Monday, February 11, 2013

Writing lessons from the Super Bowl

There are lessons in writing all around us everyday, it's seeing them and apply it. One of these lessons happens to be from football of all places. This is what I learned about writing by watching the Super Bowl: 

For the most part, we all know women are usually not into sports the way men are. So when I do watch football games, it has to be exciting. First I'll start with what I learned from football and then we'll move on to applying it to writing.

Back in November I went to a San Diego Chargers game. Although I was excited about being there and in row 18, field level, I didn't really feel the need to pay all that much attention to the game. It was boring. It wasn't because I don't like the Chargers (I do), it was because they were getting their butts kicked.

They weren't going to make some huge comeback. Even if by some miracle they did win, they weren't going to the playoffs. So, since I knew they were going to lose and beyond that, there was nothing at stake, it didn't seem to matter. I wanted to cheer for my team, but my feelings weren't invested.

Then came the Super Bowl.

I chose to cheer for the Ravens since everyone else I knew was rooting for the 49ers. 

If you watched the game, you know the Ravens were kicking butt. Sure, it was the playoffs and I was thrilled the "underdog" of the two was winning, it wasn't exciting. 

Suddenly, the power went out. At last it was fixed, the game resumed, and it was a power play for the championship. The Ravens were suddenly makings mistakes and fumbling. The 49ers stole the ball, they made touchdowns, they were going to win?!!? I was freaking out. My friends were going wild. No one knew what was going yo happen and we were on the edge of out seats. Every second counted, literally.

Some how, the Ravens won and just barely.

This is what I learned from those two games and how to improve writing. 

Like I said before, my feelings weren't invested in the Chargers game. If your readers aren't invested, they aren't going to keep reading. Your characters have to be relatable and the stakes have to be clear. And I don't just mean long term. They have to have smaller immediate hurtles to overcome to reach the ultimate goal. Think of it as their training.

The Super Bowl really had me nervous, cheering, and on the edge of my seat. Great, your character is licking butt, but unless there is failure along the way, why do you care. You know the outcome and it's a boring ride. But if your character(s) picks his/herself up and keeps going although the antagonist has stuck a blow and has the upper hand, it's exciting. You don't know at any given moment who will succeed or fail. Who will strike next and how? 

Readers have to cheer and cry with the character. They should want to keep reading late into the night because they simply must know the outcome. 

Your character has to face failure to make the reward more sweet and worthwhile. The battle has to be memorable and the victory worth everything lost.  

In short, give the reader something and someone to cheer passionately for.