Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Writing Like a Racecar Driver by Jody Feldman

What do I know about the racecar scene? About as much as I learned from watching the very excellent movie, Ford vs. Ferrari. Don’t let the title nor any preconceived notions stop you from seeing it. This is not your basic driving/racing/hero/villain flick. It’s much more layered and nuanced, with excellent character profiles and sharp storytelling. And it’s based on a significant piece of racing history.

One other thing struck me about the story – and we are now segueing into our February theme, how we start. And that centers on racecar driver Ken Miles’s passion for his craft. Sure, he was a skilled driver; he could go faster than fast, but he could also pinpoint any issue and know exactly how to fix it by simply listening. Ken Miles didn’t just jump behind the steering wheel, ready to speed around the track again and again and again. What made him a legend was his vast knowledge and his depth of preparation.

Yes, you saw that metaphor coming from the distant horizon.

When I start the process of writing a new book – even though I tend to be a plunger – the plunge doesn’t happen until I have copious notes and ideas and diagrams and until I have a solid theme to guide my writing. I come to understand the characters deeply enough to know what kind of pizza they’d order, to know what embarrassing object they may have stashed and where they’re hiding it. I don’t take the time to go through a character questionnaire, but if you asked me anything about them, I could answer.

If my creative engines start revving prematurely (and I do tend to get overexcited about plotting) I hold myself back from writing until I know what the stakes are and how they relate to the theme. I need to know backstories on every character and how they play in to the plot. I need to know what the main character wants, why the MC wants it and what’s in the way of achieving that. Before a word goes down, I need to hear the MC narrating that first sentence to me. And when that first sentence hums like a finely tuned racecar, I’m off and running.
Maybe too fast.
But try and stop me.

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