The Stakes Character

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Who exactly will be the 'Stakes Character'? That's the question for me at the moment. I want to be able to get this really clear, as I don't want to head down a path only to have to return to square one because I've made the wrong decision. 

In my screen story there are two possible characters that could be the Stakes Character, one is the hero's best friend (female) and the other is the hero's female object of desire. I'm leaning towards the 'object of desire' and will keep best friend as 'mentor' in a way... I know it seems pretty cut and dry, but I just want to fully understand the function of the Stakes Character in the story overall.

To structure my story, I'm currently using 'Contour for Windows'. It's definition of 'Stakes Character' is as follows:

The stakes character is the human face that represents all of the people that the bad guys are victimizing. It's usually someone personal to the hero, or the hero feels very deeply about. In this plot point, we see what's wrong with the hero's life via the life of the stakes character. Most heroes are usually flawed or wanting in some way at the start of a film. The stakes character usually has the qualities that the hero needs to complete his arc.

My questioning of the which character should be the stakes character stems from this statement. The hero cares about both of these characters, and the 'object of desire' is victimised, but she doesn't necessarily have the qualities that the hero needs to complete his arc, as she is down-trodden by her husband and lives a pretty miserable existence with a dark secret... BUT...

... but that may be it. The hero does not know this fact, the fact that she is miserable in an unhappy, emotionally controlling marriage. Our hero only sees from outside of her life and wants that with her. The hero is jealous of the life she leads without him, and wants her for this fact. It won't become apparent to the hero until later in the story (second act) of the life she leads. Ok, I think I've got it.

The example in Contour is a 'nutshell' example, and stories can be infinitely more layed or complex to explore this concept. Here's a great link that goes into considerable detail about the stakes character check it out . Basically, the writer states that the stakes character is the character the hero has to rescue.

Dead bookmark links (or are they?)

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Having accumulated hundreds of bookmarks on Screenwriting over the years, inevitably some sites will shut down for whatever reason - and that gem of information that you bookmarked them for is gone.... or so you thought!

I just wanted to share this site with everyone as it's allowed me to salvage many a pearl of information that would otherwise be lost www.archive.org . Archive.org has a feature called the 'Wayback Machine' that crawls most websites around the world and takes a snapshot of he content, kept as an archive in time if you like.

Should you find that a bookmark you've kept all of a sudden becomes redundant, see if there's a snapshot at Archive.org's 'Wayback Machine', and if there is, copy the information and save it in a format that you can then refer to locally or upload to Google Docs to have on hand whenever you need it!

And there won't be the same pain felt as our fearless friend, Napoleon Dynamite here!

Writing IS Rewriting!

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I've been working on my main screenwriting project on and off for about five years now. Not non-stop, I've had several month breaks in between attempts and I've got bits and pieces of notes for new stories bubbling away, but the first story that I gave birth too is the one that I am still most passionate about and want to see through to the very end.



I want to be able to say that I've truly done the best I can do, regardless of whether it sees the light of day as a movie or not. This is a very personal journey, and I consider the rewrite as the Hero's Journey, so named after Joseph Campbell's seminal work around the monomyth.

This rewrite will be radical and I'll be killing off many of my babies to see it through *gulp* but I'm delving into this rewrite with the thoughts of using the tools that have resonated most with me over time, but perhaps didn't understand that clearly (or perhaps didn't WANT to understand them, as they didn't fit what I had written). At this stage, it's tools such as the 'Sequence' (or mini-movie) approach, John Truby's teachings and 'The Writer's Journey' by Chris Vogler. I've also invested innumerable time and energy into writing what is the most current draft. Why waste that effort, only to throw the work into a drawer to be forgotten? I've entered it into competitions, I've undertaken courses (online and in the real world - check out Karel Segers of The Story Department, it's well worth attending his seminars if you want an introduction to story structure), I've bought many books, ebooks, DVDs and MP3 seminars. I've read dozens and dozens of websites and blogs and I'm sure I've got 5000 bookmarks on screenwriting by now. I have around me right now a tremendous wealth of information at my disposal and one thing is sure, there is no one magic formula to write by. As a writer, you must learn the basics and explore the different methodologies, approaches and advise, but it's then up to you to decide which methods resonate the most with you.

Thanks Wikipedia!


So why the sudden enthusiam to get back into it now?

I've had script coverage completed on it a few times over the years, and it's the latest coverage (from ScriptShark) that has spurred me into current action, with the feedback that my screenplay "...has a tremendous concept that could prove both artistically and commercially lucrative. This is the kind of material that could attract excellent talent to the film." Great, I love it, but on the flip-side... "The script needs to develop its story and characters better to exploit all of the themes and ideas that naturally present themselves in the situation of the story. With more development, this could be a very successful script for the spec market".

It's exciting to hear this, sure, and I need to keep the momentum up but this time want to approach this rewrite with a plan of action, a pathway to see it through. I'll be conducting more research on my characters, their backgrounds and needs / wants and relationships. I'll be ensuring a really REALLY clear visible goal for my protagonist. I want to have a very strong sense of structure so that I can take care of the flabby, meandering Act 2 and I want to pare back the wealth of information that I've got. Sift through all of it, distill it, and present it here so that I KNOW that I've studied it and understand it as clearly as possible so that it can be carefully applied to my rewrite. I want this to work. I have no deadline, I need to balance family / work / life with my writing, and I'm grateful to have a loving and supportive partner, but I won't abandon her =p I will make the most of my travel time, about 2 hours each day for my commute to work will be used to study, write notes and fantasy scenes and situations that may or not make it through. I will try and complete this rewrite by the end of the year, but no promises.

In my next post, I'm going to layout out the path (yellow brick?) that I'm going to approach to tackle this rewrite. These will be the steps I'll follow to see this project through, until then, I'd love to share these youtube videos that I had discovered about story structure by Dan Wells - very entertaining and very well put together (there are five parts, this is just the first, check them all out). I'd also be interested to hear your own approaches to the rewrite. Until then, get rewriting!