It’s been rather a sporty weekend (I don’t mean me! Unless 5 minutes of table tennis counts). First there was the Grand National – which you couldn’t have missed – and the US Masters was also on (that one might have passed you by but if you live in a golf-centric household like me, believe me, you’d have noticed).
It’s made me think. Whether or not you’re interested in sport, as writers, we’re interested in people, right? And there are always great ‘human interest’ stories around big sporting events.
Take this year’s Grand National. One of the favourites was called ‘Definitly Red’ (yes, written that way because the person who registered him couldn’t spell it. But ‘definitely’ is, apparently, the most misspellt word in the English language. I had a colleague who used to reply positively to emails with ‘Yes, defiantly!’ which always made me smile).
Anyway, Danny Cook, who rode ‘Definitly Red’ in Saturday’s National, comes from a family of electricians and landscape gardeners, didn’t start riding until he was 16, once rode a race with a broken leg, has taken the wrong course on a racetrack three times and been banned for taking drugs. Not the likeliest of jockeys! (And quite a character…).
Another story: the two women who’ve been friends since school – Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson – who own the horse that was the winner on Saturday – ‘One for Arthur’. They bought him because they wanted an activity that they could enjoy while their partners played golf. Apparently, you have to have a partnership name, so they came up with ‘Two Golf Widows’ (hmm, if I had several thousand pounds to spare, I could have been in that club too).
And talking of golf, yesterday’s winner of the US Masters, the Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia has taken 18 years – and 73 previous attempts – to win a major. Lots of people thought he’d never do it (‘the habitual bridesmaid’) because although he’s a fine golfer, he can’t take the pressure of big events.
Five years ago, he said this, “I’m not good enough. I don’t have the thing I need to have. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.” Ah, bless, we’ve all been there.
Yesterday, when he won, would have been his mentor Seve Ballasteros’ 60th birthday. The stars were aligned. He did it. The BBC called it possibly ‘the perfect sporting story’.
Aw, I love it.
I wrote a story set during a swimming race, once. It did rather well – two shortlistings and, finally, third place in the Wells Festival Short story competition. I suspect part of the reason if found favour with the judges was because it was a bit ‘different’. Being original, finding an unusual subject matter or angle is, I think, half the battle when you’re entering a short story competition.
So, if you’re wondering what to write about, perhaps you could write about sport? Those freezing days out on the hockey pitch, getting whacked on the ankles. Or did you play rugby or something more unusual, like lacrosse? (or is that only in Enid Blyton books?) or hopscotch or belly dancing?
Here are 10 tips on writing about sport, to get you started.
On your marks, get set… GO!