing wrong with that as a building block toward something larger.
To keep most readers' interest, even a character-driven story needs the tension that is created through conflict. And what is conflict but frustrated desire? If the writer knows what is at stake for the protagonist, that will make it possible to place obstacles in his or her way. If that obstacle is the desire of another character, so much the better!
Clifford, the author of In an Uncharted Country, blogs at http://perpetualfolly.blogspot.com