Too big to fail

Do you have characters or plot lines that are too big to fail?

I’m not going to lie, I was supposed to write this earlier today, but I’m glad I didn’t. I was sidetracked in some personal drama that brought up the phrase too big to fail. No, I’m not talking about bailing out Wall Street banks, though I think the movie was excellent. But, think about the phrase “too big to fail.” I’ve been meditating on it all day.

What can be too big to fail? Countries? Certainly. Companies, certainly not. Humans? Relationships?


Humans can certainly be too big to fail. We have all read or written that character, undefeated — until he isn’t anymore. It’s a classic story arch we all like to call David vs. Goliath. Goliath is too big to fail in all of the rising action of the plot line, until a unique set of events or a catalyst happens and, suddenly, he’s not. Then, there’s a resolution — and maybe a comeback in a sequel.

As readers, we sometimes believe that certain characters are too big to fail. We think that a main character can’t be slain because there are five more books to come. Cue George R.R. Martin saying “hold my beer” here. We use time markers or an idea of how the story will play out to make an educated guess as to what will happen next, usually sparing certain characters, who in the moment would then be too big to fail.


Relationships are something else that can be too big to fail. As people, we may build up an interpersonal connection in our minds so much or for so long that failure is inconceivable. It’s in the high school crush that has no possible ending other than to realize the crush is his or her own unique human, separate from the version in your head. It’s in the husband who has been together for ages and is pushing 15-25-35 years together and considering no other alternative, perhaps in contrast to their significant other. It’s even in familial as opposed to romantic relationships, like those inseparable sisters who grow up doing so much together, there’s no other option than to grow apart to become their own individuals. In the moment or within the pages of that novel these relationships can be too big to fail — which they might be in the end, but it’s never a guarantee.

Quote Too Big to Fail

What are some of your favorite too big to fail characters and relationships? Probably my favorite too big to fail character is Harry Potter. Too big to fail relationships, might be Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.


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