Sunday, March 24, 2013

Basketball by the Book

For the past few days I've been watching the NCAA basketball tournament on television.

I don't watch all the games. Some I'll spend perhaps  ten minutes and then switch channels if it appears a blowout is in the making. Others I'll begin viewing if I see it looks to be competitive. There are a few I'll watch from start to end. And there may be some I won't watch at all (especially if they're past my bedtime).

I think the tournament -- and perhaps other sporting events -- provide a valuable lesson to writers.

Writers need to craft their books to keep the attention of the readers, much like Marquette's 74-72 win over Butler and Wichita State defeating top-ranked Gonzaga 76-70. Those were nailbiters that kept the viewer staying tuned until the final horn. Writers should seek to keep the reader until the last page.

And there've been surprise endings, such unheralded Harvard defeating New Mexico 68-62 (past my bedtime but I was still surprised the next morning, if that counts). No doubt there were people watching the game who were simply waiting for Harvard to fold in the final minutes. The same could be said of Florida Gulf Coast's improbable 78-68 victory over Georgetown.

And there was suspense, such as Marquette's rally in the final 30 seconds to beat Davidson 59-58. Even though Marquette was the favorite, there were enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Good suspense writers know how to keep you guessing.

I wonder what the TV ratings were for those lopsided contests? Much like a book, I'm sure many folks switch channels or turn off the TV (or close the book, never to be read again). You don't want that as a team or a writer.

Until the next time...

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