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MFA in Writing at Vermont College

Monday, April 1, 2013

Buzzer Beaters, Bracket Busters, Cinderella and One Horrific Leg Injury

My eyes are bleary and my pupils are bouncing like ping pong balls in a lottery hopper.  My legs are cramping from lack of use.  The shower stall is dry.  The couch has a permanent pocket imprint on the cushion.  There are Doritos crumbs on the carpet.  And my cheeks are sore from the permanent smile that has been plastered on my face for the past two weeks.

Here is what I have learned from watching 64 basketball games in a two week span:

Buzzer Beaters

A basketball game plays out like a good book.  The plot line pushes the action forward building anticipation as it moves.  Tension is heightened and suspense grows as thick as fog.  And through all of this the audience is taken on an emotional ride.  Your heart beats faster as the players sprint out to a fast break, the pit of your stomach drops as the ball rolls off the rim and you scream in agony when the referee calls a foul against your team.

But despite all of this it is the ending that resonates.  That one last shot where everything the characters have worked for the entire game hangs in the balance.  Will the ball drop in and the main character be victorious or will the ball clank off the rim in disappointment?

It must all come down to that one last shot.


Give me a 16-seed making a run at a mighty 1-seed and I am hooked.  I was enthralled with the miraculous march of 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast University into the Sweet Sixteen.  To me the NCAA tournament is about the upsets. 

Perhaps that is why my characters tend to be down-on-their-luck kids trying to make good, but finding a whole lot of trouble instead. Who doesn’t like to root for the underdog?  

What odds do our characters face?  If they are not steep enough lets ramp them up to NCAA tourney heights!

Bracket Busters
My brackets need to be blown up!  Seriously,  I can't pick a game to save my life. 
But you know what?  Despite the fact that my bracket has more red marks than my old physics exams I still had a blast.
So when that story you are writing takes a sudden and unexpected turn... take a deep breath... sometimes we don't quite know where we are going but the results are fun none-the-less!
One Horrific Leg Injury

After Sixty-three games of the basketball tournament you would think there would be very little that could surprise me.  But that is when the unexpected tends to jump out and grab you. 

I wasn’t much into the Louisville-Duke game the other night.  In fact, I was fairly indifferent toward the teams and was pretty detached from the whole game.  You could say I felt no attachment to the characters. 

That is until about half way through the game when one of the Louisville players contested a jump shot, landed wrong and suffered one of the most horrific leg injuries I have ever seen in a basketball game.  But it wasn’t the injury that captivated my attention as much as the reaction of his teammates.   The game came to a sudden halt and several Louisville players dropped to the ground in a heap, tears streaming down their faces and eyes wide with shock.  Teammates and coaches tried to lift them to their feet but the players appeared inconsolable.  As the injured player was being wheeled out on a stretcher the coach tried to huddle his team together as he himself fought back tears.

I was immediately hooked.  The characters that for the past hour  I had viewed with indifference now took on a whole new light.  I cared about these characters!  More than anything I wanted to see these characters succeed.  It was no longer just a story playing out before me.  This story now had emotion.

I felt this game in the depths of my heart.

You must not come to the blank page lightly

After witnessing their teammate withering in pain on the side of the court I expected the Louisville team to quickly cave to the mighty Duke Blue Devils.  But I was completely surprised when Louisville did just the opposite.  They did not appear timid or afraid… just the opposite.  They attacked their opponent with smothering defense and aggressive drives to the basket.  They bombarded the Blue Devils with powerful moves to the hoop and long range three pointers. 

I was reminded of Stephen King who once said, “You must not come to the blank page lightly.”  To be successful writers we must attack the page no matter what obstacles or hardships we may face.  Rejections, insecurities, bad critiques or stalled stories must not deter us from our goal. 

Always push forward.   

Write on my friends… write on!


  1. Love the Louisville analogy, and the King quote.

  2. Congrats! You've been tagged! :-) http://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/tag-im-it/