Writing and Wrestling…
Two weekends ago, my son and I went to see WWE Live in Charleston. Surrounded by 6,000 other booger eaters like us, we had a great time watching 250 pound athletes pound the ever loving, scripted snot out of each other. I have got to commend the WWE because they provide a two to three-hour solid action packed, relatively clean and child appropriate entertainment. You can’t find that at a movie, a college football game or even at putt-putt. My kids can’t even find it at the house when I am watching my own television. The individual wrestlers each took time on the microphone riling up the locals with taunts of stupid coal miners or pointing at the WWE sign laughing at how the locals pronounce Duba…Duba…EEE! I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that my kids hear all kinds of foul language, even going to a private, small Christian school. Hopefully, the reality is that 99% of the inappropriate language in their lives comes from me. But not once did any of the WWE entertainers let a minor foul word slip out. Seriously, as a parent I really appreciate the efforts that they go to in order to keep things relatively clean. As clean as it can be when two big dudes are slamming each other into tables and cracking the other guy’s skull with a chair.
Today’s article is more for all my writing friends and not as much for the non-writers. If you are not sure you want to hang around for a few more hundred words, please be my guest and we will catch you next time.
I personally know a couple of real live, published authors. I have found that they are the kind of highbrow and very eclectic types that you expect them to be. I think that it is okay to have a quirk or personality flaw as long as you have found success in the writing world, it is probably mandatory if we are honest with ourselves. For those who haven’t found that success yet, one can easily pull off the writer image by wearing a tweed jacket with the leather patches on the elbows. Or have a signature look messy hair or off brand reading glasses that announce to the world that they belong in the club but just haven’t been discovered yet. I have never owned a tweed coat and I’m really sure that I will never know what it feels like. I don’t have crazy hair, I don’t wear designer glasses and my mismatched socks are always unintentional. I like to think I am closer to the everyman image than the Hemmingway stereotype. But then again, I couldn’t pick Hemmingway out of a lineup with a picture.
Being in the writing club takes hard work but spotting the classic ups and downs that are central to a killer story is something any knuckle-dragger can do. When my son and I were at the WWE event Saturday, the constant thought running through my head was how brilliant the original writers of wrestling were. Maybe it goes back to Shakespeare and maybe it came before or after. I don’t know, but what I do know is they rely on the tried and true methods of suspense and drama, mixed with flawed good characters and marginally evil foils. It is a compelling mix and I think the successful writer can employ it in just about all genres. In wrestling there isn’t about good guys and bad dudes. It is about the baby face and the heel. I don’t know where the terms came from but they have stuck and are signature terms within the wrestling community.
The face is always the good guy and has evolved in the last 20 years. The old school face would never cheat, always obeyed the authority while using hard work and effort to overcome the heel and win in the end. In the modern era, many faces have resorted to fighting authority or cheating to win but they are still the face because the over whelming body of their work is positive and uplifting in their journey to success.
The heel is the bad dude. They will lie, cheat and steal to win. They provide the opposing force that allows the face to show their good side. Often they will attack from behind, insult the fans and strut around like an overactive rooster. Their job is made perfect when they block the face from achieving their goals.
Armed with this knowledge, the writers in the world of professional wrestling are able to script a marvelous storyline within each match. In a microcosm, each match is a building block that allows the writers to work through a storyline. This is important because in today’s world, each run up in the story ends with a major event that is usually carried on a pay per view type format. In the WWE, they have at least six major matches every year and they are constantly working towards building up the next event. Sunday, there was another pay per view known as the Royal Rumble. The storyline for this event is the World’s Heavyweight Champion to defend his belt against twenty-nine other wrestlers in a one against all match. The Champ starts out in the ring alone and every two minutes another wrestler will be sent into the ring to fight. The only way to be eliminated is to be thrown over the top rope with the feet touching the floor. Imagine all the chaos that occurs after the first ten wrestlers are in the ring trying to toss other people out with another twenty waiting in the background for their time. The new heavyweight champion will be the last man that is left in the ring.
You might think I am talking about wrestling here, but I am talking about writing. Imagine all of the different storylines that will be played out during this thirty-minute event. In your writing, you have so many opportunities to create story arch’s in your main character’s life. I encourage you to ramp up your work, thinking about heels and chaos. A good heel doesn’t have to be bad, they might just be overly arrogant and underserving of their success. Their success mocks your main character’s hard work and dedication to their craft. Or maybe the lied on an application or they stole a secret that they parlay into success. Maybe they badmouth their co-workers and say the right words in the board room. A good heel doesn’t have to be purely evil, just committed to themselves and not the common good.
Likewise, a good face doesn’t have to always be the hero. Wonderful stories have come from the idea that a good person did something bad and then that have to live with those consequences. If you find that you are stuck in your writing process, maybe a good way to jumpstart your mind is by watching a match on YouTube or submitting to the horror of watching it on television. Just like reading with a critical eye, watch the match for the pacing of the wrestlers, the timing, and the interaction between them and the crowd. Look for opportunities to cheat, segments of story building and moments of drama building. Pay attention to the referee as he is as much a part of the match as the face and heel. He has a role to play and to be effective he has his own story arch too. His presence isn’t as overt as the wrestlers but he is critical to the entire context of the story. In your writing, maybe you need a character like a referee who is intended to be neutral but in reality they are inept, corrupt or distractible which leads to conflict for your main character.
I wish you all the best and I hope this helps you in your writing. In the next few weeks, I will be devoting at least one week in support of a good FOR (Friend of Rob) Heather Fitzgerald as she is promoting her first novel although I am considering working in an article about the Super Bowl and how the Panthers are going to carve up Broncos and send Peyton into the sunset with the largest loss of his career.
Until next time, keep on rocking!