The second thing that can’t be learned about writing by listening to Al Snow rant: People don’t have a physical relationship with pro-wrestling.
This is fricking brilliant, and it’s something every SF writer should memorize immediately.
If you look at most forms of athletic competition there’s usually a correlation between the most popular sports and the sports we play as kids. Every Australian male kicks a football around, for example, and gets forced to play cricket as part of their school curriculum. We’re forced to run, at the very least, at school sports days. Depending on your school, you may be forced to swim.
When we watch people competing at a professional level, we have muscle memory and experience that tells us how hard these things are and allows us to appreciate the achievements of professional athletes. We know just how good they are, because we know our own limits.
Professional wrestling doesn’t have that. How many of us can legitimately claim to have been Irish whipped into the ring ropes, or jumped from the top rope to plant an elbow on a downed opponent. Even the less flashy moves are unknown to us, since most schoolyard fights don’t start with a collar-and-elbow tie-up (it’s interesting to note that in Japan, where Judo is arguably a national sport, pro-wrestling is a lot more realistic and considerably stiffer because people understand the skill required for the various throws in the same way we understand the difficulty of bowling a cricket ball).
So without that physical association, pro-wrestling goes for the emotion. It tells stories from the heart, using familiar emotions to invest people in the characters and make the fans want to see one guy win and one guy lose. I don’t know the physical actions involved, but I understand winning. I understand wanting to get into it with someone I disagree with, or someone who insults me. I understand wanting to be the best, and the desire to get revenge on someone who screwed me or ruined a moment of triumph.
Those emotions give context to the in-ring action, and that context gives it the meaning it lacks because I don’t have the physical relationship.
All of this can be used by spec-fic writers. We frequently display worlds that our readers don’t have any physical relationship with, presenting them with impossible experiences that we need to make comprehensible. And the way we do this is to look for the familiar – little actions, big emotions, a place for the reader to connect – so there’s a sliver of truth amid the fantasy we’re presenting.
I was never good at sports. At all. I dislike watching most sports as a result, ’cause my physical realionship to cricket or football or anything else is largely filled with bad memories and inadequacy.
But story, I totally get story. I get the connection between action and emotion.
And in this respect, Al Snow, professional wrestler, is a source of truly brilliant writing advice.