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Why Stakes Are Crucial For Poems

What are the implications for the speaker in your poem? What are the implications for the reader? Why do we care about them?


An issue that I think a lot of action movies have is there's a bad guy who wants to destroy the world or there's a bad guy who wants to take over a city. But the problem with that is, what's the motive? Why does the bad guy want to do this? It’s not even just that, it's like, well, why do we care if he does or he doesn't do it?


If you ever seen an action movie and you get bored, I think one of the reasons this often happens is because the stakes aren't clear enough.


Stakes are kind of a combination of the event and the timing. So it's not just that something can happen, it's that something is happening right now. For instance, I don't know, did you see 'Oppenheimer' yet? In the movie, and real life there is a paper that was published, and once the paper was published, it was like every scientist, every physicist that read that paper understood what that paper meant.


The trajectory from there to a bomb was certain. Now it was just a matter of who would get there first: because whoever could make this thing first, that would be the world power, right? So it's like, it's like if nobody else has fire and then you have fire mysteriously, and you're the only one that can make fire, it's like, you're the guy.


It's not a non-specific window of time, it's not a matter of, 'We just really want to make this invention.' It's like, 'No, you have to make the invention, and you have to do it before somebody else that would want to do it.'


For your own writing, it’s important to consider the event that is causing the stakes to rise, the personal motivations of characters that determine their investment in the outcome, and the urgency with regards to time.


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