Teen Tales: Teammates and the Importance of Small Victories

Nov 8, 2011

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?

27 comments:

Jenny S. Morris said...

In life my family is my team. Now my writing friends too. With my WIP, that's one of the biggest things I changed about the 1st book I wrote. My MC had no team. And she didn't have small victories. But, I added a team of a sibling, and friends. And they all slowly help her win.

Great post!

Ruth Josse said...

I love your story! In my WIP, part of my MC's journey is finding her team and learning to trust that they're on her side.

shelly said...

No matter where I've been there's always been a theme. There are angels hiding everywhere to help out. Next door. In a store. On the street. Always. Stories are the same. Everyone needs someone or a support group to get through the tough spots.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

I really like this! I love the concept of including small victories in a story and that not all victories are the same for each person. I think that's a great way to show who someone is by what constitutes a victory for them. Great post!

Meredith said...

I ran track and cross country in high school, too, and even though it wasn't a team sport, the team was incredibly strong and supportive. I loved it!

DL Hammons said...

I ran the 2-mile (that's what they called it back then - not the 1600) in high school and I had the exact same goals as you! I was good friends with the two guys who always battled it out for the 1/2 spot, and every race as soon as they finished they would both run with me on the inside of the track...urging me on! Fond memories indeed.

The main character in my book is actually a group of middle-age friends who've known each other since college, who must work together as a team to catch the person who beat another friend into a coma.

Your post resonated with me on multiple levels today! :)

Angela Cothran said...

I wish I loved running. I think I'd rather do ANYTHING else :)

I love the idea of teamwork in stories. I make my characters work together. It lets them know they aren't alone in the world.

Abby Fowers said...

I am envious. I am not a runner. Unless I'm playing soccer or basketball or something. I wish that I could just go out and run. It would be so good for me.

I think the "team" part of anything is amazing, whether it be in life or in a book. You always need a cheering section!

Lisa Gail Green said...

This is a really important reminder that you can't just torture your character. There are ups and downs in life and in your story. Too much of one thing isn't going to work. Awesome!

Jessie Humphries said...

I have a great writing team, with teammates that are currently the ones setting the pace and winning the races. I just love trying to keep up.

rosalyn said...

Shalee--this is a great post. Now that I've started querying I'm realizing more than ever the importance of cheerleaders (people who believe in your work as much or more than you do). Btw, I wanted to say, thanks for stopping over at our blog! (I'm Jenilyn's sister.)

i'm erin. said...

Awesome story! I love that you were a runner. I try..but I'm not very good at it. I do have "teams" in my books. I like when people work together on something.

M Pax said...

Although my mc is alone in my latest release, she did have a team. I fluctuate between loners and teams. Team dynamics can be interesting.

Stacy Henrie said...

I'm all about celebrating those small victories, especially in writing. Even if it's just taking a long nap after completing revisions. :)

Jolene Perry said...

Very cool.

I'm working on a project now where the girl is way better than the guy in one aspect, so he's working hard to keep up, and he's way better than her in another thing they do together, so she's working to keep up with them. Writing the competition has been fun.

Cool story :D

I ran track, too.
I do NOT remember my times, though. WOW.
I did the 1600 and SOMETIMES the 800. I also did the long jump. A long, long time ago . . .

Sarah Allen said...

Such a great story :) Thanks for telling it. I just passed 50,000 on my novel, which is a little victory for me.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Awww! You made me want to be a runner, and I hate running!

Lynda R Young said...

wow, I'm impressed by your running. Running is just not my thing. Too... jolty. Maybe I don't do it right. I've always wanted to be a runner though, so instead I walk ;)

Love this post and the connection you made to writing. So true.

Margo Kelly said...

Fanstastic post! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!! :)

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

This is an excellent analogy. We compete against our best self, not other people. I love this! So, so, so applicable to writing.

Thanks, Shallee!

Amy

The Golden Eagle said...

Great post!

I never really thought of team mates for characters; but it is those relationships that help a person develop, aren't they?

Vicki Rocho said...

Ahhhh, I wish I had your runner's spirit. I'm more of a career walker Just hope the metaphor doesn't carry over into writing...

Rachna Chhabria said...

I too enjoy running, though now I have switched to walking and stationary cycling. I love the way you linked it to writing.

Elizabeth said...

Great header.

NEW FOLLOWER.

Stopping by to look around...very nice blog.

Elizabeth

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

Madeleine said...

Congratulations Shallee and an excellent point because that is also what made novels like Harry Potter successful because of teams in Quidditch, with the MC trio; the Griffindor etc houses and more, so it added to the competition of the characters.

I shall add this to my bank of ideas.

Madeleine said...

Congratulations Shallee and an excellent point because that is also what made novels like Harry Potter successful because of teams in Quidditch, with the MC trio; the Griffindor etc houses and more, so it added to the competition of the characters.

I shall add this to my bank of ideas.

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

This makes me think of my roller derby team. Sports is one of the rare situations where people are sincerely happy for other people's progress because it's for the good of everyone.

I didn't understand the value of team work in writing until I got my posse of beta readers. I don't know how I ever wrote without people to advise me and cheer me on.

Great article!

 
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