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:
Early on — let’s say no more than twenty- to twenty-five percent of the way in to your story (quicker is good, too!) — your hero is going to cross an important threshold.
You'll often hear it called it the act break. It’s the dividing line between our old friend, “the beginning,” and that murky expanse known as “the middle.”
Crossing this line is so much more thrilling than these words convey! Quite simply, your hero leaves the world they've known and enters new territory. This is the world of the adventure, the training ground, the quest.
It is a wildly different place, with new rules and new dangers, populated with allies and adversaries. It is designed (by you, of course!) to test your hero to the core, and bring them step by hard-earned step along the incremental journey of change.
It might literally be a new world — Oz, perhaps? — or a long and difficult quest, like the one Bilbo...