Consequence in Success/Stop stories

Jim’s (@jhull 's) fascinating new article discusses the presence and weight given to the Consequence at the beginning of a story:

I just wanted to mention how well this fits what I’m working on right now. I’m revising my sci-fi novel that has a Stop/Success storyform, with a Goal of Becoming (becoming Earth’s defenders) and a Consequence of Obtaining.

Because of the idea that the Consequence is in place at the beginning of a Stop story, I had thought that my Consequence was the aliens “gaining a foothold” on Earth. They have an infiltration team in place at the beginning, so that kind of made sense.

BUT. When writing the first draft I found that at the end of the story, I really needed to amp up the stakes and bring out the big guns – a big invasion fleet – so that the aliens were threatening to take over the planet. Really, by the end of the story, it’s clear that’s what the Consequence was.

Anyway it’s neat how well that matches up to your article Jim! Keep 'em coming!


I liked his analog-dial analogy.

“Lean towards Success, and the Consequence recedes and fades back in the mix. Turn towards Failure, and you turn up the Consequence—amplifying the message making it loud and clear”

Tension will come into the story by leaning in toward failure. “Dark Moment” stuff. Showing the odds, the risks, the cost for success AND the cost for failure.

Thanks for sharing this, @mlucas.


Is the dial turned by the story form settings or is it consciously done by the author when storytelling?

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From the article, and the quote

“Lean towards Success, and the Consequence recedes and fades back in the mix. Turn towards Failure, and you turn up the Consequence—amplifying the message making it loud and clear”

I understand this to mean the progression of the story, which is:

  • the signposts
  • “+” rest of storyform
  • “+” consciousness of the author as they tell the story.

In other words, usually around SP3 the consequence is faced, also considered as dark moment as I understand it. At this point, it becomes very real that they might lose this fight. They might not have what it takes. They give up. They need their IC to do their stuff to pull out, which is a combination of the IC points as it relates to the OS. The RS can also be instrumental in getting the MC out of this.

In a suspense story, I’d expect the consequence is in play and faced earlier in a less intense but very real way. In a romance, the consequence is tied to remaining status quo, I’d think. In a horror, the consequence must come up earlier, though what that consequence for failure means becomes clearer and clearer as people die, as the plot progresses. In a family film, the consequence will be less intense, more relational-oriented is my guess.

As I see it, the genre will inform the degree of studying the consequence earlier on. Does the MC/some character verbalize the consequence? I think it has to be clear–it’s called risk. Without identifying risk you can’t sell a book or screenplay. Your reader won’t be pulled in. Without stakes, there’s no conflict. Somehow the consequence needs to be given a hat-tip early, then in SP3 faced and almost happen. If it’s success, as we’re saying here, then it doesn’t come about.

While the OS story has a consequence, for not meeting “the goal,” I think the risk/stakes also include a combination of all the storyform. For the MC, moving from focus to direction or problem to solution involves a loss of some sort. In the RS it’s the same. There’s tension in that change, there’s a new status quo, a mini-consequence. So consequence isn’t the sole owner of tension. But the OS consequence is going to be in the book blurb/back cover copy.

Of course failure stories are going to be spun much differently. That’s better for another post.