Monday, October 28, 2013

What a Writer Can Learn from the NFL by Melinda Curtis

Recently, Mr. Curtis asked me when I’d become obsessed with football.  It was Sunday.  Tiger Woods was playing and had a chance to stage a come-from-behind-win in some tournament held in a gorgeous, windy, sunny place.  Mr. Curtis wanted possession of the remote and the big screen.  Currently, I was in possession of both and was watching the NFL Red Zone.

I must admit, I’ve never followed professional sports teams other than the sound-bites needed to converse with any sports-fanatic I knew.  There was just too much to do around the house and always a good book to read.

But a few years ago, things changed.  My step-mother passed, and my father began to spend significant time at our house.  He’s an avid fan of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the Women’s National Basketball Association.  I found it necessary to have more talking points about sports.

It started innocently enough with Inside the NFL (on Showtime).  This band of merry men talked football gossip, explained why all men seemed to be talking about the play of the week, and set up a fun rivalry for their weekly picks.  It was like Entertainment Tonight with more testosterone.

Soon, when Mr. Curtis flicked past a game between two flyover state teams that Californians normally don’t care about, I was asking him to stop so I could see if the rookie wide receiver was going to overcome his jitters and last week’s public set-down by the veteran quarterback.  Drama.  Sheer drama, fans.

The NFL has done what other professional sports have been unable to do – make all those players and coaches real to me.  As an author, that’s exactly what I try to do in my books – make everyone real and have a good time doing it.  You don’t need a pageful of backstory.  You don’t need to explain the town’s pedigree in detail.  You just need to drop interesting tidbits in between the action to hook someone.

What’s your “obsession” and how does it relate to writing?

16 comments:

  1. I like this, and it's certainly true. Peyton Manning came to Indianapolis and demanded my attention, and it was all downhill from there.

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    1. Liz, they don't come much classier than Peyton, although I have been impressed with Andrew Luck (if I got sacked as many times as he did last year, I might have retired).

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    2. He's doing great though, isn't he? But they have something in common that is important in books. Class, in the very best way.

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  2. You have some valid points, Mel. I think writing action is easier said than done. It takes a lot of work to make something go by quickly and be interesting. Hm. Maybe that's how sports figures feel. I like college football better than pro. I think golf goes too slow for me as does baseball which is huge in my family. When we lived in Washington State I loved hockey. We had a team in Tucson for a while, but it didn't fly and I don't follow the Coyotes in Phoenix, because they don't televise the games.

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    1. Roz, I nap to golf and baseball on TV. I like to read quick hits of backstory, rather than big lumps that slow down the pacing. But you're right. Writing it that way is easier said than done.

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  3. Mel - I become baseball obsessed post-season. I'm from New Bedford, MA., 50 miles south of Boston, so you can imagine where my loyalties lie. I came close to cardiac arrest Saturday night at that crazy call in the 9th inning, and now that we're tied 2- 2, I may have to be sedated tomorrow when they play again. You're absolutely right about the interesting tidbits. I once created a retired pitcher who was describing a friend of his, the shortstop. I went into all kinds of physical detail and then was reading a description of a play by a sports writer who called the shortstop "a line-drive eater." So I went back and took out all that unnecessary description because those simple words said it all so well for the character - personally and professionally.

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    1. Muriel, I love it! I must remember the term line-drive eater. Best of luck in the series.

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  4. Hi Mel,
    I love the UFC, even though I know most people think it's a little barbaric...I see past the injuries to the incredible athletic abilities these guys possess...the fact that their bodies are perfect also helps lol:)
    So, in my second book of my Brookhollow series releasing in Feb-What A Girl Wants, there is a scene where the heroine is watching the UFC with the guys. I thought it helped to solidity her as one of the guys as a lot of women like sports, but less frequent are the female UFC fans, especially those who know fighter stats, etc

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    1. Jen, what a great, modern touch! Mr. Curtis watches the UFC (Mr. Curtis watches all sports). The media says the fastest growing demographic for the NFL is women, which might explain why they are advertising all those women-cut shirts.

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  5. I love football and watch it all by myself so no one's offended when I scream. I admire our Arizona NFL team (Yea, they won yesterday) but I also enjoy college football. It’s such a pleasure to see the new players I’ve followed finally join the NFL.
    Marion

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    1. Hey, Marion, when college basketball starts there will definitely be a fight for the remote, especially if Duke plays while the NFL is on.

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  6. I used to watch baseball; I'm an Atlanta Braves fan. Football, well, I lived in Texas for six years, and you can't live in Texas without being a Cowboys fan. I think they make you sign a contract when you cross the border Hehehe

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    1. Hey, Pam, as a former Dallas resident, I feel your pain. Now if the Cowboys could just close a game (yesterday was heartbreaking).

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  7. I can honestly say that sports is not an obsession for me. However, I tune in to the Olympics every two years. It's not necessarily the competition that hooks me, but the stories about the athletes: their struggles and triumphs, the obstacles and how they overcame them, the tragedy and the ecstasy. They become characters in a story that hooks me. Thanks for reminding us of this, Melinda!

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    1. Hey, Syndi, I love the Olympics, especially since I have bouts of insomnia (I love curling in Winter, talk about a blue collar sport).

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  8. Mel, too funny how your interest grew out of survival needs lol. I'm with Syndi...it's the Olympics that I can't get enough of.

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