Make your hero lose…yet win!

Posted: March 25, 2015 in Writing

There are many ways to end your novel. But one of my ultimate favorites is when your hero loses.
But the hero can’t just lose. She has to win something. She has to defeat part of the problem. Not necessarily the entire army of bad guys. But at least something.

So how does this work?

Simple. Your hero has to have an alternate goal. Typically they’re engaged in the main goal. Defeating the bad guy, saving the world. The entire focus is on the main goal. And somehow, a secondary goal quietly slips in.
One of the best examples, and a slightly old one – sorry, is the original Rocky movie.

Rocky is all about defeating the champ. Once he accepts the challenge to fight the champ, it’s all about defeating the greatest champ. An insurmountable battle. A fight you’re sure he cannot win. If he does win outright, it stinks. It’s too easy. It cheapens the story.

So how do they get out of it?

The night before the fight, Rocky goes down to the venue. He’s looking around the whole arena and notices the color of his shorts in the 50 foot tall banner are wrong. He remarks to the promoter, who just happens to show up, and the promoter dismisses it. He states that in the end it really won’t matter. It’ll still make good entertainment.

Deep down, Rocky knows he can’t win. He heads home and confides in Adrian that he won’t be able to defeat the champ. He can’t beat Apollo Creed.


But no one has ever gone the distance with Apollo.

“I just want to go the distance. No one has ever gone the distance with Apollo.” says Rocky.

And there it is. A secondary goal. A somewhat minor one compared to the main goal, but it’s there. If he wins, it’ll be a miracle. But if he doesn’t, he can at least go the distance and accomplish a personal goal. He’ll have achieved something that means something important to him. His own personal victory.

So when he really loses, but goes the distance, we feel that he’s won. He’s won his personal goal and we all cheer for the accomplishment. Even though he lost the fight.

So how can you set up some secondary, personal goal?

Think on it. I’ll be there are a million ways. And if it you find one, it’ll really thicken your story.

This is also a great way to setup a sequel.

Which isn’t a bad thing…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s