I like baseball. It has a storytelling rhythm to it.
There’s one test after another, as the role of hero is passed from batter to batter. There’s a mentor in the dugout yelling instructions and encouragement. Back when there were crowds in the stands, the trickster mascot would trot around between innings, shooting t-shirts from a cannon.
The pitcher is the hero of his own tale, facing down that club-wielding shadow with the help of his faithful ally, the catcher. The promised scene may be hours away, but the ninth inning is always out there, waiting.
What can baseball teach us about writing? Two things come to mind:
Part of building your fictional world is establishing the rules for the reader. Some think of world-building as something only writers of fantasy and sci-fi have to deal with, but every fictional world needs clear rules.
When your reader knows the rules of the game, they know when the stakes are high. They know what kind of events will lead to “their team” winning, and which are terrible setbacks. They can tell good news from bad. They feel mounting suspense as the end gets closer! They are engaged.
Importantly, clear rules means the writer does not have to keep telling the reader how well or disastrously things are going for the hero. The reader knows. They’re in on it, and they are experiencing all those juicy emotions for themselves.
That’s the kind of story they’ll remember!
TIP – Ask yourself: Have you given the reader someone to root for? Are the rules of the game clear enough that your reader knows what to root for, every step of the way?