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The Near Win Scenario - and how it can make you a better writer

Fruit machines can make you a better writer and better in relationships. Really.

In the history of business psychology, the gambling industry have been way ahead of everyone in terms of tricks to get consumers to be less risk averse.

No clocks, no windows, drinks for the winners to make them feel powerful and take more risks, and so on. And all to get you in a "flow state" so you're not focussed on what is happening around you, but only on the hit.

The gambling industry wouldn't be so rich if they didn't know how to beat the punter. They employ psychologists to maximise their advantage. And the gambling industry's most consistent money earner is gambling machines.

They're pretty and light up and you normally lose out. Yet you keep going back like a moth with some coins. Why is that? Enter the "Near Win Scenario".

It has been worked out that you get the same "hit" from nearly winning as you do from winning. Before, as an example, say a machine paid out 20% of the time. Reduce that to 10% but add that 20% of the time you nearly win, so 30%.

On that maths, your "hit" has gone from 20 to 30% of the time - you get the same hit 50% more. Your win rate has gone from 20% to 10% - 50% less. Maybe it isn't such a surprise that apparently the addiction rate of fruit machine players is now three times as much.

And the best thing for the casinos? Before when you won, you were ahead and less likely to gamble. Now the hit of nearly winning keeps you frustrated - and you go again for the win. You win, you get a temporary hit. You nearly win - your emotional hit's going to go on as you go for it.

So what's in it for a writer?

So to recap: Aiming for a goal? Nearly getting it? Not getting what they want and having to try in many ways to gain the prize?

Doesn't that sound like the state of a good protagonist?

Because here's my theory for writers:

  • Near Win (or similar Near Lose) states make for a good protagonist and antagonist.

  • The other characters support or hinder the the main character regarding their goal.

  • an outcome is finally winning, a tragedy is nearly winning and failing

And what about the audience? They get a whiff of the hit if they empathise with the character. If they catch that near win feeling and go into the flow state - they lose themselves in the film. That's how I've felt through the best films I've ever watched.

And it works re bad stories too. If someone wins too easily, keeps playing the same game too long or the risk/reward isn't that big, we don't get our hit.

So what's in it for us as people?

Simply, sometimes we keep ourselves in bad relationships because we're convinced they might yet win and be good.

Whether it's that person you love and have been chasing, or the family member you wished would like you, or the cool kid... just remember to ask yourself whether it's good for you, or whether you're just getting a hit.

But to end on an upbeat note, if you want extra motivational energy to force your way into being a paid screenwriter, get yourself into a situation where you can see you're nearly one. Apparently, it's quite the buzz...


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