Stakes (should be) high

I have been trying to write my Crime Fiction novel Completion, since May. Here is a little reminder of what this story is about…


Completion is a novel about a series of ritualistic murders. 3 women at a time are being murdered, gutted and displayed around San Francisco’s business and tourist district.

Dr. Ali Marshall is asked to join an FBI task force where he can profile the killer as well as offer his insights on ritual killings. Being the author of a successful textbook on the subject, Ali is highly recommended.

Trying to work well in a team as his anti-social tendency kick in, Ali is the butt of many jokes and his worth is questioned by some teammates while others like him a little too much.

Solving the case is the teams’ main objective and as the case dips and rises like a rollercoaster, Ali is forced to stand up for himself, stand up to a killer and stand with his teammates.

Completion is a novel by Tiffany Christina Lewis.


I am notoriously known for being a fast writer, so when I didn’t complete this book in May 2019 (CampNaNo) I really thought I had an issue. I tried again in July (Another CampNaNo) but to no avail.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this story a lot. It’s like a compulsion for me to finish it. Why? There are a few reasons this story is nagging me…

  • First of all, I write fast… so why isn’t this done?
  • Second, this is a good story and a fun idea for me to work with.
  • I know and enjoy the location it’s written in, San Francisco, CA.
  • The main character is my love child, based on a character I love from a movie I highly enjoy!
  • The secondary characters are also very near and dear to me, including one from a different series who I am passing on to a new team.
  • The villain is complicated. I love his young, immature nature, even though he’s an adult.

So, I really wanna write this!!

Over Thanksgiving break, I had an epiphany. I realized what was wrong with this story. There were no REAL stakes for my main character.

A good story, as I am learning more and more about lately, has REAL STAKES for the characters. Something has to push the characters and make the issues and problems in the story WORTH solving.

With Michael, the stakes are always other characters lives, a criminal being brought to justice or saving his own career.

With Ali, there was nothing… At any time he could head home and just leave the FBI without solving the case, so why should he stay? Sure, people were dying, but he was not obligated to save anyone. He nor anyone he loved was in danger… his job didn’t depend on it… There were no real consequences for him personally… What are the STAKES?

That question changed everything.

Understanding the stakes for your character(s) is so important and pivotal to every story.

Readers need that in order to engage, and honestly, as an author, it’s harder to MAKE purpose, where there is none…

So, I had to change my story, and this, oddly, made it more challenging to outline. So, I did this!

I DREW my outline. Usually, my outlines are a slurry of word documents and typed notes. This time, something was nagging at me to think outside the box, so here it is.

An Illustrated Outline.

Now I’m just pounding out this concept and tightening up ideas for the plot. TURNING UP THE STAKES!

I hope to have this story written soon! Wish me luck!

– Tiffany

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