Lessons from the U.S. women’s soccer team.

I read an article about the loss of the U.S. women’s soccer team to Japan. And as usual, I couldn’t help but take away some apt comparisons. Maybe it’s because I played soccer in high school and college. I remember the defeats way more than the victories. That feeling of utter disappointment and loss.

Adding heartache.

Stories that stay with me after weeks or years of reading them contain heart, heartache and loss, even if it has a happy ending. A character’s journey when meaningful and full of heart sears into my emotional memory.

If you didn’t know, the U.S. team lost in penalty shots. One of the hardest ways to lose a game, especially after possessing the ball more and having more shots on goal. How could I not appreciate what these girls were feeling as the winning goal (for Japan) hit the back of the net?  #thinkaboutyourrejectionletters

For your character, the higher the stakes the bigger the loss and heartache – and the bigger the impact on the reader.

Confidence and state of mind.

I wonder at the state of mind of the U.S. women’s team going into the game. In previous World Cups, U.S. beat Japan every time. Every. Time. They were probably feeling pretty confident. That with a good game, at the end of the day, they’d be walking away with the winner’s trophy. #thisdoesaffectplay

Japan came in as the underdog. They knew from the get go they’d have to fight harder for the win. They didn’t feel the pressure of having to win. And their country was still reeling from a tsunami, so they wanted to bring home a victory. Give their people a reason to smile and cheer.

It wasn’t about who wanted it more. It was about state of mind and expectations.

Do you consider your character’s state of mind during their journey and how this affects their decisions?

Do you consider how confidence (not over confidence) might affect your writing?

Something to think about.

What books have stayed with you over the years? Why?


20 Responses to Lessons from the U.S. women’s soccer team.

  1. Sarah August 1, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    This is exactly the reason we shouldn’t go too easy on our characters! You’re absolutely right–emotions like pride (and confidence) definitely affect our behavior. And when the outcomes aren’t in line with our expectations, the more startling the contrast, the stronger the resulting emotions. Including for the reader!

  2. Jen Daiker August 1, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Laura this was incredible as always!!!! I think you made wonderful comparisons!

    For me there are several books that stuck with me. Some are just for the time and others for the closeness of characters. I love a good Roald Dahl book. Beverly Cleary are also some of my favorites.

    The two that changed me though (one being a series)… Harry Potter. The love and loss so powerful I’ll share them with everyone. And The Red Heels by Robert D. San Souci. The first book that was signed by an author. It is about a witch who has a shoe maker make her a pair of red heels so she can fly off into the night. It’s very magical.

  3. Susan Sipal August 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    I love the way you put it about heartache. Sometimes I think I get so focused on the action, that I don’t take it to the emotional depths as much as I need to. It’s that catharsis thing. The characters and readers need to delve to the bottom before they can experience the joy of release.

    Thanks, as always!

    • Laura August 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

      And I think that’s one reason HP resonated with so many people – the depths of the emotions! But as in Roald Dahl sometimes it can just be really fun writing/narration with a cool premise. It depends on the book you are trying to write.

  4. christine danek August 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    The emotion is what helps us relate to a character. It is sometimes hard to put our characters through anything (they are like our babies), but to make the story interesting they need to be challenged.
    The confidence thing is a factor for any writer. It’s sometimes hard to gain it when your are constantly putting yourself out there for opinions. I think you have to learn it. Develop that skin.
    I’m babbling this morning. Sorry.
    Great post as always!!

  5. Creepy Query Girl August 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Of course HP stuck with me. I totally cried a few times during the final movie- because it was such a journey for the characters and it definitely pulled at my heartstrings when I thought back over all that harry and hermione and ron had been through. That’s some strong stuff and def something to keep in mind while writing.

  6. Wendy August 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    State of mind is huge to work w/ & sometimes I fear I might overconsider it w/ my characters.

    Books that have stayed w/ my: Poisonwood Bible, The Book Thief, The Outside Boy, Peace Like a River, Someone Knows My Name, Mudbound

    ~ Wendy

  7. Ava Jae August 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    What a terrible way to lose such an important game. *sigh* oh well.

    Some books that have stayed with me are: Harry Potter…but specifically Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: I was devastated when Sirius died. DEVASTATED; The Hunger Games: I really need to re-read these…I loved them so much! and Immanuel’s Veins by Ted Dekker, another I intend to re-read.

    There are others of course, but those are a few. 🙂

  8. Heather Sunseri August 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    That was a heartbreaking loss for the U.S. Women.

    RE: confidence in writing, I often wonder if my lack of confidence sometimes keeps me from taking risks and allowing my voice to really shine through.

  9. Lisa Green August 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Love how you use this for both the writing and the writer – you sneaky girl you! *wiggles finger* Nice! And very very true.

  10. LynNerd August 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Nice post, Laura. When readers connect emotionally with the characters, the writer has done their job well. And you’re right about when the stakes are higher, the more emotion we feel and the longer the story stays with us. The Good Earth and The Hunger Games are the two books that left their mark in my heart – forever. Also, Julie of the Wolves and Walk Two Moons.

    You make a good point about confidence affecting the writer. I never really gave it much thought, but I believe it definitely does affect our writing. Thanks!

    • Laura August 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      Thanks everyone. I’ve been offline to get some writing done. Hunger Games definitely stayed with me, even though i didn’t agree with the ending. Where the Red Fern Grows will always stay with me. Also more recently, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

  11. Linda Gray August 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Those are wonderful observations and questions for writers. So true that it’s the stories that break your heart that stay with you forever. Where the Red Fern Grows was the first thing that came to my mind, too. And then there’s Old Yeller. Hmm something about dogs dying (I was a sucker for Marley and Me, too) I think what makes them so wonderful at the same time that they break your heart is the love and immense amount of positive energy surrounding the story. Who could not relate to that, want that for themselves, and grieve its passing?

  12. Donna K. Weaver August 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Love your comparison here, Laura. When I submitted my WIP for critique to my group, I got some good feedback that I wasn’t showing enough emotion in Part 1, but that I did really well in Part 3 (they were bawling). How did I miss that in the first part? *shrugs*

  13. Karen Strong August 2, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    It was weird. I felt bad for our US soccer team but then I felt good about Japan winning.

    But yes, upping the stakes and emotional depth: A can’t go wrong combo for sure.

    One of the books that I still think about is Z FOR ZACHARIAH. I still think about the ending.

  14. Margo Berendsen August 2, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Differing state of minds – you gave a great example comparing the American to the Japanese teams. Great food for thought for my characters.

    I agree, the books that stay with me the longest are the ones that have a heart-wrenching emotional journey. My Friend Flicka always comes to mind.

  15. Tana Adams August 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I have to say the stories that stay with me in this way are the ones without the happy endings. I really hate not getting my HEA. It actually ticks me off as a reader. The most recent tick-off-Tana read was Mockingjay. Is that fair to say? I guess what bothered me most was I didn’t feel the closure I needed with one of the characters. And yes, I’m still weeping over that one. 😉

  16. Karen Lange August 3, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    Love this comparison! You are so good at making me think. 🙂 Am wrestling with my WIP as we speak. Thanks a bunch.

  17. Julie Musil August 3, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    These are such great points. I don’t follow soccer, but I was so happy when they had won the previous game. They were the underdogs in that game, right? These athletes amaze me, and I’m sure they’ll go on to do great things. Hopefully we’ll do the same with our writing!

  18. Lynda R Young August 3, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    The books that have stayed with me are the ones I had trouble putting down while reading because I got so caught up in the characters’ story that I got emotionally attached. It’s always the character driven stories too.

Leave a Reply