A Writing Lesson from Grey’s Anatomy

A doctor struggles to stay alive after nearly drowning. An intern studies for hours on end because if he fails the test, he loses his career. A chief physician has to chose between his job and his wife.

What do all of these things have in common?

Well, they are all stories on Grey’s Anatomy. But, more importantly, they have all stakes.

A woman fights for a life. A man struggles to keep his career. A man must choose between purpose and romance.

All of these things deeply matter. If a character fails, he or she will lose something important. These characters aren’t going to lose something minor; the situations are often life and death (this is a hospital show after all). You can’t get higher stakes than that.

How important are high stakes?

Stakes are what makes the reader/viewer care about the character. If the character has nothing to lose or will lose only something trivial, the reader won’t be engaged or care. However, if the characters has something of significance to lose, then the reader won’t be able to look away.

Don’t believe me? Grey’s Anatomy is heading into its fifteenth season.

When you are creating your plots or revising your book, ask yourself: What are the stakes here? What do my characters have to lose? Are the stakes high enough to engage the reader?

If you have your readers biting their nails, your story might become a fifteen-book series.

Need a Dr. Yang to your Dr. Grey? Let’s work together.

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