32. Two Holes


Twice upon two times…

MAN-IN-HOLE IS EASILY ADAPTED for a company story. The character is the customer. The hole is the problem. The solution is the plan of escape. That is the easy part. The difficulty comes in picking a character the audience will care about, and a plot for the character that is believable as a business.

Before explaining how to work on that, let’s get one common mistake front and center so that you do not repeat it. I called it Problem-Solution-Problem-Solution. I see this pattern not only when teaching storytelling, but often in standard pitches too. Now that you understand Man-in-Hole, it is easy to describe:

Bob falls in a hole. He gets out. He falls in a another hole. He gets out of that one too. The End.

That might seem like a better story. Two holes instead of one! In reality, double the holes, but half as good. Why? Because the character succeeded. He escaped. We the audience were happy. Then you the author threw this person we liked down another hole. Shame on you!

This is the same pattern that makes for horrible movie sequels and boring, repetitive television series. The character(s) we cheered in the first movie/episode is dropped into the same predicament as last time. They use the same plan to escape. We know how it works already. Nothing surprises us. We feel pity in the struggle, but don’t want to watch it play out all over again.

I’ve seen this pattern attempted dozens of times in a five minute pitch, and it doesn’t work any better in that case:

Problem #1 in minute one. But not to worry, all is solved in minute two. A different problem, Problem #2, in the next minute. The same solution repeated again. Move on to financials. Team. Ask. Any questions?

Once I know the solution, I want to know the details, or the opportunity or competition or team. If I bought into the first problem, I don’t a second reason to invest/buy. I don’t need to hear the same high-level solution a second time.

This pattern often appears when the solution solves more than one problem. As described back in chapter 8, in RULE 18: Don’t dwell on the problem. In a five minute pitch you only have time to describe one problem. In ten minutes you might have time to talk about two, but if you can grab the audience with just one, it is better to spend your time talking about the solution, business model, competition and team, i.e. talking about your business, rather than spending time talking about the problems of the world.


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