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[Advice req] Matching external/internal stakes


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Hi guys -

I'm trying to write a story on the smaller scale of things (my past projects quickly became too big for me). Right now I am struggling with outlining a rough idea of the plot, and in order to do that I'm trying to figure out the stakes.

For context: In the story the MC (not yet a teen) and her uncle go camping on an island: soon after arriving she discovers and befriends a creature who takes care of the life on the island. It is known, but becomes more weighted as time goes on, that the creature and MC will have to part when MC's vacation comes to an end, and that they might never meet again afterwards.

I have a decent grasp of what I want the internal stakes to be - whether MC will be able to maintain her childlike optimism in the face of departure and separation, or whether her worldview will fall apart because of it. But I'm not sure what external stakes could go well with it to create a throughline for the plot (i.e. a single plot thread that unites the different story parts). I do envision it to be less about a positive change in fortune than about a negative change of spirit, kind of like coming-of-age combined with aspects of tragedy (b/c i can't think of a better comparison, sorry).

Does anyone have any ideas for what it could be, or for how I can figure it out?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well 1 external factor is how often the MC can get away from their uncle in the first place (unless the uncle is in on it). What do the child and spirit do in the meantime? Is the uncle or other people harming the island? Is there another external force that needs to be dealt with? Does the spirit have other motives for being with the MC other than just being a friend? Does the spirit have to go through a similar ache to the MC when separation comes? Do they try to fight to be together somehow?

Most importantly: What about the possibility of staying/coming back. How is that dealt with?

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