Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Sports Narratives

Hey, a guy could get used to this.
Sitting back, cool, salt-tinged breeze, cold drink at hand—yeah, it would be easy to just send a postcard back that says, “You know, I’ve decided to stay. So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
Of course, that ignores the fact that, within about three minutes of posting my, “I’m going to take a short break” message, I had an idea for a post. And then another, and another. It would ignore the fact that I came *this close* to posting on that first Monday of my little vacation, and that I almost posted on Friday of last week, too. Then I decided to make good on a promise made on this blog (for once), and stay out for the rest of the weekend.
This week, Lisa Regan’s second novel, Aberration, is being released. To celebrate, Lisa is running The Aberration Blog Hop: Finding theMost Aberrant Characters on Thursday and Friday. Follow that link above to sign up. It’s quite a tall task, winnowing the list down, as there are so many memorable, aberrant characters. I’m looking forward to it, and to reading Aberration.
Now, on to the business at hand. This post almost got put up on Friday, but like I said above, I decided to sacrifice timeliness for sanity. It’s still timely, I guess. I just have to make a few changes.
If you’re ever feeling insecure about the future of fiction, stop worrying. Worry about whether you can make a living as an author of novels, sure. Worry over whether you should seek publication via traditional means, or if you should join the growing ranks of self-publishers. Worry over how much the next wave of technology is going to change how we present our stories, if at all. Worry over whether or not your style is current enough, or whether readers will like you, but don’t worry about fiction. Styles and tastes change, packaging and delivery change, but what doesn’t change is our need for stories. People need stories, and as long as that’s the case, we need people to write ’em.
For proof, look no further than the world of sports. Last week, while the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins were waiting for their semifinal series to start, Puck Daddy, a Yahoo hockey blog, ran this story: Penguins Vs.Bruins: 10 must-watch storylines for the Eastern Conference Final. 
It’s a typical sort of story that comes out at this time of year. As a Bruins fan who spends far too much time scanning online editions of Boston newspapers, I see this sort of thing all the time. Between all the sportswriters who have to fill column space and sell papers, bloggers trying to generate click-throughs, and TV talking heads who have to fill three-minute blocks between commercial breaks every night, there are stories about everything. And while it’s a bit different than pure fiction, it doesn’t feel that far off. Whether it’s rehashing the details of how new-Bruin, Jaromir Jagr played on the Boston-beating Penguins in 1991 and 92 (yeah, he’s that old, and yeah, it shows on the ice), or wondering if the Bruins are angry with Jarome Iginla for rejecting them at the trade deadline in favor of the Penguins, or if they’re going to ‘go after’ Matt Cooke for his dirty hit of three years ago, or…or…or.
It’s funny, isn’t it? At this stage of the playoffs, we have the four best teams (and hey, the four remaining teams are the last four Stanley Cup winners—what a story!) playing great hockey. They’re going at each other at least four times, every other day. The action is intense, the stakes are high. There may be more drama in the ‘one-and-done’ style of the NFL or the NCAA tournament, but for a physical, high speed sport like hockey, the series format ratchets everything up another notch. Hockey goes to eleven, to borrow a phrase. The biggest story should be what happens on the ice each night, not how player X was almost traded to team B. It should be enough. And yet, here we are, manufacturing stories, magnifying the importance of this, that and the other thing. I think it says a lot about us, and the future of writing. Writers will always be needed. Storytellers will always be needed. Let the sociologists, anthropologists, and whateverotherologists who study this sort of thing tell us why, because I sure don’t know; I’m going to settle down and watch a hell of a story unfold.

8 Responses

  1. I love this — it's so true. I believe the human spirit needs stories. If we focus on telling the best tales in the best way, we will eventually find a way to share them. It's never been easy, and no one owes us publication. If we're passionate about what we have to say, people will read or listen or watch. The medium may change, but the basic human drive for connection doesn't.

  2. This is so true. I know they say nonfiction is an easier sell, but I'll take fiction over nonfiction almost any day of the week.

  3. Great point, Jeff! And there are playoffs going on? I've been too busy voting for Sergei Bobrovsky to be on the cover of NHL 14. *grins* Kidding, kidding…


  4. Hey – is that Stanley Cup thing still going on? I thought that was all over now… (yes, I'm a Leafs fan. It's a heavy burden, trust me).

  5. I'm very sorry for your loss (though very happy for my team's gain).

    The Leafs look like they have a pretty good thing going for the future, though.

  6. Great post. With everything going on in the world of publishing these days, it's important to keep in mind that stories (and thus, storytellers) will always be needed and wanted.
    Enjoy the playoffs.

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