March Madness is now underway. Hooray! It’s my favorite sporting event. I’ve always been a huge basketball fan and I think this tournament is the perfect way for a season to end. I grew up in North Carolina before the state had a professional football team or professional hockey. College basketball ruled the state and we always had multiple teams involved in March Madness.
One of the best aspects is the amount of unpredictability in the tournament, especially the first two rounds. (And, despite what CBS and the NCAA says, I’m not counting the games from tonight and last night as the first round. The first round starts Thursday.) I love watching little-known teams upset powerhouses – as long as they aren’t beating one of the teams I’m rooting for.
While I was thinking about that, I realize many of my favorite books incorporate a lot of the same unpredictability. The Harry Potter books in particular have endings I never saw coming, even after I began looking for clues in the later books after I was so amazed by how the climaxes unfolded in the early books.
I like being caught by surprise when I’m reading, but only if it makes sense. Basketball doesn’t have to worry about that – the team that scores more wins. You can watch the game and see it happen. But books require a logical progression and when authors do that well, the payoff is fantastic.
That’s one of the things I’m working on in my own writing – creating endings that are surprising, but that readers can see why events unfolded the way they do when they think back on the story. Basically, I want to write the books I’d enjoy reading, but it’s harder than I expected. The challenge makes it more fun, though. When I struggle with a scene or chapter, I take a step back and examine the book as if I were reading it instead of writing it. Where would I want the book to go if I was reading it? What would I expect? What wouldn’t I expect that would make this a better book?
As I watch basketball the next few weeks, I’ll be hoping for upsets, for the unexpected to happen. Well, as long as my favorites keep winning. I do want a happy ending.