Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taking A Swing At Writing

Now that spring is upon us, even if it feels like summer sometimes, baseball season is fully underway. But why should a writer cheering for the Cleveland Indians care about baseball? Answer: because writing a novel is a lot like playing America's favorite pastime. From that first pitch to the miraculous grand slam that clenches the game baseball is a prime example of what our manuscripts should aspire to be to the readers.

Think of your first chapter as those moments before the game. The characters are synonymous with the players. The anxious tensions buzzes the air as they wait to take the mound. Thunderous footsteps shake the stadium from the fans buying their beer and hotdogs. After the team steps out of the dugout some famous singers heralds the charge with the National Anthem like a battle cry. In that moment your player, or main character, may not know this is the day their world goes topsy-turvy. But like a fan in the crowd, especially if written in third person, the reader will be hooked.

From that first curve ball flying over home plate the plot goes into full affect. Whether it's a swing and a miss or a base run the plot thickens. As the game surges forward your protagonist team and antagonist team each score runs. Your main character suffers a set back by striking out only to grow smarter, tougher, with each new inning (chapter). This is the biggest chunk of the manuscript. Doesn't matter if the conflict is mental, physical, or emotional each chapter moves the plot along to the climax. Or as I like to call it, the seventh innind stretch.

All right, your team is down by two. You've got a man on first and second. Players are almost too pooped to pop. Two of them have already struck out. Now the hero/heroine is up to bat. It's all or nothing. The villain sets up a super pitch they've been saving for this very moment. A hush rolls over the crowd as the announcer(narrator) gives the play by play. Here comes the first pitch. It's a swing and a miss. The next pitch comes high. Since your main character never listened to his/her father when they were younger they swing. Foul. With a heavy sigh the protagonist lifts the heavy bat and swing away. The ball soars high. The crowd's enthusiastic screams echo as the home run puts your team ahead in the game. The opposing team's spirit gets crush.

Here comes the wrap up. You've got two innings. Although in a book this is usually a chapter. The home team puts the remaining puzzle pieces together for the crowd. Can't let them leave with unaswered questions. Unless you are writing a series then small story elements can be remain open, but that's a whole other story (possible pun intended). Nonetheless as the announcer calls the game you are ready to type the most exhilirating words an author can put in a manuscript...The End.

So yes, baseball and writing are comparible. This analogy can stretch beyond novels. Anything that tells a story such as a song, movie, or poem can follow this formula. Heck, even life is a hit or miss. In life it's the misses that teach us the most. Readers want to get lost in the strikes for no other reason than to see a character they grow to cherish overcome great obstacles. Above all else show the reader why they should root for the underdog as much as you do. The only way to do that is to play the game and write.

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