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Writing Tips

Coach's Corner: Timeri Murari

To inspire you as you compete in the Canada Writes Literary Triathlon, we're running tips on the art of sports writing all week. From the bestselling author of Taj and The Taliban Cricket Club: when writing a sports novel, avoid Monopoly but keep the sin.



"I've got three tips for writing a compelling sports novel:

1. The sport should be physical where our hero/heroine is tested to the limits of the protagonist’s endurance and set in a field, a track or any open space. Your character needs to roam and think while training. Also this gives the writer space for good descriptions of the setting. The sport should be somewhat familiar to the reader or if it isn’t, like cricket, simplify the rules for the reader to understand the game. This rules out Chess, Monopoly, card games, including poker, where the "action" takes place in the player’s mind.

2. The antagonist must be a champion and not a very likeable character—arrogant, sneering—but the best in that particular sport. The antagonist is the champion to overcome. You can even make the antagonist a cheat while the protagonist believes in fair play and sticks to the rules. But don’t make the protagonist too good, add in a bit of grey—lazy, drinks too much, chases girls/boy, other sins. These are the bad habits the protagonist must overcome to win.

3. The prize for winning: life or death, wealth or poverty, love or loss. There must be an element of danger or a threat hanging over the character. Set it in a dictatorship, a prison or a lunatic asylum, if that suits your character’s story. When the protagonist wins, then the prize is escape or great riches which will pay for his/her parents' hospital bills or wins the lover at the end. If the protagonist loses, then the novel is a sports noir."

 

Timeri N. Murari is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and playwright, who began his career as a journalist at the Kingston Whig Standard. He writes for the Guardian, and Sunday Times, and has contributed to The New York Times, and The Washington Post. His bestselling novel, Taj, was translated into 21 languages and has recently been reissued by Penguin India. Vikas Swarup called his most recent novel, The Taliban Cricket Club, “a moving, splendidly realized story of courage and grit in modern-day Kabul.” Murari now lives with his wife in his ancestral home in Madras, India. 

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