Michael Phelps, the Olympics and Writing
It seems hard to believe that four years ago I was hard at work on a major revision of Dolphin Girl, pulling apart every chapter in an effort to make the story more focused. In the book, Jane, the main character, has a crush on a popular athlete Sam Rojas. In the original version, Sam was a baseball player.
During the revision, I spent a lot of time thinking about why Jane felt a connection with dolphins and why she felt a connection to Sam, too. I believe I had an a-ha moment during Michael Phelps’s 200 butterfly in 2008.
It went something like this – Omigod, he’s Sam.
Phelps even looked a little bit like the way I’d already written Sam—tall, gangly arms, boyish grin. The only problem was Sam played baseball and he needed to be a swimmer so that dolphin girl Jane could have her dolphin boy.
Out of the Olympic swimming, came huge slashes to the manuscript and new chapters. I obsessed about everything Phelps-ian. In one of his races his goggles filled with water, so I used that. Sam shows Jane how to use the goggles before her swim with the dolphins and he tells her it sucks when you get water in them. And, at a swim meet Jane is there to photograph Sam as he swims the fly. She wishes momentarily that she could be on the bottom of the pool to capture his swim from a dolphin’s point of view. If you’ve spent any time watching NBC’s coverage, they definitely have the dolphin-cam.
All of this proves, that writers write when we’re not in front of a computer, which means no one should feel bad about slacking. Life is our material.
I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the Olympics and Phelps…and other sports, too. Dolphin Girl is already written and I doubt there will be any kind of sequel, but who know what material might come from other events.
At the beginning of this year’s games, I was heartbroken (like some other Phelps fans, I’m sure) with his fourth place finish. Fourth in the world didn’t make him a slouch, but I wanted more for Michael/Sam. So…I was extremely happy that the games turned around for him. It’s been wonderful to follow his success and as he swam the medley relay last night, I hoped that Phelps might swim one event—a fly—in Rio.
But, if he doesn’t, there’s always YouTube. :)
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