The Indies and a Lesson about “Villains”
As much as Sato wanted to beat Franchetti in the Indianapolis 500–and as much as Franchetti wanted his 3rd Indy win (which he got), there were no villains, only fierce competitors.
I watch so many cop shows and movies with good guys and bad guys, I sometimes forget the most heartwrenching stories are about two good guys pitted against each other in a fierce competition with huge stakes.
Franchetti and Sato will be back on the track, fighting for a win, in the next big race. But the competitors in our stories should win or lose something that changes their lives–that takes one of them out of that particular race or decides the contest forever.
It helps my writing when I quit judging one side as good and the other as bad, tempting as it is to see whatever opposes my hero as evil. One person’s energy will be eclipsed (like the Sun’s eclipses, but more lasting) and the other will be basking in glory. Or they’ll both be bloody and bruised, but one will be stretched out on the beach, healing in the light, and the other will be rotting in a dungeon with no escape.
If I can see the redeeming qualities in that character I’m tossing in the dungeon, the reader will be even more torn and tormented–and ultimately more eager for the next story.
Not an Indy car fan? Hey, my dad took me to horse races even before I remember listening to the Indy races on the radio. And it’s the same lesson: Two beautiful horses, and only one can win. Neck and neck, and you know which one you want, but you can’t hate the one that’s only a nose behind. Talk about suspense, tension…
It’s even better than football, for the writer, because it’s one on one. And anyway, all good football fans know the other team IS evil.