Give your protagonist a moment to contemplate his failure. Time to think about his decisions. To wallow in his sorrow. We’ve been talking about the story being a series of ups and downs, like a roller-
You want to give your audience the impression that the quest is impossible now. That it would take a miracle. They want to see an epic comeback. They want to see the miraculous.
Audiences don’t pay $15 to go see an easy victory -
When you pay money, do you want to see something typical, or do you want to see something epic?
Things look horrible for your protagonist now. Their quest seems a million miles away. Victory was just snatched away from them, cruelly (false-
Your protagonist has now entered The Pit of Despair! Cue creepy Halloween music.
Of course, it’s not even a choice, you want to see something epic! You can see normal every day. You can see minor come-
And, you can’t have a come-
No, I joke, you can’t have a come-
Before your protagonist can overcome everything that’s standing in his way and succeed at the climax, he needs to be defeated. The task, the quest, the goal he’s been fighting so diligently for -
Your protagonist needs to strengthen his resolve and forge ahead. He needs to take time to reflect on his strategy. To contemplate.
His next move might be his last.
He needs to either quit, and run home with his tail between his legs and lose everything -
So, give him a pit to wallow in and some time to contemplate his next move.
The Pit of Despair.
In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne has been wrongfully-
The warden has the prisoner murdered, in order to keep Andy in prison, running the money laundering-
And, after false-
Andy is sentenced to Solitary-
In this case, it’s almost more of a Pit of Despair for the audience, rather than for the protagonist himself (because of the information that Andy knows, but we the audience do not).
The audience is led to believe that Andy’s actually killed himself -
So, you kind of end up with two Pits of Despair. One with the protagonist in his pit (a false Pit of Despair) and one for the audience in theirs.
In a nod to screenwriters everywhere, they actually called the Pit of Despair in the Princess Bride -
You need to give your protagonist some time to reflect and come up with a whole new course of action. He needs to choose to fight -
You need the audience to believe that the quest is virtually impossible to achieve now, that it’ll take an absolutely ingenious protagonist to even come close.
You do all this in The Pit of Despair!...