The Football of Story — by Art Holcomb

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by Larry Brooks on February 6, 2013

I know I can’t be the first person to make this connection.

As I sat in agony and watched my beloved Forty-Niners lose one of the most exciting football games I’ve ever seen, the link between sports and story structure became clear to me. The reason why we love sports is because they present and perfect the stories in our lives– some small (like a Little League game) and some large (like the Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl and so on).  We have created in our games near perfect mirrors of the human conditions and the struggles of Mankind.

For example, let’s break down the game of football in structure terms as if it were a story:  – The story is divided into four acts (called quarters).

–  There is an Inciting Incident (coin toss/kick off).

-There are natural, plot-turning points (end of quarter, halftime, two minute warning, etc.). – There are naturally opposing forces (teams).

– There is a Main Character (QB).

-There is a cast of supporting characters (other players).

– There are action sequences of varying lengths (drives).

– There are scenes within those sequences (plays).

– There are rivalries (back story / arc).

– There are naturally occurring time limits placed on the scenes (the clock).

– There are affinity audiences for the different characters and group (supporters/fans).

–  There is sex appeal (cheerleaders).

– There is natural drama inherent within every scene.

– There is an escalation of excitement and conflict as the game goes on (dramatic tension). – Each of the characters has their own story that plays out in the drama – everybody has a chance to be a star.

– There is a narrating POV character that makes sure that the story is clear and easy to follow (Commentator).

– There are obsessed and broken characters that we can identify with (Character Arcs). – There are no unnecessary characters (players) – each person has a job.

– There is a balance: each character has an opponent.

– There is constantly Rising Action. – There is a Climax.

– There is a Resolution.

–  There is a plot (game plan).

– There is a setting ripe for description and rich with character (venue).

–  There are “B’ and “C” stories.

– There are False Victories and False Defeats (turnovers).

– There is an “All is lost “moment.

– There are characters dealing with internal problems (injury / confidence / commitment) in order to solve an external problem (how to preforming well) so as to prevent a catastrophic event (loss of the game) from occurring.

– There is tension.

– There is conflict.

– There are thrills and there are agonies.

– And there is a theme.How many others can you name?

In all, a powerful example of how story imbues so many aspects of our lives.

Now, here’s your challenge: Think of this as a checklist for your current project.  How many of these characteristics to you have in your story?

Art Holcomb is a screenwriter and comic book creator. His most recent comic book property is THE AMBASSADOR and his most recent story is AN ECHO OF HAMMERS.


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