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Dec 28

Mischa Eliot

Adventures in Writing: Try and Try and Try Again

The Try/Fail Cycle is Everywhere

If you’ve heard of the Try/Fail Cycle then you know what I’m writing about today. Every movie, tv show, and story works using the Try/Fail Cycle. Why? Because if you don’t earn what you get, then will you really enjoy it? You can call this something else, as well. Earning Your Keep.

Think about it. You want a promotion? Earn it. You want to buy a new car? Work hard, save money, and earn it. Be a productive member of society. And that’s what our characters are trying to be, until we throw monkey wrenches at them, chase them up a tree and, as if that wasn’t enough, then throw crap at them to see how they’ll react. Will they fall or find a way to squirrel their way to the next tree or to a roof? Will they come down and say “HEY! Stop throwing crap at me!”?

And sometimes the people creating these fantastical stories don’t know what the characters will choose to do until we put them in these situations. Or, even worse, we’ve plotted out what they will do in such a situation and they refuse. It doesn’t work. They fight against the choices we’ve made for them, take the story away from us, and run into a burning building that we didn’t know existed.

So what is this Try/Fail Cycle (for those who don’t know)? It’s putting obstacles in front of your character, sort of what like happens in real life, but things tend to be escalated to gigantic proportions in fiction. Your character needs to get to Point A by a certain time? Not only will they hit every red light, like you would in real life, there will also be some kind of accident that happens right in front of them or to them or something else happens to prevent them from reaching Point B.

When they finally get to Point B, it’ll be all for nothing. Or, they’ll have to run off to somewhere else, Point C, to catch up with someone specific that can help them with their new situation. You don’t stop at just one obstacle. You don’t stop at two, either. You might even keep going after three – it all depends on what your story requires.

There are some stories I’ve read where the characters fight for what they want until they get it. I’ve read stories where characters get to the end and they aren’t sure if what transpired was worth it because now they’re a completely different person. And then there are the stories where the goals have changed and they have to fight all over again. Every story is different. Every author is different. Only you can tell the story the way you see it.

Start writing that story with a simple question:

What does your character want and how far will they go to get it?

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