Monday, July 09, 2007


Posted by Lisa

Andy Roddick cut to the chase when he described his feelings after losing to Gasquet in the Wimbledon quarter finals this week.
''It's another lost opportunity at Wimbledon,'' said Roddick, who lost to Federer in the finals in 2004 and 2005. ``I'd love to make you try to understand what it feels like in the pit of my stomach right now, but I don't know if I'm articulate enough to really put that into words.''

Andy stared at the reporters before him, his brown eyes intense. He's not one to beat around the bush. Something in his face told the story, the emotions inside him. But he's right. How could we possibly understand.

I've hit tennis balls but I couldn't tell you if the court was clay or grass; it was probably ashphalt littered with long cracks and a couple empty Gatorade containers. I've competed in road races and triathlons. But I never broken the top three. I'm not a champion. I don't know how he feels. The only problem, is that's our job as writers, you know. To portray how our character feels in their lowest of lows oftentimes.

Are we articulate enough to describe it? I doubt it actually. If someone, like Andy Roddick, as clearly intelligent and articulate as he is, can't describe it, then how can we? If he, in his depth of feeling and reaction to his loss, can't describe it, then we writers have little chance. If our work is not memoir, then we truly cannot feel what our characters feel.

... So we fudge it. It's true, we do. And this is how:

We fudge it with details: the sound of the ball catching on the net in that final point, the whoosh of the opponent's racket in the very moment when that last set is decided, the pounding in a player's temples as the presenter holds the Wimbledon trophy high before the opponent, moments before presenting. We must put ourselves in that moment and imagine the details that characterize the pain. Though it's all pretend, it leads the reader into a real scene.

The writer must ask questions the reader wants answered. This is good writing.

Have a wonderful writing week!


Lisa said...

This is a timely post for me. I'm developing two characters now who have had education, jobs and experiences foreign to me and it's critical that I get their feelings right. In order to understand them, I'm communicating with people who do what these characters do and gathering data. The people I'm speaking with aren't my characters, but they are giving me the insight to get inside my character's heads and to feel what they would. Now, my job is to write well enough to make my readers feel it too.

Larramie said...

Poor Andy. Another year and no Championship and what that means is having to wait until next year, although he doesn't know what next year will bring. Top athletes put everything they have into a season, while fully aware that the number of their seasons are limited.

Andy could not articulate his feelings, nor could he revise his loss and start fresh -- that's the true pain.

Melissa Amateis said...

Excellent post, Lisa. I'm often daunted by the prospect of trying to describe how a character feels when really, I have no idea.