Murphys Law

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Written by JJ Barnes

How To Write Murphy's Law, The Table Read Writing Advice
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Murphy’s Law is when anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. It’s associated with people who are very unlucky, or how the toast always lands butter side down. Murphy’s Law is also an excellent tool to use when you’re writing your story.

Murphy’s Law Will Make It A Struggle

When your Protagonist, your main character, sets out to achieve their story goal, they have to bump into obstacles. If it’s too easy and they could just go and get the thing they want without a struggle, there’s no story there. It’s not interesting.

If you use Murphy’s Law, your character will be faced with none stop challenges on their journey. The struggle will be constant. The conflict will be active the entire time. You’ll be writing your character having to overcome challenge after challenge. That provides a none stop stream of entertainment for your audience.

Test Their Resolve

How To Write Murphy's Law, The Table Read Writing Advice
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If your Protagonist is encountering constant challenges, they can begin to doubt themselves. How much do they really want their story goal? Is it worth this amount of suffering and struggle?

When things are a constant struggle it’ll create internal conflict. Is your Protagonist willing to sacrifice their safety or their well being in order to get what they want?

The will doubt themselves and struggle to decide if it’s worth it. This internal conflict is interesting and tense. So when they do decide to risk it all and face that challenge, your story will be eve more rewarding. Your character will have more determination and more grit, because they’ve committed themselves fully to overcoming these challenges.

The #1 Writing Tool

Implement The Antagonist For Muprhy’s Law

How To Write Murphy's Law, The Table Read Writing Advice
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As well as bad luck, your Protagonist will be having their Murphy’s Law tests from the actions of the Antagonist. Your Antagonist needs to be as active and motivated as your Protagonist. Every time your Protagonist makes as positive move, your Antagonist will be actively working to block them and force things to go wrong.

As long as there is a slight imbalance between your Protagonist and Antagonist, your Antagonist will be just a bit stronger. Therefore, they’ll be a bit more successful than your Protagonist. Your Antagonist will be able to block them from accomplishing their goals. This forces your Protagonist to fail time and again, but also learn.

Conflict Caused By Murphy’s Law

How To Write Murphy's Law, The Table Read Writing Advice
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To keep your story moving forwards, you need constant conflict in every scene. As soon as your characters have what they want, they’re not motivated and pushing to accomplish anything. Without motivation, without action, your story is boring.

By applying Murphy’s Law to each scene, even if it feels like things are about to fall into place and peace will reign, you can topple that. Don’t let them rest for even a minute. Keep them pushed, challenged, trying to succeed and failing.

Scene level conflict is as important as the story conflict. If their goals for the story are still playing on their mind, but the scene they’re in is just placid and nothing is really going on because everyone is content, the scene is pointless. Every single scene in your story needs to be active with conflict to be entertaining and be relevant to your plot. If it’s not relevant to your plot, that scene doesn’t earn its place in your story.

Learning To Win

How To Write Murphy's Law, The Table Read Writing Advice
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Struggle and suffering is how we grow and learn. If we never struggle, we have no reason to seek self improvement. Because through the course of your story your Protagonist is facing constant challenge, and constantly having to fight to get to what they want, they’ll be constantly growing and changing.

Allowing your Protagonist to go on a character arc where they improve as people, get smarter or stronger, better or wiser, makes them more human and relatable. It’s a positive experience to watch someone learning and becoming better versions of themselves.

At the beginning, your Protagonist is both outmatched by the Antagonist, and struggling against Murphy’s Law. Constant obstacles are being pushed in their way that they must learn to overcome. Throughout the story, you show them learning, watch them improving, until the climax. By the climax your Protagonist has learned enough to be capable of overcoming the Antagonist, and achieving their goals.

Keep It Entertaining With Murphy’s Law

The point of reading or watching your story is to be entertained. Even if you are weaving complex or important themes into your story, things to make a difference in the world, entertainment is the most important thing.

If your story is boring, you’ll lose your audience. No matter how interesting and important the moral wisdom you’re imparting is, a boring story is still boring.

Conflict is how to keep your story entertaining. Murphy’s Law is a way of making sure there is constant conflict.

More From JJ Barnes:

I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.

You can find links to all my work and social media on my website:

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Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose

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