20 March 2018

try fail cycles

Try/fail cycles are a plotting mechanism. They are very effective. The shortest short stories basically consist of one try/fail cycle: the protagonist tries to solve a problem and either fails or succeeds. Longer short stories can have two, three, or even more try/fail cycles. A novel chapter generally has at least one try/fail cycle, and often multiple try/fail cycles.

There are two versions of the try/fail cycle:

  • No, and...
  • Yes, but...

In the first case, No, and..., the protagonist doesn't solve the problem and something happens to make it worse. This increases the drama in the story, and, consequently the tension in the reader.
In the second case, Yes, but..., the protagonist does solve the problem but then some other problem happens.

If you ever watch television shows (do we still call them that?), you're familiar with the try/fail cycle. Generally there's a, No, and..., right before the first commercial break, right before the second commercial break, the third commercial break (you get the idea). Right before the end of the show there's usually a, Yes, but..., setting up the next episode.
This pattern works great for novel chapters.

Depending on your market, you probably want to end your short story with a plain Yes or No. Most readers like things to be resolved. But, it's up to you. :)

Send us your try/fail-laden short story!

No comments: