Writing Tip – Turning Up the Heat Part 4: Double Jeopardy

WritingHintsPhotoIn previous weeks I have been discussing turning up the heat in your story as a way to build toward the climactic event. Here are more ways to make the action sizzle.

  1. Impossible Dilemmas
  2. Double Jeopardy
  3. The Black Moment
  4. The Point of No Return
  5. All Factors Culminate at Once

Today I will focus on “Double Jeopardy.”

A double jeopardy occurs when a character faces more than one potential disaster (life or goal is in jeopardy) at the same time. For example, while she is trying to escape from a burning forest, a venomous snake bites her. Now she is threatened by fire and venom at the same time–a double jeopardy.

Since the character has to solve two threatening problems instead of one, intensity is doubled. Even if she escapes the fire, how will she get to the hospital in time? If she stops to administer aid to herself, how will she protect herself from the fire?

A double jeopardy can also be constructed as an impossible dilemma, as we looked at last week. In the fire/venom scenario, the character might think she has to choose between escaping the fire and stopping to try to administer a cure, and she sees no way to do both. Yet, such a dilemma isn’t necessary for a simple double jeopardy situation. Two dangers at the same time are all that is needed to ramp up the excitement. Adding an impossible dilemma can inject even more intensity. It’s up to you.


Markus has to take the secret plans, handwritten on parchment, to the wizard, but he comes upon a river too wide and swift to swim across (jeopardy #1). While he is pondering what to do, rain begins to fall. He stuffs the parchment under his shirt, but the wetness bleeds through, smudging the ink (jeopardy #2).

Captain Zolt speeds the spaceship away from intergalactic bandits (jeopardy #1), but the refuge planet ahead explodes, sending debris zipping toward his craft (jeopardy #2).

Priscilla stands in the soup line with a bowl, her second time through. If Mistress catches her, she’ll be whipped (jeopardy #1). She is getting soup for Mason, her sick brother, who is hiding in the cellar in the girls-only home. No one knows he is still alive after his escape from prison. As she keeps her head low, two soldiers walk through the entry gate. One points at her and shouts, “There is Mason’s accomplice. Arrest her.” (jeopardy #2).

The ways to inflict a double jeopardy on your character are limited only by your imagination. Enjoy torturing your characters. 🙂



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1 reply

  1. Awesome advice, as always! 😀


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