Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Writing inspiration comes from the pigskin

Image result for American football images

In the fall I have several literary routines:

1.     Read my New York Times
2.     Delve into one of the past issues of the New Yorker Magazine
3.     Review my writing from the work week
4.     Curl up with the novel I’m currently reading
5.     Spend copious hours watching college and professional football

Number five may not seem like a writerly endeavor, but football has more to offer writers than an excuse not to write.

What’s in a name?

I’m terrible at naming my characters. The only names that come to my mind are plain, no interest monikers that provide nothing in the way of zip and zing, not to mention completely forgettable in a literary lineage. Can’t you just imagine the life of:

Jason Broadnax
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Ziggy Hood
Fair Hooker
Equanimeous St. Brown
Breeland Speaks
Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Shady McCoy

With names like these, any character would pop off the page.  

A mother names her son Ha Ha, yet as hard as he tries he can’t develop a sense of humor. Shady McCoy, whose real name is Dexter, stole a comic book when he was nine and was given the nickname by the class bully. And Jason Broadnax is a skinny nerd who is trying to win the Mortal Kombat video game competition in Las Vegas. 

These are surprising names that beg to have a world built around them.  

Football Speak

The language employed by football is also fodder for fictive description or dialogue. Aren’t you just dying to use “explosive runs,” “Omaha, Omaha, Kill, Kill, Kill,” or “deep penetration by the tight end is definitely part of man coverage” in some story or other?  “The runner got past the Nickleback and Dimeback and got fifteen, but the play was stopped by a horse collar.” Nothing is as full of hope as a Hail Mary!

Jargon and customs can have color and add texture and life to any story. As writers, our job is to listen and learn. Sometimes I imagine what the football players say in the huddle, or at the bottom of a ten-man pile. In my warped mind, they are sharing recipes or gossiping about the cheerleaders. 

I’m pretty sure I’m wrong, but who knows?

The fourth quarter conclusion

In all good stories, protagonists must overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. It’s the same in football, but the obstacles are other players who stand in the way of touchdowns. The players who make it to the NFL are those who can skillfully maneuver past the defensive players. 

It’s the talented writers who can craft a narrative with twists and turns, jukes, and fades, that hold our attention and win in the game of writing.

And then there is this; being a top-ranked athlete is hard work, takes daily practice, dedication, and sacrifice. A very few make it big, yet countless have the dream. Sound familiar? 

Image result for NFL Football players reading

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