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PatrickMoran2008
07-01-2008, 10:41 PM
Sorry guys and girls, I'm still learning where to properly post topics.
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Greetings.

I'm looking for some much-need and appreciated advice from some experienced members of the board.

I'm working on a non-fiction/biography on a former heavyweight contender boxer. I've put together an annotated table of contents that I'm nearly comfortable with. However, I have one burning question and it begs for the advice of writers here.

Without getting into boring detail (at least at this point it would be to you) the book centers around a fighter, who while undefeated and being the top ranked contender at the time, suffered a brain injury at the end of the fight (a fight he ended up winning- for the record). The "meat and potatoes" of the book is near the end, when the focus comes down to his legal battle to get back in the ring.

In my original table of contents; it was to begin with a fight (not the one I just stated where he was injured). It was a fight in his hometown, a sell out crowd and being shown live for the first time on HBO. The first round knockout win (wow I"m giving away too much info!) led to a couple more lucrative fights, the second of which was the fight I've referenced with the injury and sudden halt to his career.

Do you think that's the right way to lead off the book? Or if it was you writing the book (opinions are HUGE to me right now), would you lead off in chapter one with the fight where he was injured and chas enused.
I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place, because I have two views.

1- By not starting off with the most dramatic part of the book, the part that leads to the conclusion of the story, I fear the book will be overly chronological and have a "book report" kind of feel to it.

2- My book is heavily chronilogical right now (well I should say the outline, I haven't really come close to completing the book). By starting with the "big" fight where he's badly injured, I'd not only have to figure out a way to backtrack into chronilogical form, but I fear I might be giving away the most significant portion in chapter one.

What I do know for sure, is that for the book to be successful and have the best chance of a nice shelf life; it has to raise two burning questions (and I'm confident it will)
1- Would the boxer have went on to become heavyweight champion if not injured.
2- Should he have been allowed to fight again and should he have risked further injury once he was cleared to fight?

I'm just really stuck in a big way on how to go after the first chapter.

I'd really love to know how you guys would do it. If it would help (not sure if it would) I'd be glad to include a quick book summary, as well as the annotated table of contents. Maybe that would help form a better opinion?

willfulone
07-02-2008, 07:05 AM
Please do not call me an idiot and I am only offering my opinion. I do not read this type of story too much, but will on occasion. There are many ways (now in my mind only - perhaps not in reality) to flow. You could do any of these to get the interest started:

1. You start with the big fight and not flash back, but then move into the next chapter with a "where it all started" kind of feel.

2. You can just do a shorter version or a portion of the fight that has him head injured later - then do the full story when appropriate.

3. You could start with his diagnosis after the fight he won that left him that way and move to his history to culminate in the fight scene you want to save.

4. You could start with him sitting in the docs office or managers or who ever told him and even try to evoke what he must have felt over what he just heard.

5. You could start with the legal burden and his fight to get back in the ring as a jumping off point to fall back to how it came to that.

6. You could start with any argument scene that must have taken place from his loved ones against his getting back in the ring and killing himself. Then go to how it got to that point.


You could read some of the same type book and see how they do it. There are many such books where there are pointed parts of the history that are repeated in part or in full in more than one chapter. It may be okay for you to do the same. It may be perfectly fine for you to start the way you want and leave the big scene at the end and hope that the person's fame is enough to get a reader through the slow points until they can get to the meat. But, I would put such a book down. Especially if I did not know the person or their history that well. I would want something about this person to make me want to read his whole story and not just the final chapter.

JMO

Christine

Vintage68
08-03-2008, 08:29 PM
I know the fighter of who you are referring to, and his career kind of derailed before it really got going due to his injury. One thing you can do is research other fighters of the past who faced similar challenges and injuries and see how they handled it, then see if you can run your character's story parallel to theirs in a chapter or two. There are some well known cases of fighters who have fought with brain injuries, mostly with tragic consequences (Benny "Kid" Paret, Ernie Schaf, Duk-Koo Kim), and those who survived but with sustained brain damage like the Quarry brothers.

If you are making a case for your fighter to continue fighting you'll be up against a long list of statistics and medical research that may be difficult to dispute. If you are simply chronicaling his career/story, try to remain unbiased.

jerrywaxler
08-03-2008, 11:35 PM
Patrick,

There's obviously no "right" answer. This is a creative project, after all. But if neither of the two options is calling to you, maybe there's a third one that will set you on fire.

One that popped into my mind was to start off with some compelling human interest scene not in the ring. I'm thinking of Muhammed Ali lighting the Olympic Flame. Ouch. It sends goosebumps up my spine.

Perhaps you could pull the reader into an empathetic connection with his life as it actually turned out, and then go back to the chronological beginning.

Jerry

smoothseas
08-03-2008, 11:56 PM
Patrick,

There's obviously no "right" answer. This is a creative project, after all. But if neither of the two options is calling to you, maybe there's a third one that will set you on fire.

One that popped into my mind was to start off with some compelling human interest scene not in the ring. I'm thinking of Muhammed Ali lighting the Olympic Flame. Ouch. It sends goosebumps up my spine.

Perhaps you could pull the reader into an empathetic connection with his life as it actually turned out, and then go back to the chronological beginning.

Jerry


What a good idea!

You're so very right about Ali, Jerry.

loosebricks
08-04-2008, 03:12 AM
Patrick,

There's obviously no "right" answer. This is a creative project, after all. But if neither of the two options is calling to you, maybe there's a third one that will set you on fire.

Keep in mind the writing for any type of narrative is probably slightly more important than the chronological presentation. The presentation order can be changed with cut & paste while there is no 'increase compelling prose' feature on MS Word ;)

If you don't make 'the best' choice, your agent/editor will suggest you start off with something else instead anyway.

Keep writing!

platinumscript
09-07-2008, 02:46 AM
Hi everyone. newb here. how much 'compelling prose' is apropos for a biography? the facts are what they are, but how much dressing is expected or acceptable to editors. i've read some biographies.. namath... maravich.. dimmagio... pete rose heckuva lotta facts very little 'color' or compelling prose. wonder if it's just that those writers write kinda dull or there is rule of limited license with the flowery stuff. what are your thoughts o' wise ons? and thank you much! very important to me will appreciate any/all comments---blake

jerrywaxler
09-07-2008, 04:36 AM
The more famous an author is, the less pressure there is on the prose. So without knowing anything about the books you are mentioning, I suppose the Dimaggio, Namath, and Rose books sold on the basis of the fame of the subject, rather than the quality of the book. If you have that size of name, you too will have that access to the publishers. If you are selling the book based on the quality of the story, you will have to work at the prose.

By the way, I'm not clear on what you mean by "flowery stuff." I think of a well written book as the key, which may not necessarily mean flowery.

I don't read many sports books, but one of my favorite memoirs involves sports. Ten Points by Bill Strickland is a fabulously written cycling book which also includes a psychological study of triumph over abuse.

Jerry