Damon

Q: try-fail cycles with pants still on

8 posts in this topic

Hi!

 

I wonder if anybody can help me to write try-fail cycles without the reader getting his/her pants bored off.

 

I'm in the middle of my to-be-novel, and my characters have finally gotten from reacting to acting. Of course, they can't go for the real goal right away (understanding what's actually going on and thus coming up with a plan that works). 

But now that I write their attempts doomed to fail, I feel like such a fake. Or is that what's supposed to feel like at this stage?

 

Anybody eager to share some wisdom?

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, I'm assuming you're already familiar enough with the technique if you're asking about it- so can I ask on the specifics of the scene you're writing and offer solutions based on that? Otherwise, all I can really advise is to make the fail as completely unpredictable as possible (yet realistic)- and make sure the twist has a dynamic impact on the rest of the narrative. Remember to give your characters lots of weakness's that they have to maintain, etc. 

I think I understand what you're feeling though, I felt something similar when writing something of my own. I figure the problem was that it felt too forced (each character in the story had to "die" to initiate the finale. As things dragged on, I felt I should to try end things quickly and kill the stragglers quickly). I think the issue might be that the act of desperately wanting to put a fail in just for the sake of narrative is affecting the quality of the fail itself. Try not to get "tunneled visioned" into what you think you "should" write based on what people expect, but try and take the plot towards something people don't expect. Otherwise, all I can recommend is brainstorming multiple twists you could take the story and decide how they'll affect the plot before writing anything.

 

I hope that helps. I'm not really a writer, but I've run a lot of RP games in the past (not on the shard)- so I'm not sure how useful my advice will be x.x

Anyway, if the problem is that you want ideas/direction- just give some details and I'll see if I can help you come up with something.

Edited by Unodus
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Keep in mind that you, as the writer, know that this is a try/fail cycle. Most readers who aren't also writers won't think of it in that way, and even writers might not see it for what it is. If you're presenting it properly, so that the attempt feels like it has an honest chance at succeeding until the moment it fails, then I don't see why anybody would be bored.

As to how it's supposed to feel, that's hard to say. I suspect writing is different for everyone. If it feels like you're faking it, then my best advice would be to finish the whole thing. Sticking the landing at the end might make the rest of it feel like you got it just right. If the problem is that you're bored writing it though, that's a sign that it might be boring for the reader.

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Three thoughts:

Even if it's there for narrative structure reasons, it will feel authentic if it is actually the smartest thing for the characters to do given what they know. If they have flaws that keep them from doing the strictly smartest thing, make sure you point up the ways that they are being genuine to themselves.

Make sure that a fail is worse than, "Well, that didn't work." There should be some additional, lasting cost. Maybe someone is injured, maybe they offend a person whose help they were counting on, but somehow the fail should introduce an additional obstacle.

To use the terminology from Writing Excuses, the try-fail cycle doesn't have to just be fails. You can use a mix of "yes, but" with your "no, and". So, maybe what your characters try works perfectly and they accomplish their goal, but in doing so they (or just the readers) learn that there was more going on and/or some other goal that they should have tried for instead.

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Wow, thank you for your thoughts, they really helped me!

Now that I have forced myself a bit more down the scene(s) I realized that it gets less fakey as soon as it gets real for the characters and they actually have a feeling of progress.

But you're right - they definitely need to end up somewhere worse than before (and surprising yet meaningful...). I'll do my best on that, too.

 

Thank you all so much!

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In which episode does the podcast go through the concept of try-fail cycles most thoroughly?

Edited by Jove
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...make the fail as completely unpredictable as possible (yet realistic)- and make sure the twist has a dynamic impact on the rest of the narrative.

 

Remember to give your characters lots of weakness's that they have to maintain, etc. 

 

The key, for me, is to write it as if they are going to succeed, or at least see no reason that they won't succeed, only to have success snatched away. They should have a plan that is plausible and seems to the reader likely to succeed, only for it to fail in a surprising yet believable way, as Unodus says. They don't even need to be foiled by the enemy, it could be something from left-field, like the weather - just sheer bad luck.

 

In terms of weaknesses, don't forget to also give your characters strengths that they can use to overcome obstacles further on in the story.

Edited by Robinski
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Make sure that a fail is worse than, "Well, that didn't work." There should be some additional, lasting cost. Maybe someone is injured, maybe they offend a person whose help they were counting on, but somehow the fail should introduce an additional obstacle.

 

Another excellent point - recall your horror / amazement when 'that thing' happened to Luke near the end of Empire Strikes Back.

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