Watching the “Other” Indies

Indianapolis 500, 1994, by Rick Dikeman Car in...

Indianapolis 500, 1994, by Rick Dikeman Car in front is either Al Unser, Jr. or Emerson Fittipaldi. Car in back is Raul Boesel Español: 500 millas de Indianápolis de 1994 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the Indy 500, only (of course) as research for writing.  And no, I don’t mean publishing indies.

Understand that I live in Albuquerque, NM, home of the Unser racing family and the Unser racing museum.  The Indy ranks right up there with apple pie and motherhood in Albuquerque.

Before television, I listened to the Indy with my daddy, who drove stock cars on dirt racing tracks before World War I.   So I’ve been doing this “research” for a long, long time.

But this year’s Indy–well, if you didn’t see the ending, you’ve got to go find it.

Sato had already set a record as the first Japanese drive to lead a lap during the Indianapolis 500, as the Indies are known officially.  By the last lap of the race, he was comfortably and safely in the number two slot.

And did that make him happy?  No happier than it would make any great fiction character.   He wanted number one with all his heart.   And he went for it.

Never mind that he spun out.   That’s the dark moment.  He went for it.  And within seconds, the owner of the car he wrecked was talking about how Sato would do next year.   The dark moment isn’t the end.

Does your character want to win as much as Sato wanted to win that race?   And does your antagonist want to stop your protagonist as much as Franchitti (who won the Indy because he didn’t let Sato pass) wanted to block Sato and win the race?

Do you push yourself and your characters that hard?

If you don’t, do you wonder why you don’t sell?  Or don’t have more readers?

Because without the pain of pushing the character to his or her limits, there’s no big gain in the publishing races either.

I meant to post this blog right after the races.  But first I had to go back and push a little harder on a character I love in a story that didn’t sell the first time out.

Since Sato lost the Indy, my character’s lost a perfectly good husband.   And I’m not done being mean to her yet.   Because I love her and want readers to love her, too, I’m willing to be as hard on her as the Indies are on drivers.

I hope you’ll do the same to your character because I’m going to love reading about them if you do.

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