Since my teens, I’ve been a big fan of WWE Wrestling, and no not just because of the hot guys in spandex (though it helps)!
While I appreciate the athletic abilities of both the men and women that step into the ring, what I really love about wrestling - and what keeps me coming back for more each week - is the story telling.
I fully understand where the E in World Wrestling Entertainment comes from. When someone says “Don’t you know it’s fake?” I reply with “Does that stop you watching TV shows and movies?”
Most savvy wrestling fans know the matches’ outcomes are pre-determined and a result of something called ‘booking’, but as with any other TV show or movie, unless you go hunting spoilers online, the outcome isn’t as predictable as one might think. If the writing is good.
If the writing is good.
For me, the writing is the key to WWE being enjoyable or not, and thanks to watching wrestling for the past fifteen years, I’ve picked up a thing or two about writing from the world of sports entertainment.
Here’s just a few of the things watching wrestling has taught me about writing:
Clear Character Motivation
One of the things I hate most in wrestling is when two characters are paired together or start feuding for absolutely no reason.
It’s not so bad if there’s a tournament to determine a number one contender to a championship, but what really gets me invested in a storyline is when the characters have clear motivation for challenging or teaming with someone.
It can be as simple as wanting to prove they’re the best, or an already established history between the two.
This translates perfectly into writing. To make a reader care about a character and what they’re doing they need clear motivation for why they’re carrying out their actions.
For example, would The Harry Potter Series have been nearly as engaging if Harry weren’t fighting to avenge all those he loved who’d been killed by Voldermort, and to provide a better future for the wizarding world, including himself and those he cared about.
Harry was even willing to sacrifice his life, and when he did, it meant something, because his motivation had been well illustrated throughout the series.
The Good, The Bad and The In-between
Stories are often much more compelling when there’s a clear good guy and a clear bad guy. Then you know who to root for and who to cheer against. Good versus evil is a classic storytelling trope.
Having a clear protagonist and antagonist also makes it easier to work out the character’s motivation.
However, in some cases a little ambiguity can also add to the depth of the story.
This is perfectly exemplified in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, where sometimes the ‘good’ characters have to do something questionable, and sometimes the ‘bad’ characters show a softer, more relatable side.
Having these shades of grey is great, as it adds believability, because in the real world no one is wholly good or evil, but if you look deeper, even the grey characters clearly fall on one side of the morality line.
Your Audience Aren’t Idiots
My other biggest hate in wrestling is when something is mentioned with importance, only to be forgotten a few weeks later.
Nothing makes me eye roll and skip through a segment quicker than two people who were enemies the previous week suddenly team together for no apparent reason, or when a character is introduced/ foreshadowed only to be forgotten about the following week.
Instead of being entertained, I’m left asking “Do the writers think I’m stupid?” and that’s true of novel writing, too.
Readers aren’t stupid, and treating them as such by bypassing something you wrote about five chapters previously, just because it’s convenient for the story, will have them putting down your book.
As will introducing something/ someone at the last minute to swoop in and save the day, without any reasoning or build up.
Treat your readers with intelligence, without making things either too easy or too hard for them.
Don’t Be Afraid To Throw A Curve Ball Sometimes - But Also Know When To Throw That Curve Ball
Often times a resolution to a good story can be guessed at as the reader nears the end. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Certain things are expected in stories, and need to happen for a reader to leave with satisfaction.
For example, how angry would fans have been if Harry had died without defeating Voldemort (or at least done enough in terms of destroying Horcruxes etc., so that someone else could defeat Voldemort)?
But while every big moment shouldn’t be a twist, turn or surprise, sometimes throwing a curve ball at the reader makes them come back for more.
Like in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, when beloved Ned Stark was beheaded at the end of the book. Who saw that coming?
And for most readers, that’s one of the moments that hooked them to the series, as they weren’t expecting a beloved point of view character to be killed off so suddenly.
Although, it’s doubtful fans would have been so forgiving if Ned’s death had come at the end of the series, when there’s no more chances for justice or revenge!
Knowing when to throw a good twist into the story is an integral way to keep the readers hooked, and coming back for more!