How to write when the story doesn't result in victory ..

by ed
(detroit, michigan)


I'm looking to write a short story, non-fictional. It's about a race season, David vs. Goliath, etc. The main character wins races and championships against Goliath - however in the final showdown, loses. He finishes 2nd in his race, 6th in another.

How can I write this story and keep the reader excited, if it doesn't end with victory?

Thank you.

Answer: Not every story has to end with success. Though they are less popular, tragic stories have historically been respected as a higher art form. The question is what sort of meaning do you want the reader to derive from the story (because a story should be meaningful)?

Essentially, you have two options.

In a proper tragedy, the outcome of failure usually results because the main character makes the wrong choice at the crisis when it comes to his inner conflict. Either he sticks to his usual approach when he should change, or he changes when he should stay steadfast.

The meaning of the story is that in such a situation, don't do what the main character does (which is often to give in to ego, or make an error of judgement, or go too far outside the natural limits). Because the reader can relate to the main character, the reader is left with greater empathy and understanding of human weakness.

The alternative is a tragi-comedy, in which the outcome is failure but the main character is left happier, better off, or more content in the end. It may be that the main character realizes he was pursuing a goal that was unworthy or that he backed the wrong team. Perhaps the prize was an illusion that distracted him from the real location of his happiness.

In that case, the meaning may be that we need to evaluate our goals and our alliances more closely.

Best of luck.

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Oct 31, 2014
Thank You
by: Anonymous

Great, thanks for your insight. I like the tragi-comedy route. The main character was chasing bigger bikes on a smaller bike in this situation and did the same lap times during the race - he just didn't finish ahead of them. So I suppose the lesson would be that he learned he could compete with the big bikes and was "as good if not better" in terms of riding (for story purposes). Sort of like the "little engine that could" theme perhaps?

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