A Current Endeavor – The Importance of Failure

June 19, 2013 at 1:15 am (fantasy, Fervor, Sam, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’m reading an interesting book at the moment that discusses the growing need for innovative thinking in our world. It points out that not only do innovators have to be creative and willing to use divergent thinking, constantly asking questions rather than just looking for the one right answer, they also have to be willing to try new things with an awareness that they are risking failure. A good innovator will fail, and often. The thing that makes a person a great innovator is the willingness to accept that failure and see it as merely another challenge – the opportunity for a new question…”How do we find a way around that next time?”

Failure can be a very important element to a story plotline as well. If the hero always succeeds, there usually isn’t much to the story. Failure builds character. Failure presents problems and creates conflict. Failure makes a protagonist someone we can relate to. Failure convinces us the story is real.

I was thinking about this because I work failure into my story threads on a regular basis. Sometimes my fallible characters are the cause of their own dilemmas, which is what happens to my protagonists in my upcoming Prisoners of Fate novel (Masters & Renegades #3). They are responsible for the accident that sets everything in motion, and forces them on to the path they follow to try to repair the damage they have caused.

Sometimes, like in my Fervor series, the failure is just the result of an unfortunate turn of events. In Providence, the latest novel in the series, the problems start to multiply for Sam and his cohorts. He tries to prevent things from escalating, but despite his earnest efforts, bad things still happen. With the spirit of a true innovator, he doesn’t give up or accept defeat, instead, he takes on the challenges as his own personal responsibility and he asks the difficult questions that eventually lead him to solutions.

But more often than not, what appear to be failure can turn out to be blessings in disguise. The protagonist in my “The Trading of Skin” novel, yet to be published, seems to fail at almost everything he tries. But when the truth comes out, many of these perceived failures are in truth just a matter of a differing nature, and not really failures at all – just a lack of understanding who he is. Once he comes to see his true strengths and weaknesses and knows from where they originate, he starts to view his achievements or lack thereof in a different light.

Failure is a part of exploration and creation, and both of these are necessary for tale-telling. They’re also a part of taking on the risks involved in trying to tell your stories to the world at large. You risk rejection, you risk criticism and you, will fail more than once. What matters is the willingness to try despite those risks, and the ability to pick yourself up and try again when failure comes your way – which will happen as you learn – with more resilience than you had when you started.

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