Ok, as soon as I mentioned chainsaw duelling, I KNEW that I HAD to draw it….
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was watching a repeat of an old episode of “Robot Wars” from the 1990s. In fact, I think I also saw that episode when I was a kid – since I remembered one of the robots in it (the almighty Cassius – who did this amazingly memorable back flip in one of the other episodes of the show). Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me about halfway through the episode that I was actually watching sport…. and enjoying it!
I’m someone who finds football (that’s “soccer”, for my American readers) interminably dull. I’m someone who never so much as wants to see a rugby field again, let alone watch an entire match. I’m too young to be interested in cricket, let alone to enjoy it. Motor racing can sometimes be vaguely interesting, but I wish that they’d just shorten it to a highlight reel of the dramatic parts.
So, yes, I’m not a sports fan. But, there I was, watching a futuristic and (relatively speaking) modern sport on the TV and I loved it. And this made me think “someone had to have invented Robot Wars. I wonder how you invent a sport?”
And since, amongst other things, this is a blog about writing – I thought about how to invent fictional sports (like Quidditch in J.K.Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels) and I’ve come up with a few tips which might come in handy:
1) Make It Very Simple Or Very Complicated: This might sound like a strange piece of advice for inventing fictional sports, but it might be useful.
If you make your sport as simple as possible (eg: a game where two players have to throw rocks at a wall until they break the wall), then you can focus a lot more on the emotions of the players and the action, since you don’t have to spend very long explaining the rules of the game to your readers. Not only that, because the game is fairly simple, it’s easier to imagine and this will probably immerse your readers further into your story.
Conversely, if you make your fictional sport ludicrously complicated, then this gives you a lot more creative freedom. Because there are so many rules in your fictional sport, you can effectively just make it up as you go along and, if you do this well, then your readers probably won’t notice. However, you’ve probably got to be careful with this approach, since doing this is basically “cheating”.
2) Spectacle: One of the advantages of fictional sports (and obviously, to a much lesser extent, invented sports) is that safety and practicality is less of an issue. As such, there’s a lot more room for drama, spectacle and violence.
I mean, even with a real invented sport like “Robot Wars” – there are obviously safety rules. But, since the competitors are remote-controlled robots, we get to enjoy Roman-style gladiatorial combat without any of the bloodshed or lawsuits.
Not only that, since it’s a sport that has been invented for TV, rather than one that has evolved organically over the years – there’s a lot more dramatic stuff in there – like flamethrowers, spikes and all sorts of cool dystopic sci-fi stuff.
Likewise, if you’re coming up with a fictional sport for a story or a comic, then the only limits are your imagination. So, if you want to show your characters duelling with chainsaws or jousting on motorbikes, then go for it. Yes, it will be “unrealistic”, but – well – if people want realism, then there are plenty of real sports on TV for people to watch.
3) Rip Off A Real Sport: As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it”. Real sports attract huge audiences for a reason – I’m not quite sure what this reason is, but there’s obviously something there that people enjoy watching.
So, don’t be afraid to take a traditional sport, change enough about it to make it appear new – and then put it in your story or your comic. After all, no-one holds the copyright on football, basketball, cricket, tennis etc….
If this seems a bit crass or a bit too much like “cheating” to you, then why not try doing it with an old sport that no-one plays any more? For example, as I said earlier, “Robot Wars” is obviously inspired by all kinds of deadly old Roman and Medieval contact sports which we’ve thankfully abandoned over the years.
Seriously, you’d be surprised how many old sports there are around the world that no-one (or hardly anyone) plays any more that can be easily found with enough research. Just be slightly careful with this though, since some old sports (like Ōllamaliztli) also had ritual/spiritual significance when they were originally played.
Sorry that this article was so basic, but I hope it was interesting 🙂