Teen Tales is a recurring feature connecting the YA experience to YA literature.
Over the last few months, I've gotten back into an old habit-- running. I'm now up to 2 miles a day in about 20 minutes without walking. I ran track in high school, and I've loved getting back into the running groove.
I actually started track in junior high as a lowly seventh-grader. I had no illusions about my greatness-- I was always a slow one. I ran on the distance team, putting in workouts of 2-5 miles a day. I don't remember anymore why exactly I wanted to do it, but I remember what kept me doing it for six years.
It was the team.
Every year, I had at least one "buddy" that ran about the same pace I did. We did our workouts together, encouraged each other, and huddled together under blankets eating saltine crackers at meets in freezing March weather. But it wasn't just my running buddy that kept me going. It was the whole team. Everybody encouraged each other, cheered each other on, and patted you on the back when you beat your "PR." (personal record) When my running buddy was gone one day, the fastest guy on the team held back his pace to mine for the entire 3 mile workout so I could have somebody to run with.
My goals in track were simple-- beat my PR every race, and never come in last. I managed that all through high school. There was one particular victory I'll never forget.
I raced the 1600 meter, or mile, every track meet. My last meet had given me a time of 7:32, but I'd been practicing new running techniques and got a pair of running spikes. When I got out on the track, I was nervous but excited. I ran like I've never run before. When they posted our times, I went to my coach and asked what I got.
He looked at his sheet and raised an eyebrow. "6:58," he said.
"What? No. That's not my time," I said, sure he'd read the wrong line.
"No, that's you." He grinned. "Nice job."
I had chopped over 30 SECONDS off my time in a matter of a few weeks. I was elated, and my team cheered with me. I didn't win-- I'd come in second-to-last, actually-- but I DID win by my own rules. And my team knew that. It was one of the most thrilling moments of my high school life.
That small victory-- every small victory, in fact-- helped push me on to keep practicing, keep racing. In literature, small victories are especially important. You obviously don't want your character to win right off. There's no story in that. But small victories along the way can help encourage both the characters and the reader to keep going.
Teammates are an important part of victories. Winning means so much more when there are people to cheer alongside you. When writing Devs, I had a fairly solid "team" of people around my protagonist. This didn't mean they were all buddy-buddy the whole time. In fact, the team dynamic was rather complicated, and they had to grow together in order to help each other. But they were there to boost each other and support each other through victories and failures alike. It strengthened the story to have a small contingent of people who were my main character's "team."
So, my friends, do you have small victories and team mates in your stories? How do you develop those character relationships? What about victories and teammates in life?