Stepping up to the plate: Compromise, coaches and your characters


In Southern California, our kids play baseball year round. At one of my son’s recent games, we had some down time as it appeared as though we would not have enough players to field a team for a 7 p.m. start.

(Flickr: Zach Heller Photography)

(Flickr: Zach Heller Photography)

While we waited for that ninth player to arrive, one of our coaches meandered over to the fence and chatted with some of the parents.

Not sure how we got there but the conversation eventually turned to the topic of gridlock in Washington D.C. and its harmful impact on local jobs. We agreed unanimously – some things simply must be worked out for the greater good.

Compromise wasn’t a dirty word. And if we don’t agree to work together, look who has to pay the price in the end – hard-working Americans.

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It soon became apparent that our ninth player would not show, so our coaches gathered at home plate with the opposing team’s coaches and discussed the terms of the game.

Would there be a forfeit? Would the opposing team loan us a player? Could we find a way to work it out so that all the time, effort and travel expense of arriving to the game would not have been wasted for the dozens of families ready to watch their boys play?

The answer was no.

It turns out no one was willing to negotiate. Our coaches wanted to play without forfeiting and the opposing team wanted the forfeit and the win.

So, it was a no game, no go.

The juxtaposition of our conversation just moments before – where our coach lamented the absurdity of government digging in its heels and refusing to compromise– screamed an irony that made me chuckle. And set me to writing.

The exchange gave me a much-needed plot point in my novel and provided a key insight into the human psyche.

We’re complex creatures, after all.  We can embrace high-minded ideals and values, but when faced with upholding them, we sometimes falter. And not only do we falter, but we often fail to see how we’ve dropped the ball.

Why is that? What are the real motivators that drive us, if not the common good?

These are the kinds of character flaws that are real and riveting and will enrich your writing.

Keep your eyes open to the sweet science of irony as it unfolds around you. What does it say about the human condition? And how can you incorporate irony into your narrative for a sophisticated, more fertile telling of your story?

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at and founder of Breeze Media & Communications. Learn more about her at

Kerri S. Mabee

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