Every person who has seen a movie or read a book knows what a try/fail cycle is, even if they don’t know that they know it. If, “Show don’t Tell,” is the most common piece of writing advice then, “Try/Fail Cycles,” is the underappreciated sibling. Before we can get into how to use them to improve a story, we need to discuss what they are.
Think of a try/fail cycle as a problem solving process. First, the character must try to do something, and they will either succeed or fail. It seems pretty straightforward but a true try/fail cycle is not simply, “The hero swings his sword and cuts off the dragon’s head,” because that result halts the story. Either a new challenge has to be brought in or the story will end. A real try/fail cycle pushes the plot forward by making one of two things happen.
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