For certain stories, it may be desired to have a very positive feel to the outcome by having success matched with a positive judgment of that success. Other times, it may be desired to have a very negative feel to the outcome by matching failure with a negative judgment of that failure. In the first case, we create a “feel good” story (as they say in the ads). In the second, we create a tragedy.
But all stories do not fall at one pole or the other. Frequently, authors choose to have bad characters succeed, and show the regrettable result of that success. Other time authors choose to have a good characters fail, but show how that failure was really positive for them or others.
When deciding if you want your characters to succeed, think of the stories where the winner takes all. Also think of those stories where a valiant effort fails, yet the characters learn an important lesson about life.
When deciding if you want your characters to fail, think of someone getting their just desserts. Also think of those stories where a misguided success leads to a result opposite to what was hoped to achieve by the success. In short, both Success or Failure stories can be seen as an upper or a downer by the audience. The approach you take depends on the message you want to send.
Keep in mind that sometimes all the characters may not share the same exact goal but the same kind of goal. For example, all the principal characters in a story might be trying to get married. Some may succeed and others may fail. Whether the story as a whole is a Success or Failure depends on how you stack the deck. In this kind of story, Success or Failure is not an absolute, but a degree. The real question here would simply be on which side of the fence you want your audience to see the Outcome falling when all is said and done.
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