Returning from the mountains yesterday, my husband and I saw an alarmingly large column of smoke. It first became visible around Genesee, where the skyline of Denver and its sprawling suburbs spill onto the plains. Judging by its distance on the horizon, the black smoke appeared to be about twenty stories tall, the size of a signifcant high-rise building. Curiosity tugged – had it not been so distant, we might have driven by to learn more.
However, had the smoke been furling out of an area close to our homes, we would probably have started speeding to get there.
This concept can help us when planning our Outer Stories, the compelling action segment of our plot lines. It’s what Donald Maass talks about when he discusses raising the stakes of our stories. When creating premise and stakes, ask yourself: is the main story question compelling enough that you would notice it from thirty miles away? Would it dominate the horizon? If yes, it may be sufficiently compelling.
It’s the next question, however, that will prove its strength: would you risk a speeding ticket to learn more? My husband and I would have if it held personal interest to us. Had it been in our area of the metro area, we would have floored the accelerator.
Wishing you much “fire” and high stakes in your story!