07 July 2020

try-fail cycles

Yes! We are still hard at work on the awesome August 2020 issue of Electric Spec. Yes! The submission deadline is still July 15, 2020! Get those stories in!

As I read slush, I'm reminded of a tip from a famous editor: utilize try-fail cycles. A try-fail cycle is exactly what it sounds like. Your protagonist tries something (usually to solve a problem), and is not successful, and then tries something else... Most authors write these organically, without ever thinking Now, I need a try-fail cycle. It can be helpful, however, to consciously think about them.

Consider a definition of a story: a protagonist has a problem and acts to solve it. If the protag acts and is successful, a try-succeed instance, this is not an interesting story. Is it even a story? If the protag merely acts and fails, a try-fail instance, again, this isn't an interesting story. Thus, the cycle aspect of the try-fail cycle is also important. The protag needs to try more than once.

Most interesting stories have a series of try-fail cycles with increasing stakes. This makes the story more dramatic and gives the reader a more satisfying emotional payoff in the end. Try-fail cycles show and enable character growth. They also allow the overall story plotline to twist, change, grow. They make a short story much deeper and more interesting.

So, if your story is dragging, consider adding another try-fail cycle. Good luck!

No comments: