Writing Is A Bad Habit: Wrestling Psychology and Writing

It isn’t hard to realize that I am a big fan of professional wrestling.  Heck, I have an entire book series dedicated to it.  While this may be a surprise to some, there is actually a strong connection between the in-ring theatrics of wrestling and the art of writing fiction.  There are lessons to be learned from one that can be applied to the other and that is something we are going to touch on today.

In pro wrestling, there is a concept called ‘wrestling psychology’ or ‘mat psychology’.  What it means is that the wrestlers are creating a believable, logical sequence of events during the match.  They are following a consistent strategy for their approach, reacting (‘selling’) to their opponent’s moves, and general convincing the audience to buy into the match, to believe that maybe this could be real.  It’s all about making the audience suspend their disbelief, to become invested into the wrestlers’ characters and the action going on.

Now, while we know that pro wrestling is scripted to an extent, it isn’t extensively choreographed like a fight scene from a movie.  Each wrestler has to invest their own athletic and acting talents into the match to make it work.  It is improvisational, cooperative story-telling told through grunts, groans, slams, and posturing.

That’s where the connection lies between writing and wrestling.  Understanding what makes for good ‘wrestling psychology’ can help a writer understand good ‘writing psychology’.  Every story, just like every match, has to follow a logical sequence of events.  The story must have characters that the readers can believe in, convince them that their conflicts are real and important, and then ‘sell’ the reactions of those characters.

Also, just like the improvisational ring work of wrestlers, writers often need to be able to think on their feet.  I have yet to meet or speak with a fellow author that hasn’t been forced to go ‘off script’ when they transfer their concepts from plan to actualization.  A good writer goes with the flow and then smooths over the bumps so that you, the reader, never know just how many curves and swerves the writer went through, much like the best pro wrestler.  A bad writer, well, you can tell.  Either the situation seems wrong (they didn’t go with their instincts) or you can tell when the writing suddenly shifts ninety degrees (they didn’t make sure the changes were done smoothly).

What do you, my faithful readers, think?  Do you see the connections or am I just slinging some manure?  Comment and discuss below!

Until next time, good luck, good reading, and good writing!

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