Tag Archives: try/fail cycle

The Beast Inside

heart_beastIn many of my favorite novels, the heroes/heroines face battles, have adventures, and deal with creatures of supernatural ability in fantastical worlds.  In the very best of those, however, the greatest obstacle comes from within.

Many of us face challenges in our own lives. They tend to be more mundane than those we read about, but flat tires, layoffs, and leaky roofs are some of the difficulties we learn to face and overcome. Would it be more impressive, in real life, when someone overcomes a monster? Maybe. But I think that most of us recognize that our biggest challenges, and the ones that are hardest to master, come from failures we perceive inside ourselves: a nature that tends toward selfishness, gossip, insecurities…the list goes on. So, what truly brings out the hero in our heroes/heroines, and resonates most deeply with our readers, is when they master self, the thing many of us acknowledge as our greatest threat. How do we, as writers, help our characters to go through that inner hero’s journey?

First, we have to give them flaws and a good reason for those flaws. Before you write, ask  some questions about your character such as: What kind of childhood did he/she have? How did those events/people, circumstances shape his/her perspective? What flaws are inheritted and what flaws were created? What flaws could prevent my character from succeeding at one of his/her goals? What has to happen in order for him/her to face and overcome those flaws? In order to grow, a character must start with perceivable limitations.

Next, how do those flaws manifest themselves? Right to begin with, readers need to know how these faults get in the hero’s way, how big of a problem they are, whether our hero is aware of them, and how equipped he feels to handle them. An inner demon is as powerful, if not more powerful, of an enemy as monsters, warlords, or evil computers. Treat it as such, with the same try-fail cycles as the physical enemy, the same battles for dominance, and that glorious moment of defeat that allows our hero/heroine to reach their potential.

In the end, seeing our character as a better/more capable person is as gratifying as watching them win the day. Giving our characters something within themselves to overcome will give them depth, interest, and engaging conflict. Make it good, make them suffer, and watch your readers’ engage.


Colette Black lives in Arizona with her amazing family, two dogs, and a mischievous cat. Current publications include the Mankind’s Redemption series, The Black Side anthology, and an appearance in One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology. More info at: www.coletteblack.net

Try and Fail in Love

gone-with-the-windI remember watching Gone with the Wind when I was about five or six. My mother is a sucker for the classics. The plot and story were a bit over my head, but I remember getting the gist of what was happening by pestering my mom. I gathered that Scarlet O’hara was in love with Ashley, but for some reason the two didn’t run off together and live happily ever after like the other shows I’d watch. In the Disney movies, there seemed to be a clear connection between the love interests and then the evil villain did everything he/she could to keep the two from being happy forever.

Gone with the Wind was different. The characters seemed to get in their own way of being happily-ever-after. I remember at that young age becoming upset with Scarlet that she wouldn’t just express her feelings in a reasonable manner. That always seemed to work in the cartoons. Scenes like “Kiss the Girl” and “A Whole New World” were all about expression and contained in them try/fail cycles. Scarlet frustrated me because it seemed she just wanted to play games.


Like any conflict, a great love story will have try/fail cycles. Gone with the Wind impacted me as a child because it wasn’t a love-at-first-sight and happily-ever-after story. Misperceptions, miscommunications, expectations, lies, and all of those things that make us human beings can help create some intense love and conflict development. Having a character that isn’t “Prince Charming” but someone with faults and flaws can help deepen that conflict as well.

Scarlet tried to hook up with Ashley but failed each time. During the times it might have worked out, she got in her own way and failed some more. I hated the story for it, but here I am discussing it thirty years later because the conflict made it memorable.

Meet Joe Black starts with a love-at-first-sight scene and then develops the relationship through a myriad of try/fail cycles, each offering greater insight into the human experience.

The love interest doesn’t need to be two human beings. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo’s love interest is the Shire. Conflict is introduced by the use of a temptress—the ring. How many times did Frodo try to give up the one for the other? The story is laden with these try/fail cycles.

We’ve all done stupid things for love and this can be another way to utilize try/fail cycles. In Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella seems insane as he nearly loses the family farm and goes on a road trip to chase a developing love interest.

There are so many more.

The next movie you watch, take an inventory of the love interest and temptress if there is one then watch for the try/fail cycles. As readers we want the protagonist and love interest to succeed. But if they don’t try and fail a few times before making it work, we’ll tire of the tale and toss it aside. In short it will become forgettable.