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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Which character is on first? I don't know. Third Act.

Today, a few facebook friends and I were discussing baseball announcers. I love thinking and talking baseball. It was once my great love and passion in life. Writing is now that for me. But baseball always gets me thinking. It is the thinking mans game. Some say they are bored watching baseball. I never am and I never was. When the physical action stops, the mental action is always continuing. That suits me just fine.
When I was growing up, I played baseball. A lot. Mostly I was a pitcher. When I wasn't that position, I was on first base.

I had a fair bit of talent, but I was never the most athletic player. I didn't run fast, I was a marginal hitter and I wasn't big or strong like some of the other kids. Basically, I have great reflexes and timing. And..I could throw hard. Very hard.
But as I got to thinking about it, maybe there was another reason I played those positions. Obviously, being a hard thrower, pitching was a natural. But even as my fastball faded into the sunset at age 14, I was still very effective. And I was always the best first baseman on any team I was on. Being left handed, other than pitcher and first base, the only positions you could really play were those two and outfield. I was never a very good outfielder. That is a position of pure athletic ability.
I got to thinking about that as I contemplate writing and what it is the "good writers" do. The best of us make choices. And you have a lot of choices. The better writers make the right choices, the poorer ones make the wrong ones.

 As a first baseman, you don't have to make a lot of choices. A ground ball is hit, you go to the bag and wait for the throw. If there is a runner on first, you hold him on and wait for the pitcher to either pitch or throw over. He makes the decision, not you.
But there are instances when you do have to make a choice, and it really is a thinking mans position. A ground ball is hit hard, but not that hard, to your right. Do you try to field it, or do you leave it for the second baseman? If you field it, is the pitcher going to be over in time to cover the bag? When the infielder throws to you, if it is low, do you try to scoop it, play it on a hop, or try to trap it? You have only split seconds to make this decision.
Similarly, when you are the pitcher, you have to g
auge the character, personality and strength of the hitter. Can he hit your fastball? Will he be looking for it? Does he fish if you throw him the curve even though it is not a strike? Do you brush him back once to put that in his head? Do you avoid him and pitch around him while you go to the next hitter who is a sure out? How should you mix your pitches to this batter to keep him off balance? Pitcher really is the thinking mans position.
 They say most pitchers start out as throwers and become pitchers as their "stuff" weakens. I was always both a pitcher and a thrower, even when I only needed to be just a thrower to get almost every kid out. My father used to ask me why I just didn't overpower every kid with my fastball, as both he and I knew I could do that. I used to say that was no fun. I wanted to be able to get them out with my curveball. In any setting, I am compelled to use my brain. That is just me. 

Writing seems like a pretty simple endeavor. You have a concept, you create some characters and then you go about writing it out in some plot scheme you have come up with. But, you get to the point where you have to make decisions about the characters and what will happen to them.
It reminds me of that great Abbott and Costello skit we have all seen. Who's on First? I don't know. Third Base.
So I guess it is not surprising that I played the positions in baseball that I did, and that I have decided to write stories and scripts to use my talents. It just seems to be a natural fit. I like to ask questions, think it through, and search for answers.
What is my character going to do? I don't know. Third Act.
What? I don't know. Wait a second.


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