Sports writer explains the art of story telling

The room was buzzing with excitement as Sports Illustrated senior writer, Chris Ballard took the podium on Feb. 24 in Riley 201.

Ballard was introduced by associate professor of political science, Patrick Cottrell who, unknown to most, is a close friend to Ballard.

What made Ballard’s talk interesting was how it drew in a diverse range of students and faculty from the departments of mass communication, English, political science, business and sports management.

Ballard has written for Sports Illustrated for 15 years and in that time has also published four books.

He mentioned in the first part of his talk to not push off the power of revision. One of his articles went through the revision process 14 times.

Being a master of the written word, Ballard gave many helpful insights into what it takes to be a successful writer.

He emphasized that point of writing stories is, “to compel someone to feel something about someone or something.” He went on to say that as people, “we talk in stories.”

Many people think that what an athlete has done is the most interesting aspect of them. However, Ballard has found that the stories behind athletes are more interesting developing a personal connection with the readers.

He also mentioned, for a story to be successful, whether it’s told written or visually, it must be compelling and include a conflict.

Ballard used the film, “Argo” to depict how a story is compelling to viewers. He explained how viewers knew the Americans would make it out of Tehran, but what made the movie successful was the multiple plots that gripped viewers.

Ballard also gave four steps to write a good narrative.

The first step is to come up with an idea if there isn’t something to write about.

Second is to notice themes and ideas that reveal more about something and expand on that.

Third is to decide the structure of the story, moreover how you want to write it.

Lastly, is to choose a writing style that sets up the story to be compelling.

Interviewing people for stories isn’t an easy task no matter your experience level.

Ballard explained to, “always try and see things through their eyes,” and decides what makes them genuine.

In a story, readers should always be able to decide what humanistic quality it encompasses. Examples in stories include themes of love, triumph, heroism, strength etc.

Ballard mentioned that if it is a good story, as a writer, you should be able to write in four sentences or less what the story is about.

He also explained that it’s important to find what helps you focus while you write. Find your own writing style, and stick with it.

Ballard is a firm believer that, “as your life changes and develops, so does your writing.” He brought up the idea of “changing lenses” in the way that writers see things differently as they age.

Jonathan Williams / Opinion editor

Jonathan      Williams        can                 be                   reached        at                     [email protected]