Every couple of years, like so many people, I become obsessed about sports I otherwise pay very little attention to. Mostly, it’s figure skating and gymnastics, but as Neil Patrick Harris tweeted this morning, “I never thought I could care so much for people or sports that I just learned about six minutes beforehand.” Moguls had me oohing and ahhing last night, Luge has me cringing, and Nordic Combined offered more interest than I would have ever dreamed. The NBC broadcasters (if you’re here in the US) get mocked a lot for their soft-focus features on the athletes, but damn if they don’t make me care a lot more about people and events I never thought I’d care about.
So how does this relate to books? Two ways: first of all, I want to reiterate my interest in a great YA novel set in the highly competitive world of amateur athletics. Especially figure skating or gymnastics, but where’s a novel about the next Venus Williams or a young Bode Miller? We see a lot of team sports novels — probably because they’re much more common in high school — but there’s a particular drive about individual athletes that I’d love to see in a YA novel.
So that’s one.
But also, I think authors can take a lesson from the commentators at the Olympics. They have a real knack for focusing on the drama in the athletes’ lives and stories — this one is snowboarding with three broken ribs, these two skaters hate each other and undergo counseling between practices, another skier is is competing in her first Olympics with her father. How cool is that?
As a writer, how can you hone in on your characters’ passions? What drives them? What obstacles do they have to overcome to get where they want to be?
Even if the profiles on TV are seen as extras to the true sporting events of the Olympics, like a diary entry you might write in your character’s voice without ever intending to include it in your manuscript, they add some intriguing backstory.
So how do you like your Olympics? And what do you think about the profiles — both for the athletes and for your characters?