Stakes in Storytelling with Hannah Fergesen

Write your way out of narrative quicksand and craft a query that will leave agents desperate to read more when you create compelling character stakes.

Your Instructor: Hannah Fergesen, author and former literary agent

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $299

Class Description

Stakes matter.

Have you ever started reading a story, only to find yourself ten pages in and completely bored? The world-building is compelling and the characters are interesting, but for some reason, you’re already nodding off. Maybe you’ve gotten stuck in your own projects and wondered, why isn’t this working? Where do I go from here? Usually, what’s missing can be boiled down to this: Stakes.

Understanding how stakes work in storytelling is fundamental to creating the kind of narrative that readers will gobble up, whether you’re writing romance, science fiction, thrillers, general fiction, and more. Why should we root for your character? Why should we keep reading? The answer is that we know what is at stake for the character, and we care whether they reach their goal – or not.

At no time is the question “What is At Stake?” more important than when you’re querying. When stakes are missing from your story, they’ll be missing from your query, too. When you neglect to outline the stakes in your query, you answer the question “Why Should I Keep Reading?” before the agent has even reached your pages. The answer is: they shouldn’t.

What you will get from this class:
A fundamental understanding of stakes and how to implement them in your story.
A guide to teasing your stakes within your first five pages, to create compelling reasons for an agent, editor, or reader to keep reading.
And, a query template that never fails – as long as you know what your stakes are.

You will not need an existing WIP for this class, though you will be sharing the first five pages of SOMETHING with me in Week Two – whether that’s a current WIP or a new work developed during this class is up to you!

STAKES IN STORYTELLING is taught by Hannah Fergesen, a former literary agent who represented bestselling and awards-nominated writers, and author of the upcoming science fantasy THE INFINITE MILES. Currently, Hannah utilizes their expertise through freelance editing, publishing consultation, and as the foreign rights manager at KT Literary.

What This Class Covers

WEEK 1 – Identifying what's at stake

Identifying what is at stake for your character and how those personal stakes inform or are informed by the global stakes of your narrative can be tough. Sometimes we embark on a story missing one or both of these elements, only realizing as we cross the finish line or craft our query that something isn’t right.

This week we will be discussing what stakes are and how to infuse them into your work. Though your book might already be written, approach this exercise as if you are just embarking on the creation of your story – this will be useful to those who have already started their work and those who plan to start, as you will need to identify these characteristics in your story for querying and submission.

*There will be a short lecture, suggested reading, and assignment for this class.

WEEK 2 – Infusing your pages with the stakes

This week we will take what we learned in the previous week and apply it to the first five pages of our novel. While stakes do not need to be overtly stated in these pages, we should have an inkling of who the character is, and what’s to come, enough to keep your reader (or agent, or editor) reading past this point. We’ll discuss how to infuse the stakes into your first few pages effectively. Your homework will be to draft or revise your first pages with this in mind and then send them to me for critique.

*There will be a short lecture, suggested reading, and writing assignment for this class.

WEEK 3 – Using stakes in a gripping query

Now, you should have a much better understanding of what is at stake for your character and your narrative world at large. You have crafted an intriguing first five pages that will engage an agent or editor. Now, you need to make sure your query reflects these qualities so that anyone receiving your submission is drawn to the rest of your package. This means crafting a query that is engaging, snappy, and reflects what is meaningful about the story to your character, thus telling your prospective reader exactly why they should want to keep reading.

*There will be a short lecture, suggested reading, and writing assignment for this class.

Goals Of This Class

• Learn about Personal and Global Stakes, and why they’re important to every story.
• Utilize this information to craft an interesting foundation in your first five pages for those stakes to keep us turning the page.
• Craft a query that uses our understanding of stakes and conflict to keep the reader reading.

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