You have created your plausible yet brilliantly original premise and given us a flawed yet noble character to cheer for. All the ingredients are in the pot and you are ready to turn up the heat. You have answered the ominous “so what?” question by propelling your hero into a battle they just can’t win. Readers actually care what is going to happen next! And then?
In his writers guide, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says that he sees a lot of writers that fail to continue upping the ante. Even published authors in mid-career with several books under their belt languish in the middle pages. Upping the ante does not always mean a bigger monster or a more fiendish murder. Shorten the time left in the countdown. Tie their best friend to the tracks. Lock the door that leads to safety. Is that an earthquake I hear? Stakes can be raised in layers like toppings on a pizza.
Take our wannabe rock star, Simon from yesterday. His big chance to save the day literally crashes in front of him. All he needs to do is drive the leasing company truck full of ZZ Top’s equipment to Rockford by sundown. Will 22 years stuck in the same Drivers Ed class be enough?
Before Simon can even leave the truck rental lot his hippie mom slips in a stash of her “special” brownies for the trip across the state line. His nemesis, the soon-to-retire Drivers Ed teacher spots him behind the wheel and is on his tail. On top of everything there is something strange about ZZ Top’s “night” driver. Is that a coffin he’s sleeping in? Could things get worse? Let’s hope so. It’s time to raise your (wooden)stakes again.