23 minutes ago
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I'm a college basketball fan, so this is an exciting time for me. For those who aren't into it, the NCAA Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) is underway. This year it truly has been madness. Kansas, the top rated seed in the tournament (that's 1 out of 64) lost in the 2nd round to Northern Iowa. Now Northern Iowa is in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time ever. This isn't the only upset to happen so far. If you want drama, check out the tournament.
It made me think of a few things we novelists can learn from March Madness:
1. The Wow Factor
Despite the fact that Kansas losing has hurt me in the office pool, there was something awesome about Northern Iowa beating Kansas. It was so entirely unexpected that I (and every sports commentator) can't stop talking about it. If you think back to your favorite novel, there usually is a spot where you have to put the book down for a second and say, "Wow!" Then you tell your friends they have to read the book. That's the wow factor.
2. No Cheap Tricks
While it's cool to see a few upsets, if every game is an upset then we audience members become disgruntled. We bash the committee who chooses the seeds. We create conspiracy theories. We feel used. I think if there are too many twists in a novel it feels cheap. Some things do need to be predictable.
3. Tension, Tension, Tension
The most entertaining games to watch are the ones where you don't know which team is going to win. Maybe one team is up by four points, but then a minute later the other team rallies and suddenly they are ahead. You can't stop watching the game, because you aren't sure who the victor will be. Of course, the opposite is true for games where a team is fifteen or more points ahead. You can turn the channel or even leave the game early, because you're sure of the outcome. Novels are the same way. If you can keep the tension high throughout the book, a reader has no choice but to continue reading to the end.
Now that I've discussed writing I can get back to talking about basketball. Despite the fall of Kansas (who saw that coming?), I'm still in the running to win my office pool. I need Kansas State, Kentucky, and Duke to be in the Final Four, and I need Duke to win it all. That's not too much to ask, right?
Anyone else betting on the games? What are your picks for the Final Four and the National Championship?